Tuesday, September 24, 2013

10 Things to Know about Eritrea’s Ally, Somali Militant’s Al-Shabab

Source: The Miami Herald

The Associated Press
Source:  http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/09/23/v-print/3645599/10-things-to-know-about-somali.html
Farah Abdi Warsameh / AP Photo
FILE- In this Friday, Jan. 1, 2010, file photo, a young boy leads the hard-line Islamist Al Shabab fighters as they conduct military exercise in northern Mogadishu's Suqaholaha neighborhood, Somalia. Al-Shabab have claimed responsibility for the gun and grenade attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday Sept 21 which has left dozens dead and wounded, apparently in retaliation for Kenya's military participation in peace-keeping efforts in Somalia. Here are 10 things to know about al-Shabab, the Somali Islamic extremist group that has claimed responsibility for the attack on Kenya's premier shopping mall that killed dozens of civilians.

Al-Shabab is an extremist Islamic terrorist force that grew out of the anarchy that crippled Somalia after warlords ousted a longtime dictator in 1991. Its name means "The Youth" in Arabic, and it was a splinter youth wing of a weak Islamic Courts Union government created in 2006 to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state in the East African nation. Al-Shabab is estimated to have several thousand fighters, including a few hundred foreign fighters. Some of the insurgents' foreign fighters are from the Middle East with experience in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Others are young, raw recruits from Somali communities in the United States and Europe. U.S. officials have expressed fears that militants fleeing Afghanistan and Pakistan could seek refuge in Somalia.

Al-Shabab won control of almost all of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, in 2006, and held large swathes of central and southern Somalia until a United Nations-backed force from the African Union, including soldiers from neighboring Kenya and Uganda, pushed the militants out of the city in 2011 and out of the vital port of Kismayo in 2012. The rebels still control many rural areas in Somalia where it imposes strict Shariah law, including stoning to death women accused of adultery and amputating the hands of accused thieves. In addition it has staged deadly suicide bomb attacks on Mogadishu and Kismayo.

No one knows for sure, but al-Shabab is believed to command thousands of fighters including hundreds of foreigners.

Al-Shabab has warned for two years that it will attack Kenya in retaliation for the country's leading role in sending troops to Somalia in 2011 and effectively reducing the extremist group's power in Somalia. Al-Shabab also claimed responsibility for the July 2010 suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, that killed more than 70 people watching a World Cup final soccer match at two different restaurants popular among foreigners. Ugandan troops also are fighting in the African force in Somalia.
The group has staged ongoing major attacks within Somalia for years.

Al-Shabab and al-Qaida in February 2012 announced their alliance, with al-Shabab leader Mukhtar Abu Zubair pledging allegiance to the global terror movement. Al-Qaida's 2002 attacks on an Israeli-owned Kenyan resort in Mombasa and an attempted attack on a plane carrying Israeli tourists are believed to have been planned by an al-Qaida cell in Somalia. U.S. officials believe some of the al-Qaida terrorists who bombed the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 were given refuge in Somalia.

Before African troops moved in, al-Shabab was making a steady income from duties and fees levied at ports and airports as well as extorting taxes on domestic produce and demanding "jihadi" contributions. A United Nations report estimated al-Shabab's income in 2011 at between $70 million and $100 million. It has lost most of that revenue since it was forced out of Mogadishu and Kismayo. Al-Shabab's only ally in Africa is Eritrea — which backs it to counter its enemy Ethiopia, which also has troops in Somalia. Eritrea denies charges that it helps arm al-Shabab.

Al-Shabab is believed to have fractured over its alliance with al-Qaida, which caused a rift that has grown between core Shabab fighters who believe their struggle should focus on Somalia, and growing tensions with foreign fighters who want to plot a regional terrorist strategy. Analysts think attack on Nairobi's Westgate mall could indicate the extremists are winning that internal struggle. Further divisions are believed to have been caused by the group's decision to ban foreign aid organizations from operating in the country and providing food to save millions of victims of conflict-induced famine. That decision was announced in 2011, when the U.N. said Somalia had the world's highest child mortality rate.

The United States backed the first African intervention against al-Shabab, supporting Ethopian troops that invaded in 2006. Washington has given millions of dollars to support the U.N.-backed African force fighting al-Shabab, which it designated a foreign terrorist organization in 2008. The intervention from Ethiopia, a longtime enemy of Somalia, is considered to have radicalized al-Shabab and perhaps pushed it into the arms of al-Qaida, according to the U.S.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Al-Shabab is inspired by the Saudi Arabian Wahabi version of Islam though most Somalis belong to the more moderate Sufi strain. While they initially won popularity with Somalis by promising security and stability after years of lawlessness and violence, al-Shabab's destruction of Sufi shrines has cost them much support among locals.

