Anna Gomez: The Powerless Charlie Wilson Copycat

By Bereket Gebru 12/16/13

For both International politics enthusiasts and movie lovers alike, the name Charlie Wilson is all too familiar. A congressman representing the 2nd District of Texas in the U.S House of Representatives from 1973 to 1996, Charlie Wilson has become famous for his role in supplying arms to the Mujahedeen of Afghanistan in their war against the Soviet Union. Upon meeting the former Pakistani Prime Minister General Mohammed Zia-ul- haq in 1979 and being enticed by his charisma along with the leader’s support for the Mujahedeen, Charlie conducted himself as the crusader of their cause.

Using his position as the head of the defense appropriations subcommittee and his subsequent discovery, according to Chalmers Johnson’s book ‘Nemesis: The last days of the American Republic,’ that all of the CIA’s budget and 40 percent of the pentagon’s budget is hidden from the public and even from congress, Charlie could arrange to have virtually any amount of money added to whatever black project, hidden from the public and even from Congress, he supported.

Charlie Wilson considered himself as a defender of the under dogs and kept himself close to the Mujahedeen continuously increasing the defense expense of his country on them to over a billion dollars a year. Clearly Charlie took the case personally for it to become an obsession of his. Although the arms he availed through the CIA helped the Mujahedeen defeat the Soviet Union, upcoming developments proved that they were not grateful of U.S contribution. As it turned out, the highly trained and heavily armed Islamic fundamentalists turned themselves, after the fall of the USSR, into groups like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and came back to haunt their former aides.

Chalmers Johnson wrote, the story of Charlie Wilson, produced into a book and a movie, is an account of “how a ruthless ignoramus congressman and a high-ranking CIA thug managed to hijack American foreign policy.” Whom the writer refers to as “a high-ranking CIA thug” is Wilson’s partner in getting the CIA to arm the Mujahedeen – Gust Avrakotos.

Although Charlie Wilson is not the main issue of this article, I think the case is a good instance of how far politicians can get obsessed over an issue so much so it clouds their judgment and even jeopardizes the relations of the institutions or people they represent. Although absolutely powerless when compared with the amount of resources Charlie Wilson could avail and the impact he created, Anna Gomez, the member of European parliament, seems to be suffering from the same delusions as his.     

Anna Gomez came across the political environment of Ethiopia in the 2005 election that saw the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) party crumble into pieces after blowing what could have been a great democratic move on the side of the ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), to take democratic steps to an even higher level. The ruling party hosted a free and fair election that saw opposition parties, mainly CUD, win a considerable amount of seats in the House of Representatives and in regional councils, only for the latter to shrug off the responsibility accorded to them by the electorate and boycott both parliament and the regional councils.

Having come to Ethiopia as part of the European election observers’ team during that election, Anna Gomez somehow felt that the ruling party was to blame for their failure to respect popular vote. In stark contrast to what her duties are as an election observer, Anna aligned herself along with the opposition and crusaded, albeit wickedly, for their cause.

Her major effort was involving herself in a scheme to start up a color revolution in Ethiopia that would supposedly depose EPRDF and get the opposition in power. Unfortunately for her and the opposition, Anna Gomez, unlike Charlie Wilson, has never had the power to pool resources of the amount needed to topple a government that has its roots deep into the public. Her superpowers, apparently, seem to emanate from her tongue alone. Therefore, as expected, their attempts could not get off the ground as their meager attempts were crushed by popular might.

Eight years on, Anna Gomez was once again in Ethiopia on a purpose completely different from her last stay here. One of the participants in the 26th ACP-EU parliamentary meeting held in Addis recently, Anna wasted no time to act compulsively to her chronic addiction of meddling in Ethiopian politics. Without even saying a word about what the ACP-EU meeting she was here to attend was all about, she jumped right to how she felt about the ruling party, its late leader and the possibility of change in Ethiopia.

Asked if she thought a lot has been achieved in Ethiopia in building democracy and good governance as stated by the speaker of the House of People’s Representatives, Abadula Gemeda, Anna did not show any hesitation to say no. She argued that she still sees the old ways of giving lip service to big jargons of that sort.

I was really surprised to see that because I have seen what Anna Gomez has been writing about the condition in Libya in her capacity as the European Parliament’s standing Rapporteur on the country.

It is evident that once the dictatorial regime of Muamar Gaddafi was deposed, there has never been a strong state apparatus to ensure public service delivery and institution building. In fact the security apparatus has been so weak that domestic and international powers have been doing whatever they have wanted in the country. My argument would be supported by none other than Anna Gomez’s testimony. In one of her letters, Anna Gomez wrote:

"I am deeply concerned about the kidnapping of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in Tripoli early this morning by an armed group. I am relieved that he is now been freed. As EP Standing Rapporteur on Libya, I have been this last weekend in Libya, where I could assess that the political and the security situation in the country is indeed tense and complicated. I was in Tripoli when the US forces kidnapped Abu Anas al-Libi, in an act that constitutes a violation of international law and also that of Libya's sovereignty, and which was bound to trigger retaliation as could well be the case of the PM´s kinapping.”

