Targeting Eritrea and Ethiopia: The Warmongering Campaign of Disinformation

2022 Conference of National Council of Eritrean Americans (Photo: Eritrean Ministry of Information)

Washington think tanks are home to the propagandists who help guide US foreign policy decisions. The National Council of Eritrean Americans highlights the words of one individual who uses his position as a think tank fellow to repeat disinformation regarding Eritrea. He and others like him make the case for interventions and interference around the world.

United States plans for aggression and disruptions abroad are developed by current and former officials whose names may not be well known. They often leave government positions to become fellows at a plethora of think tanks that are connected to high level policy makers. It is important to know what they are saying, as their words have an impact on US foreign policy decisions.

Michael Rubin is currently a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the rightwing think tank in Washington, DC, that mostly disseminates a neoconservative interventionist agenda, and where Rubin spends his time churning out misleading information and lies about the Red Sea State of Eritrea and the Horn of Africa. Rubin was a Pentagon staffer from 2002 to 2004, and an advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority during America’s disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003. He also claims to have spent time with the Taliban before 9/11. The misinformation and disinformation in both cases cost the lives of many Americans and led to a disastrous foreign policy for people in those nations. Since the Tripartite Agreement of Comprehensive Cooperation between Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia was signed on 5 September 2018, Rubin seems to be obsessed with the Horn of Africa. 

It’s this Michael Rubin who is now leading a concerted campaign of disinformation against Eritrea.  Rubin was among the American neoconservatives who pushed the US into war in Iraq in 2003 based on a series of lies. He is also a man with a “bounty of three million Turkish lira, or nearly $800,000, placed on his head” in connection with the 2016 Turkish coup d’état attempt for “supporting and committing offenses for the Fethullahist Terror Organization,” an Islamist movement led by Fethullah Gülen. He exemplifies the links between official Washington and think tanks that masquerade as neutral observers.

Presently, Rubin as representative of those Western forces who are targeting Eritrea for sanctions and “regime change”, has found it expedient “to kill three birds with one stone” in the Horn of Africa region: regime changes in Eritrea as well as Ethiopia and keeping Somalia in a state of perpetual chaos. Though he has written many lies about Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali and Somalia’s ex-president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmaajo”, his worst vitriol is reserved for Eritrea and its President Isaias Afwerki. He is obsessed with ageism when it comes to the Eritrean leader. While the current president of the US is an octogenarian, and about 10% of US senators are 76 years old or higher, Rubin loves to harp on about President Isaias’s age, and repeats TPLF’s lies and ill-wishes about President Isaias, who is in good health.

Michael Rubin is a representative of those who don’t want to see peace in the Horn of Africa, whether between Eritrea and Ethiopia or within the Somali nation as it struggles to emerge from decades of chaos and state collapse. Here is what he wrote about the former:

Indeed, it is not certain Abiy’s détente with Eritrea will last, nor that Ethiopia itself will remain stable and unified. Alas, Abiy appears to have let the [Nobel peace] prize go to his head and, in doing so, may have forgotten an important rule of peacemaking: timing matters. Sometimes rushed reconciliation regardless of the good intentions behind it can lead to disaster.”

To Rubin and others who work to influence US policy, a peace deal between Eritrea and Ethiopia after twenty years of war and hostilities is considered “rushed.” In fact, at one time, he encouraged the Tigrayan terrorist group, TPLF, to invade Eritrea and as he did in Iraq twenty years ago, he promised them they would be received with flowers in Eritrea. His own words:

The question now is whether Tigray Defense Forces will enter Eritrea to end a regime that was as much an aggressor against Tigray as Ethiopia’s Army but with even less legal justification. Isaias is old and in ill health. His people are demoralized. The rapid defeat of Eritrean forces in Tigray shows his weakness. Should the Tigray Defense Forces enter Eritrea or, more likely, organize and support Eritrean opposition forces, Isaias may find his own conscript army will dissolve and defect.”

Rubin also condemned the news of peace between the two Somalias:

It has now been almost 30 years since Somalia descended into state failure. … Abiy, however, has decided that his Nobel mantle gives him a mandate single-handedly to reunite Somalia. Last week, Abiy brokered the first-ever meeting between Muse Bihi Abdi, Somaliland’s president, and Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo. Abiy likes Farmaajo for the same reason Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. Ambassador Donald Yamamoto do: because he is not known for an independent intellect and is pliable to their needs.”