Somalia's first elected government in more than two decades won power a year ago and, together with the African Union force, has the opportunity to create "a window of opportunity to fundamentally change Somalia's trajectory," according to the U.S. State Department. Business is growing and even foreign oil companies are negotiating concessions at the most hopeful moment in decades for that failed state.


Land Grabs: Will Cameroon Bear the Brunt of Herakles' Implosion?


For Immediate Release                                                                                   Contact: Anuradha Mittal, +1 510 469 5228
September 18, 2013                                                                                             amittal@oaklandinstitute.org

Land Grabs: Will Cameroon Bear the Brunt of Herakles' Implosion?

Oakland (CA): The embattled Herakles Farms palm oil plantation project in Cameroon appears to have now gone off the rails. Recent news of CEO Bruce Wrobel's early retirement from parent company Sithe Global, plus charges of corruption filed in the US by Cameroonian NGOs and the virtual disappearance of All for Africa, an NGO (chaired by Bruce Wrobel) that granted a faux "green" legitimacy, combine to indicate that failure is at hand for the maligned project.

The word on the ground points to a dire financial situation and an erosion of faith in Herakles Farms by investors and company's own workers. Herakles Farms had purported to herald a new era of "sustainable agriculture" by replacing old-growth rainforest with palm oil plantations. But the company has faced a series of setbacks since the Oakland Institute and Greenpeace International released a report in May 2013 documenting false promises, risks, and legal flaws in Herakles' planned operations.

Since the report's release, we have seen the following developments:

-       On June 18, 2013, Reuters reported a Cameroonian senior official stating, "We have asked them to forget their original deal signed with MINEPAT." The Herakles Farms project is being renegotiated with the plantation's surface area reduced from 73,000 to 20,000 hectares.
-  On June 13, 2013, two Cameroonian NGOs filed a complaint in the United States via OECD against Herakles Farms for corruption.
-  Senior staff have left the company, including the Project Director and Senior Vice President for Agriculture.
-  Herakles Farms is now harvesting logs from its project area rather than developing a palm oil plantation.
-      On September 12, 2013, Greenpeace released evidence that Herakles Farms has been logging illegally even after the suspension of their activities in May 2013.
-  Ongoing dispute with former staff members and a subcontractor over the non-payment of salaries and fees.
-       On July 30, 2013, Sithe Global announced that its CEO, Bruce Wrobel, who is also the CEO of Herakles Farms, was retiring from the company for unspecified reasons. Sithe Global, Herakles Farms, and All for Africa share the same New York address.
-   All for Africa, the NGO chaired by Bruce Wrobel, appears to have vanished. Its website is not accessible anymore and the contacts previously provided online no longer function.

"Even if the size of the project is reduced, the fragility of Herakles Farms is a high concern," said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. "It is an unsustainable project, led by a company known for serious wrongdoing, which will take over and destroy people's farmland and Cameroon's vital natural resources. Given the project is well below minimum sustainability standards, it begs for immediate intervening review and action by the Cameroonian government," she continued.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

History 101: Fiction and Facts on Oromos of Ethiopia

By Prof. Feqadu Lamessa
July 30, 2013

(A guide for foreign journalists on Oromos and Ethiopian history) Oromo, Ethiopia Courtesy: ayyaantuu.com)

 (ADAMA, Ethiopia) - Recently, the Qatar-based media al Jazeera has published several articles concerning the Oromo people of Ethiopia. It is the first international media outlet to extensively report on our people and it should be praised for bringing our cause to the world stage.
One of the benefits of this exposure is it forces Ethiopian authorities to address human rights abuses in the country and to let them know that the world is watching. Oromos and other Ethiopians have been struggling for equal rights and democracy for decades. While it is important to report about Oromo people' background and historical perspectives, it is however vital that we report accurate information. Instead of benefiting us, reporting inaccurate or biased information can actually harm our struggle for democracy. Instead of creating national consensus and peace, it can instigate bitterness and anger.
One of the reasons al Jazeera reported inaccurate information about Oromo history is because it depended on one-sided sources, especially from members or supporters of Oromo groups outside of Ethiopia (diaspora OLF, OFDM etc). But nobody can blame al Jazeera media because most people inside Ethiopia would be too scared to speak or contribute. The only option al Jazeera or any foreign media has is to use diaspora/refugee/external sources outside Ethiopia. This is a dilemma all foreign media outlets face while reporting about third-world countries like Ethiopia.
For educational purposes, some corrections are provided below to fix inaccuracies reported on al Jazeera media regarding Oromo history and our struggle for democracy. The corrections below are supported by non-political scholars, but they might be rejected by biased politicians (both from ruling party and from opposition party) for the obvious reasons. However, they are based on historical textbooks, European authors and scholarly accounts.

