Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Petit Clamart: 22nd August 1962


On a Summer's day on a quiet road in a quiet Suburb of Paris called Petit Clamart, a black Citreon DS 19 limousine speeds through a road en route to an airport. Suddenly, the peace is shattered by a wall of noise. It is the sound of bullets spewing out of an array of automatic sub-machine guns aimed at the vehicle's passenger; the French head of state, Charles de Gaulle.

Miraculously, he escapes without a scratch as does Madame De Gaulle, his son-in-law and the driver who evades the ambush despite the puncturing of two of the car's wheels.

The opening sequences of the film version of the Frederick Forsyth thriller, 'The Day of the Jackal' is largely faithful to real events in its recreation of the ambush.

The backdrop to this scenario of a hit-team consisting of serving and former members of the French military against the man who embodied the resurrection of the French nation after its humiliation by Germany in the Second World War was one of Europe's biggest political crisis in the post-war period.

DeGaulle had done an about turn and decided to hand back the French North African colony of Algeria to the Algerians after a bitterly fought war of independence -a conflict immortalised through Glilo Pontecorvo's film 'The Battle of Algiers' and the writings of Franz Fannon. What made Algeria different from other conflicts between European colonists and the indigenous seekers of independence was that the northern area of Algeria, situated on the Mediterranean, was considered to be a part of metropolitan France. As French as Provence, Burgundy or Il-de-France. It was a place where many French families had settled for generations.

Adding to the fevered level of emotion swirling around the conflict was that a French withdrawal for many would cap a series of national disasters that would shatter the collective psyche of a people who had been defeated and occupied in World War Two and more recently, been forced to evacuate from Indo-China.

France had already been brought to the brink of civil war by a rebellion by a number of generals. But while De Gaulle had faced down this challenge, he was aware that many of his countrymen still hated him for his change of policy and that a band of dissident (mainly) army officers had sworn to kill him. There were many attempts on his life with many of these plots being hatched under the aegis of the O.A.S.; Organisation de la Armee Secrete (The Secret Army Organisation).

The instigator of this particular plot, Lt. Colonel Jean Marie Bastien-Thiry, was in point of fact not an OAS member; he belonged to another even more secretive group ‘Vieil Etat-Major’, which shared the views of the O.A.S. and O.A.S. personnel were used in this plot. Bastien-Thiry was a devout Catholic who justified his plot on the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas who said that regicide was morally correct in certain circumstances.

The gang at Petit Clamart were all caught, tried and convicted. All were initially condemned to death but De Gaulle exercised the presidential prerogative of mercy by commuting all the sentences but one -that of Bastien-Thiry.

Bastien-Thiry's plea for clemency had been on the grounds that he was clinically depressed at the time and that his plan had been merely to kidnap DeGaulle and have him tried at a secret location.

DeGaulle had given clemency to the rebellious generals and others who had committed treason but decided that Bastien-Thiry should die because he placed himself at a safe distance from the mayhem of bullets (he was the look-out who waved a newspaper in order to alert the gunmen of the arrival of De Gaulle's car); his operation had also endangered Madame De Gaulle and some innocent bystanders.

In upholding the death sentence, De Gaulle knew that he would be making a martyr of Bastien-Thiry but choose him above the generals who in his words were "kicking footballs" around the precincts of a French penitentiary.

He was executed by firing squad in March of the following year at a military barracks on the outskirts of Paris, the Fort D'Ivry.

Many of those who were imprisoned for plotting his death and the overthrow of the state did not serve lengthy sentences -a prudent policy in terms of setting the ground for future national reconciliation.

©  Adeyinka Makinde (2008)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England


Saturday, 19 August 2017

My Interview at 'The Mind Renewed' about the West's weaponising of Islam - Part One of "The Pan-Islamic Option: The West's Part in the Creation and Sustaining of Islamist Terror"


The first part of an interview with Julian Charles of ‘The Mind Renewed’ about my recent essay, “The Pan-Islamic Option: The West’s Part in the Creation and Sustaining of Islamist Terror”. This segment focuses on recent policies followed by the West through which weaponised Islam is used as a tool in seeking geo-political advantage, But this has come with huge moral, financial and security costs.

