Africa, Eritrea. Kilometers of scrap metal is piled up near the capital of Asmara. A bitter remembrance of the 30 years-long independance war with Ethiopia (1961-1991). 65.000 lives were lost.
Photography by Ernst Schade, 2006
Asmara . . . This is nothing! If only you could see Debre Zeyit.
. . .
(At) Debre Zeyit . . . the soldiers open the gate to a large enclosure at the top of a flat hill. The view from this place is unlike any in the world. Before us, as far as the eye can see, all the way to the distant, misty horizon, lies a flat and treeless plain – and it is completely covered with military equipment. To one side, stretching for kilometers, are fields of artillery pieces of various calibers: unending avenues of medium and large tanks; enclosures stacked with a veritable forest of antiaircraft guns and mortars; hundreds upon hundreds of armored trucks, small tanks, motorized radio stations, amphibious vehicles. And on the other side stand enormous hangars and warehouses, the hangars full of the body parts of still unassembled MIGs, the warehouses brimming with crates of ammunition and mines.
What’s most shocking and astonishing is the monstrous quantity of everything, the improbable accumulation, the piles of hundreds of thousands of machine guns, mountainous-terrain howitzers, military helicopters. All of this wended its way for years by sea from the Soviet Union to Ethiopia, Brezhnev’s gift to Mengistu. Not even a tenth of these armaments could actually be operated by people in Ethiopia. Why, with this many tanks, you could conquer all of Africa, and with fire from all these guns and rocket launchers reduce the continent to ashes! Roaming through the still streets of this city of motionless steel, where dark, rusty barrels stared at me from everywhere and around whose every corner caterpillar tanks bared their massive metal teeth, I thought about the man who, dreaming of conquering Africa, of staging on this continent a showpiece blitzkrieg, constructed this military necropolis. Who could this have been?
(Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinski, p.307-308, hardback, ISBN 0676973744)
I don’t know who it was, Brezhnev, or one of his ambassadors, marshals or ministers, but I know who his contemporary counterpart is: Dick Cheney is the current author of the most gargantuan and delusional military fantasy on the planet. Insofar as his hand touches Africom, it will harm Africa, as well as the US.