Fiction #1:

"Between 1868 and 1900, half of all Oromo were killed, around 5 million people"

Fact #1:
This is one of the most repeated inaccuracies, usually told by Secessionist Oromos, radical ethno-nationalist politicians outside the country or pro-OLF history revisionist websites like gadaa.com et al. However, the undisputed fact is that even the total Ethiopian population (the sum of dozens of ethnic groups) was much less than 5 million in the late 1800s, let alone one ethnic group being 10 million. So claiming that 5 million ethnic Oromos were killed by Emperor Menelik's forces does not add up. The truth is several thousand Oromos were in fact killed during battles of that era. It was not a "genocide" as some politicians claim but it was a massacre of the ill equipped southern forces defeated by the Shewan military of Emperor Menelik which had more European weapons. Throughout those decades, the truth is more Oromos were killed by other Oromos than by non-Oromos because competing Oromo Clans often traded for weapons to have an upper hand against their local competitors, who were often their fellow Oromo and Sidama neighbors. And it was not the first lop sided victory of that era in Africa because various communities from all corners of Ethiopia had attacked one another during the "resource battles" and whichever group had more modern weapons had the upper hand. To summarize, Professor Mengistu Paulos of Jimma University said it best when describing right-wing Oromo liberation philosophy:--
"Most fictional accounts of 'Oromo history' blindly accepted as facts by some misled people are manufactured by former politicians turned Pseudo-historians like OLF writer Asafa Jalata, who is renowned for abuse of paraphrasing, often with out-of-context citations. For example, while quoting the 19th century Russian Alexander Bulatovich (who provided an 'educated guess' of annihilation of almost half Ethiopian population by disease, famine and war, including internal conflict between Oromo clans and with Abyssinians), the OLF-writer Asafa Jalata infamously claimed half Oromo population was killed by 'evil' Amharas. This was purposely done by Mr. Jalata to create a foundation for ethnic hatred between Oromos and Amharas. Ironically, even Mr. Bulatovich himself never had the capacity nor the legitimacy to do a reliable census, as he spent just a couple of months walking around Oromia and hunting elephants in 1890s."

Fiction #2:
"…. largely Muslim Oromo people"
Fact #2:
This is a phrase seen in some media outlets but not most. Oromo people have never been a predominantly muslim people. In fact, both Christianity and Islam is not our ancestral religion because we have practiced an indigenous traditional religion for centuries before. Gradually, Islam and Christianity were both adopted (during Oromo migrations) by us and imposed (during conquest of our lands by Abyssinian/Christians & Somalis/Islam) on us throughout history. Even today, both the two major religions have equal representation among Oromos. The latest official 2007 census showed that around 48% of Oromos practice Christianity (Both Orthodox & Protestant) while around 47% of Oromos practice Islam. Yet, word on the ground is that the Islam population might soon surpass Christianity among Oromos in the future because Orthodox Christianity is decreasing inside Oromia.

Fiction #3
"Abyssinians labeled Oromos the derogatory word 'Galla'"
Fact #3:
For many decades, this false statement has been used by Oromo separatists to create emotional resentment among Oromos against Semitic Abyssinians (Amharas, Tigrayans and Gurages). The fact is the derogatory word "Galla" was first used by Arab and muslim Somalis to describe Oromos as "gal" meaning "outsiders" and "Pagans." Muslims used this label during Oromo migration because Oromo people had their own religion which the Muslims believed was paganism. Nonetheless, this derogatory word was gradually adopted and used by other Ethiopians.