Abu Anas al-Libi is a Libyan whom the U.S suspects of masterminding the bombing of the U.S embassy in Nairobi in 1999 and a possible part in the recent supermarket attack in Nairobi. As clearly put by Anna herself, the Libyan government could not provide enough security to the Prime Minister let alone build democratic institutions.

However, in another of her letters the EU Rapporteur on Libya contends that the lack of stability in the country could negatively affect the democratic transition in the country. In her words: “This is a step in the wrong direction with regards to the democratic transition that Libya is undergoing.”

Other news reports show much more clearly about how positively she feels about developments in Libya.  “As for Libya, the European officials who visited several times the country last year (Jerzy Buzek, former President of the European Parliament and member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament, as well as Ana Gomez – Libya’s Rapporteur for the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament) were optimistic about the political developments in Libya.”

It is just beyond me how Anna Gomez could be optimistic of political and democratic developments in a frail state where the Prime Minister gets kidnapped just like that and be unhesitatingly sure of no achievements in building “democracy, peace and good governance” in a peaceful country that has been registering double digit growth for the last decade. Wouldn’t it make sense to think that only a few portion of that growth would go to building institutions that would contribute to building democracy, peace or good governance?

I also found another one of her comments very surprising as she described the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s leadership style “a smart leadership which uses politically correct languages for European and American consumption.”

There are just two things I find weird in this statement. The first one is that the late PM has been known for coming up with strong arguments in Ethiopia’s and Africa’s behalf that in any way would be sour to European and American consumption. Neither the late PM Meles Zenawi nor his party EPRDF were in any sense appeasing the Europeans and the Americans when they strongly kept their stand against neo-liberal moves to privatize the banking, telecommunication and energy sectors. Better yet, when have they ever succumbed to European and American demands thought to be counterproductive to the national interests of the Ethiopian people?

The second thing I find peculiar about the above statement by Anna Gomez is that it implies a sense of masterly conduct by Europeans and Americans on their Ethiopian subordinates. They say old habits die hard. For an old woman who has been around during the era of colonialism, it might in fact be hard to view not just Ethiopia but also Africa as independent.

Without considering the issue seriously, Anna Gomez has just expressed the belief, not just by her but by a fair amount of western politicians that Africa should do as they say. The arrogance that westerners know much better on what Africa should do than Africans themselves has actually been institutionalized and Anna just admitted to being part of that setting.

Yet another one of her misguided comments was that Ethiopia’s is not a real development but a fake one with cooked numbers. Having come off a great deal of distance from the times when there were skeptics to Ethiopia’s spectacular achievements in economic growth, her comment is proof of her detachment with the reality in the country. Designated as one of the fastest growing non-oil economies in the world, Ethiopia’s development has been backed by major International organizations dealing with the topic. The other testament is the evident changes in the lives of the people. The much improved social services along with tremendous leaps in educational and health coverage are monumental testaments of the development in our country. 

The other striking thing about her interviews is that she reflected a strong animosity towards the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi whenever she got the chance. She had the audacity to refer to the man who dedicated his life to the freedom of the Ethiopian people and nationalities as a dictator. She also ignorantly said that his death creates a new opportunity for Ethiopians.

Obviously, the above mentioned descriptions of our late PM Meles Zenawi by Anna Gomez do not remotely show the diplomat and politician in her. They are clearly just lame disrespects by someone who bears deep anger towards someone else. Therefore, her accounts of there being nothing personal about her feelings of animosity towards Meles are totally inaccurate.

Other inaccurate descriptions by Anna Gomez include her statement that insinuates the prosecution of high officials for corruption has just been initiated in Ethiopia. It has been over a decade since Ethiopia prosecuted high ranking officials like the former Prime Minister Tamirat Layne and Seye Abraha.

Her remarks that the EPRDF is divided and groups are fighting with each other is also a wishful comment that stands a testament to the close relations she has with opposition forces as it is a point they raise more often than not. The amazing part of this argument is that both the opposition parties and Anna Gomez cannot back their arguments with substantiating evidence. The party is as united as ever and determined to keep things that way.  

As had been the case with Charlie Wilson and other obsession stricken politicians, Anna Gomez also tries, in her limited capacity, to influence EU policy on her topic of obsession. Her speculative statement that she believes EU would not accept to come back and observe election in Ethiopia is reflective of such ambitions. Although rather farfetched, her opinions on “pressurizing the Ethiopian government to free political prisoners” are also associated with that. 

In her capacity as the coordinator of the foreign affairs committee of the European Union, Anna Gomez would conduct herself as a self proclaimed expert on Ethiopia. That, however, would not be effective as has been demonstrated in previous circumstances as there are parliamentarians and technical experts consulted by parliament who are capable of setting things straight.

Finally, I would like to wrap up my outlook of Anna Gomez’s recent interviews by raising another thing she said to Addis Standard. She said: “Ethiopia has a magical resonance in my childhood.” Surprisingly enough, Charlie Wilson also associated the case with his childhood when asked about his over the par indulgences with Afghanistan. Chalmers Johnson wrote: “As a boy, Wilson was fascinated by World War II and developed an almost childlike belief that he possessed a "special destiny" to "kill bad guys" and help underdogs prevail over their enemies.

The problem in the case of Anna is that there are no underdogs to be rescued in the case of those at the receiving edge of defeat in popular votes.






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