Since February 2019, Rubin has written over 40 articles maligning and openly calling for regime change in Eritrea. His articles covered subjects ranging from accusations against the Eritrean president of considering “attacking Somaliland in order to gain a port on the Red Sea” and maligning the Ethiopian Prime Minister stating he intends to “keep Ethiopia in a state of perpetual crisis” to maintain power. In addition to his sinister intentions relating to Eritrean and Ethiopian people and their leaders, these statements expose his ignorance of the area. First, Somaliland doesn’t share a common border with Eritrea; second, it is not located on the Red Sea coast but along the western side of the Indian Ocean.   

As Rubin knowingly recycled and regurgitated discredited stories about Eritrea as a panelist at a conference on “Reshaping Africa’s Narratives: The Media in Perspective” in Kigali, Rwanda, on 14 May 2021. Dr. Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a Ugandan Professor Extraordinarius at the Archie Mafeje Research Institute at the University of South Africa had this rebuke to the likes of Michael Rubin: 

“Everything that I knew about Eritrea came from the western media. I read a lot about Eritrea in all the major western newspapers and I never heard or read a single positive thing about that country … [So], I decided to go to Asmara and see Eritrea, talk to Eritreans, and talk to Eritrean leaders and try to understand what kind of country Eritrea is. I can tell you that I came out of Eritrea feeling extremely angry. I was angry about all the stuff I had read about Eritrea and believed. … There are so many things that happen in Eritrea which I think are very good things that the rest of us in Africa should know about, but which no one tells us about, absolutely no one.”

[Dr. Golooba-Mutebi visited Eritrea in 2018 and you can read what he wrote for The East African about what he found in Eritrea:

Eritrea, the ‘police state’ where there are no cops to be seen (September 7, 2018)

Ignore the naysayers, Asmara is not reclusive and is open for business (October 1, 2018)

You can see of what he said at the  Reshaping Africa’s Narratives: The Media in Perspective panel starting at the 35:45 minute mark at  https://youtu.be/I7eJgT47m1s. 

Rubin, however, didn’t care to take Mutebi’s eyewitness warning into consideration. Instead, he set out to promote Eritreans like Ahmed Chalabi to help him fabricate stories like what he did with the nonexistent “WMDs” in Iraq. Ahmed Chalabi was the Iraqi quisling who was the disinformation agent feeding the “WMD” and other lies to his US handlers in order to create pretext for US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Along with these Eritrean Chalabists, Rubin is recycling an old, discredited story of “slavery in Eritrea.” Of course, there is no slavery in Eritrea. It is Eritrea’s National Service that Rubin is maliciously misrepresenting as “slavery.” A national service that doesn’t spare the president’s or ministers’ children from serving their nation is twisted out of context and labeled as “slavery.” If an honored service to one’s country and people is referred to as slavery, then millions who serve their countries around the world under national service programs are “slaves.” National Service is not unique to Eritrea; nearly one-third of world nations have some form of national service. Furthermore, calling Eritrean National Service as “slavery” whitewashes the heinous crimes of slavery and minimizes the genocide that was committed on Africans during the Middle Passage and in the hands of slave owners in the Americas.

The battle for Africa is raging, with the US, China, Russia, Europe, and other countries vying to influence the many resource-rich countries of the continent. The US, in particular, has also been engaged in dangerous militarization of the continent through its Africa Command, AFRICOM, which has now established military bases in some form or the other in all the African countries except Eritrea. Unfortunately the barrage of misinformation and disinformation have been used as pretext and excuse to impose sanctions on Eritrea. Destabilizing Eritrea based on lies and misinformation will not benefit the people of Eritrea or the world. Rubin and others of his ilk have influence in Washington; US foreign policy will inevitably repeat the same aggressions it has committed in the past.

Rubin and AEI exemplify how imperialist think tanks work hand in hand with the US government, be it in Iraq, Iran, South Caucasus, Turkey, Syria or Yemen. They are now frantically attempting to derail peace efforts in the Horn of Africa. Our hope is that this cycle of interventions will end, and that these campaigns of disinformation about Eritrea and its neighboring countries will end too.

The NCEA is an umbrella organization of Eritrean communities and civil society organizations with over 53 chapters throughout the USA. It is actively engaged in grassroots publicity, advocacy and political solidarity work to highlight Eritrea’s independent struggle for social justice and economic development.

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