Fiction #4:
"Oromos were colonized by Emperor Menelik"
Fact: #4
Another popular claim made by secessionist Oromo politicians (and usually repeated by foreign journalists) is the fiction that Oromo people (as a whole ethnic group) were colonized by another ethnic group. Usually, the slogan goes "Abyssinians colonized Oromos" etc. This claim is popular among the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) organization and consequently among some Diaspora Oromo nationalists living in America and Europe. While a different version or a re-arrangement of the wording might still be true…in general, the Oromo nation as a whole was never colonized by another Ethiopian ethnic group. To start with, even a united one Oromo nation did not exist at those times. All non-political historical textbooks show the existence of battles between multi-ethnic BUT monolingual communities for many centuries throughout Ethiopia. Even in northern Ethiopia (traditional "Abyssinia") Oromos have migrated and mixed so much with Tigrayans, Amharas, Afars etc for centuries that the "Abyssinia" state itself was never a one-ethnic state. In fact, even around the 1700s, Rayya Oromos and Yejju Wallo Oromos conquered and dominated a portion of Amharas and Tigrayans; and thus made Afan Oromo the official language of Abyssinia for that brief period. Meaning: clans and ethnic groups have mixed up in Ethiopia for over a millennium but the dominant ethnic group always imposed its language since it was convenient. This linguistic domination however was not always as exploitive and as vilified as it is today; because many of the ethnic groups living along trade centers and trade routes often spoke the languages of other ethnic groups already, because there was financial or commercial incentive to do so. This is the background of the region. Therefore, when it comes to the Emperor Menelik era, all historians have argued that it is more factual to say a predominantly Amharic language speaking community gradually conquered a predominantly Afan Oromo language speaking community in the 1800s. So this does not mean an Oromo ethnic group was conquered by an Amhara ethnic group. In fact, just like Amharas of the north were divided,Oromos were also divided and in conflict among themselves. The obvious evidence for this comes from the fact that the Amhara Emperor Menelik was imprisoned by other Amhara regional kings when he was younger. And when he was freed, Oromo clans were also in fierce battles amongst each other, so much so that the Tullama Oromo, Limmu and Macha Oromos created an alliance with the Shewan Amharas of Menelik, leading to the infamous battles of 1880s that led to this said alliance easily crushing the non-allied Oromos in various bloody wars. In short, Oromos as a one whole were never colonized by exclusively non-Oromos. In fact, the original founders of the OLF organization themselves never believed it so they did not emphasize the word "colonization" in the beginning. But in the mid-1970s, OLF leaders needed to mobilize Oromos against Emperor Haile Selassie (who was half Oromo himself) and to justify the call for "Oromia independence" from "colonial Ethiopia." Therefore OLF had to create a bad cop-good cop scenario for their convenience and simplified history for their people to create national resentment. This helped OLF to portray Oromos as suddenly being colonized by this foreign ethnic group (Amhara) that we (Oromos) have never came in contact with before. This is common tactic used by national liberation movements around the world. The truth that most Ethiopians know is that Shewa based Oromos and Amharas (ethnically mixed Ethiopians) were the main creators of modern Ethiopia. In his book "Who are the Shoans," the historian and anthropologist, Dr. Gerry Salole once summarized that: "In terms of descent, the group that became politically dominant in Shewa (and subsequently in Ethiopia) was a mixture of Amhara and Oromo."

In Conclusion, the above are 4 of the main issues that create confusion for foreign journalists who report on Oromo people and Oromo politics in Ethiopia. While it is vital that al Jazeera and other media outlets cover the current suffering of Oromos and other Ethiopians, it is necessary to report responsibly. Otherwise, creating confusion and resentment between the younger Ethiopian population causes more problems than solutions. In reality, not just Oromos, but all Ethiopians have suffered under several governments and the only way they can achieve freedom and lasting democracy is when united, not when divided by tribes or not when being polarized by historical lies presented as truth. It is important that foreign media outlets make corrections or report accurate information to avoid inflammatory statements that are destructive and counterproductive against Oromos and all Ethiopian people' ongoing struggle for democracy, development and justice.

-- Feqadu Lamessa is a former Adama University professor and writer

Source: Salem News

Fingerprints of International Aid on Forced Relocation, Repression, and Human Rights Abuse in Ethiopia

OAKLAND, CA-Two new reports from the Oakland Institute, Development Aid to Ethiopia: Overlooking Violence, Marginalization, and Political Repression and Ignoring Abuse in Ethiopia: DFID and USAID in the Lower Omo Valley, show how Western development assistance is supporting forced evictions and massive violations of human rights in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian government's controversial "villagization" resettlement program to clear vast areas for large-scale land investments is funded largely by international development organizations. The first report
Development Aid to Ethiopia, establishes direct links between development aid--an average $3.5 billion a year, equivalent to 50 to 60% of Ethiopia's national budget--and industrial projects that violate the human rights of people in the way of their implementation.

