Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Dec 3 13:15:10 MST 1999

>support.  All was diasarray.  To cut a long story short - we do not have
>tiime just now, but hope to post a lengthy article, perhaps too long for
>e-mail - the Soviets stepped in to replace the US, massive Cuban forces
>arrived and Barre was flung back.

Extremely interesting. As somebody who is a strong defender of the Cuban
revolution, I am constantly forced to defend it from attacks by Trotskyists
and Maoists who have much better ideas of how a socialist country should be
run. In fact, they go to sleep each night with such ideas soothing them. In
the course of one of these debates with a young aspiring Sovietologist
named J. Otto Pohl, I was forced to dig into the record of Cuba's role in
Ethiopia. He claimed that it was similar to the role of the Red Army in
Afghanistan, a brutal Red version of the French Foreign Legion. Since I
have access to Nexis, a database of newspaper articles going back 20 years
or so, I found out that the reality was more complex and involved fighting
with Siad-Barre more than anything else. Here is the exchange. Please take
note that I am not a "Trotskyite", only somebody who thinks that Trotsky
was a first-rate Marxist thinker (who made terrible sectarian errors.)

>You really are a Stalinist. Why do persist in claiming to be a
>Trotskyite? Soviet military aid and advisors propped up the brutal
>dictatorship of Halie Mengistu Marim in Ethiopia among other regimes.
>The Red Terror in Addis Ababa was quite real. Ethiopian colonial rule
>over Eritrea with Soviet and Cuban aid was quite real.

I guess that like all Sovietologists like Pipes or Conquest, Pohl is
learning the shabby skill of omitting context. Let me supply it here. Cuban
troops were used to train Ethiopians against Somalia in the 1970s, which
was the cats-paw of US imperialism, as this Dec. 28, 1980 Washington Post
item points out:

"Obtaining access to the air and sea facilities of Berbera, on Somalia's
north coast, and of Mogadishu, in the southeast, is part of the U.S.
government's policy of strengthening its ability to counter Soviet moves in
the Indian Ocean and the volatile Persian Gulf area. Agreements have also
been signed with Oman and Kenya, but the Somali deal, signed in August, is
the most controversial, because of Somalia's claims on the territory of its
neighbors in the Horn of Africa.

"The U.S.-Somali agreement has not been implemented yet, since Congress has
barred the United States from providing Somalia with military hardware
until there is "verified assurance" that Somali troops have been withdrawn
from the Ogaden. For a century, Somalis have claimed the barren Ethiopian
territory of the Ogaden, and during the last two decades it has been the
scene of two wars and numerous skirmishes. U.S. officials believe there are
stilll Somali troops in the contested area.

"The removal of Siad Barre or even the weakening of his government could
bring about a quick test of the incoming Reagan administration's Africa

"More than President Carter ever did, Ronald Reagan appears to regard
Africa primarily in terms of East-West issues. In such a view, a Somalia
friendly with the United States would be important in countering the
expansion of Soviet influence through Ethiopia, to which Moscow has
supplied more than $1 billion in weapons."

Since Pohl is some kind of latter-day Reaganite, I can understand why he
would be upset about anybody getting in the way of a combined Somali-US
assault on Ethiopia.

Louis Proyect

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