The report also shows how indirect support in the form of funding for infrastructure, such as dams for irrigation and electricity for planned plantations, plays a role in repressing local communities by making the projects viable.

Ethiopia is one of the largest recipients of US development aid in Africa, receiving an average of $800 million annually--even though the US State Department is well aware of widespread repression and civil rights violations. A strategically located military partner seen as a leader in the "African Renaissance," Ethiopia is gently described as having a "democratic deficit" by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Yet this phrase does not begin to describe or justify the kind of routine violence and coercion taking place on the ground and documented in the Oakland Institute's new report, 
Ignoring Abuse in Ethiopia: DFID and USAID in the Lower Omo Valley.

The massive resettlement of 260,000 people of many different ethnic groups in the Lower Omo Valley has been fraught with controversy and has set off an alarm among international human rights groups. Information around forced evictions, beatings, killings, rapes, imprisonment, intimidation and political coercion, has been shared, and these tactics have been documented as tools used in the resettlement process.

In response to allegations, DFID and USAID launched a joint investigation in January of 2012. After completing their visit, they came to the puzzling conclusion that allegations of human rights abuses were "unsubstantiated." The contents of this new report, which include first-person accounts via transcripts of interviews that took place during the aid investigations last year, overwhelmingly contradict that finding and question the integrity of the inquiry.

The interviews paint a very different story from what DFID and USAID reportedly saw and witnessed, and for the first time are made available to the public here.

"[The soldiers] went all over the place, and they took the wives of the Bodi and raped them, raped them, raped them, raped them. Then they came and they raped our wives, here," said one Mursi man interviewed during the investigation. Another man added: "the Ethiopian government is saying they are going to collect us all and put us in a resettlement site in the forest. We are going to have to stay there. What are the cattle going to eat there? They are our cattle, which we live from. They are our ancestor's cattle, which we live from. If we stay out there in the forest, what are they going to eat?"

It is worrisome that aid agencies rubber stamp development projects that are violating human rights. Worse, they have chosen to ignore the results of their own investigations.

"Bottom line, our research shows unequivocally that current violent and controversial forced resettlement programs of mostly minority groups in Ethiopia have US and UK aid fingerprints all over them," said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. "It's up to the officials involved to swiftly reexamine their role and determine how to better monitor funding if they are indeed not in favor of violence and repression as suitable relocation techniques for the development industry," she continued.
The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank working to increase public participation and promote fair debate on critical social, economic, and environmental issues. Starting 2011, the Institute has unveiled land investment deals in Africa that reveal a disturbing pattern of a lack of transparency, fairness, and accountability. The dynamic relationship between research, advocacy, and international media coverage has resulted in a string of successes and organizing in the US and abroad.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Obama tears into Romney at last debate

Source:  http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1012/82719.html
By ALEXANDER BURNS | 10/22/12 6:10 PM EDT Updated: 10/22/12 10:41 PM EDT

President Barack Obama tore into Mitt Romney as a vacillating foreign policy novice during the final presidential debate Monday, as the former Massachusetts governor sought to close Obama’s long-standing advantage on international affairs and national security.

Both candidates lobbed sharp accusations at each other throughout the forum at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., but it was Obama who set the caustic tone at the outset and dialed it up from there.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1012/82719.html#ixzz2A5bPknZI

Monday, October 22, 2012

Romney has lost the Libya Debate: Intelligence Assessment Agreed with Obama Administration

Source: http://thinkprogress.org/security/2012/10/22/1057811/gop-jumps-the-shark-congressman-claims-obama-doctored-libyan-intelligence-to-win-reelection/?mobile=nc

By Igor Volsky on Oct 22, 2012 at 11:42 am

Republicans blamed President Obama for the killing of four Americans in Libya within hours of the September 11 attack, attributing the violence to the administration’s supposed penchant for “apologizing” and failing to lead in the region. Within days, Republicans charged that Democrats, by arguing that the deaths were caused by a YouTube video disparaging the Prophet Muhammed, were covering up and misleading al Qaeda’s involvement in the deaths and called for U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s resignation. During a series of Sunday show appearances on September 16th, she pointedly argued that the attackers took advantage of a protest against the video to carry out the killings.

But now, a growing drumbeat of evidence has found that the administration’s claims were substantiated by the the intelligence community. Eyewitnesses in Benghazi initially told officials and reporters that “members of the group that raided the U.S. mission specifically mentioned the video, which denigrated the prophet Muhammad” and “found no evidence that it was ordered by Al Qaeda.” The CIA also believed that the clip acted as an accelerant for the killings, instructing both Obama and Rice that “The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex.” The agency did not change its assessment until September 22.

The new evidence undermines the GOP’s accusations. But rather than back away from the blame game, they’re doubling down on their attacks against the administration. During an appearance on Fox News on Monday, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-NY) — who led the Republican effort to use the Libya incident as a way to weaken Obama’s foreign policy credentials — insisted that Obama should have questioned the intelligence community’s conclusions and suggested that he pressured the CIA to doctor its findings to fit his re-election narrative:

KING: I want to find out why the president didn’t ask questions….Did they ask the State Department if they had any videos what occurred at the consulate that night? Why with all these threats leading up to September 11th and talking about terror attacks and how could they now be saying it was not a terror attack. I think they’re hiding behind the term intelligence community. To me shows the president did not look into what happened, did not inquire what happened, was willing to look at something face value. Why was the report at face value whether there was so much evidence in there showing it was terrorist attack. It cries out for explanation and investigation. [...]

Who are the individuals or the ones the president claim gave him this information? And did the president steer them in that direction? Was this is mind set by the administration that said Libya was great victory and Al Qaeda was on the ropes and no longer a threat to us?
During an earlier appearance on Laura Ingraham’s radio show, King also suggested that Rice should have known that the intelligence presented to her was false and interrogated the assessments before appearing on that series of Sunday political talk shows. “She’s in the chain of command at the State Department,” he said. “Did she just take that information or did she go to the Secretary of State?”

Reports have indicated that despite the intelligence community’s growing uncertainty about the impetus for the attacks, “intelligence officials didn’t feel they had enough conclusive, new information to revise their assessment” and did not communicate their doubts to Rice before her Sunday show appearances. This assessment was also reflected in Obama’s Presidential Daily Briefings.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Romney: I’ll never convince Obama voters to take responsibility for their lives

By Greg Sargent
Washington Post

The Huffington Post and Mother Jones both post audio of what may be a blockbuster moment: Mitt Romney telling a private fundraiser that 47 percent of the American people — the voters who can be counted on to vote for Obama — are “dependent on government,” “believe that they are victims,” and think government “has a responsibility to care for them.”

“I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” Romney says. Mother Jones’ video is here.

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what...

“Our message of low taxes doesn’t connect...so my job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the five to 10 percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful....”

Romney seems to be thinking he’s making an electoral argument here — these voters are simply not gettable for him, so he needs to focus on the center. But his explanation veers into a truly extreme version of a theory that’s widespread on the right: Democrats are trying to encourage dependency on government for the explicit purpose of enlarging the pool of voters who can be relied upon to vote Democratic for the rest of their lives, in order to preserve the government handouts they enjoy.

In Romney’s telling, all of these 47 percent of voters are complicit in this arrangement. As a result, there is no hope of ever persuading them to take personal responsibility for their lives. He seems to be conflating the government-dependency conspiracy theory with another right wing meme — the complaint that 47 percent of Americans pay no income taxes. Put those together and you arrive at Romney’s formulation.

In a sense, this is an extreme version of a narrative Romney has adopted on multiple fronts. He has charged that Obama is taking away hard won Medicare benefits from seniors to redistribute them to other people; he claims Obama is gutting welfare reform to send welfare checks to those who don’t work; and has even suggested Obama is doing the latter to appeal to his “base.” The attacks on Obama’s “you didn’t build that” speech are of a piece with this, pushing the notion that Obama demeans your hard work and individual initiative because he thinks only government-sponsored success constitues real achievement and wants to expand government into every aspect of our lives, forever increasing government dependency and perpetually eroding good old fashioned American self reliance.

I’ve argued here that the Romney campaign often seems to be running against a version of Obama that exists only in the imagination of the Fox/Limbaugh base and doesn’t really exist in the minds of swing and undecided voters. This takes the narrative to a whole new level; how will voters in the middle react to his contemptuous tone towards nearly half of Americans? What’s more, the ranks of the oft-discussed 47 percent, many of whom pay no federal income taxes but do pay state and local taxes , are swelled with working class voters and seniors, and many of them are obviously Romney supporters — and hardly think of themselves as Big Government freeloaders. Yet Romney, inadvertently or not, has lumped them all in with his Obama-fosters-government-dependency narrative.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/post/romney-ill-never-convince-obama-voters-to-take-responsibility-for-their-lives/2012/09/17/0c1f0bcc-0104-11e2-b260-32f4a8db9b7e_blog.html