TMR Page - Episode 180 “The Pan-Islamic Option” (Part One: Recent Years)

“I don’t know if they turned a blind eye; I think it was a decision, a wilful decision.” - Mike Flynn

We are joined once again by the lawyer and university lecturer Adeyinka Makinde for the first instalment of a two-part interview centring on his recent article, “The Pan-Islamic Option: The West’s Part in the Creation and Sustaining of Islamist Terror”.

In this first part we discuss indications in recent years of the West’s use and support of violent Islamist groups for the purposes of advancing geopolitical goals, with reference to speeches, interviews and emails associated with people in high office, and position papers by influential think tanks.

Adeyinka Makinde trained for the law as a barrister. He lectures in criminal law and public law at a university in London, and has an academic research interest in intelligence & security matters. He is a contributor to a a number of websites for which he has written essays and commentaries on international relations, politics and military history. He has served as a programme consultant and provided expert commentary for BBC World Service Radio. China Radio International and the Voice of Russia.

Links



© Adeyinka Makinde (2017)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer and law lecturer based in London, England.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Eyes of Hitchcock

Alfred Joseph Hitchcock (1899-1980)

An assemblage of stills from the works of film auteur Alfred Hitchcock focusing on the eyes: an investigation of shock, fear, terror, malevolence and madness.

Credits

Filmmaker: Kogonada

Music: “Anything can happen, and usually does...On the Orient Express” by Rob Cawley

© Adeyinka Makinde

Adeyinka Makinde is a London-based writer

video

Friday, 11 August 2017

A Good Few Reasons Why The United States Should Exit Afghanistan


Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign promised to apply sound traditional conservative values of non-interventionism once he got into office. This included getting the United States out of Afghanistan where the American military have engaged in that nation’s longest war. However, rather than dis-engagement, the Pentagon and the State Department have in recent months recommended an increase in troops in a country where the Taliban presently controls more territory than at any point since the invasion. Additionally, the ISIS franchise has established control over a stretch of land along the Afghan border with Pakistan. Trump has reneged on a great many campaign promises but it is worth reminding why the United States would be best served by withdrawing from this quagmire, a legacy of its post-Cold War drift towards militarism.

1. The $800 billion cost of ‘nation-building’ which has not contained global Islamic terror or defeated the Afghan Islamist belligerents: the Taliban and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - Khorasan Province.

2. As of October 2016, 2,386 American military personnel have been killed, 20,046 American service personnel have been wounded in action and 1,173 American civilian contractors have lost their lives.

3. Thousands of Afghans -over 91,000 civilians, soldiers, militiamen- have been killed in a cycle of violence since the U.S. invasion in what was supposed to have been a ‘police action’ against Osama Bin Laden who was never indicted for the 9/11 atrocity. Nor was he formally put on the F.B.I.’s wanted list. In fact it was Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi who was responsible for the issuance of the first Interpol warrant.

4. Millions of Americans have become addicted to heroin since the U.S. invasion, the aftermath of which has seen an increase in poppy production. The irony is that the Taliban had virtually wiped out the harvest and trade of opium but changed policy in order to use the tax it imposes on farmers to finance its insurgency.

5. Afghanistan arguably serves as a corporate welfare program for both the defence and chemical industries. The former benefit from Cold Wars with Russia and China as well as in counter-insurgency adventures such as Afghanistan. The latter are keen to benefit from the exploitation of Afghanistan’s rare-earth minerals.

The untapped deposits were estimated in 2010 to be potentially worth up to one trillion dollars. That figure was disputed at the time and would be much less given the general fall in the value of commodities. Nonetheless, this has been utilised as a recent ‘selling point’ by Michael Silver, the CEO of American Elements.

It is a well known fact that American officials had drawn up plans to invade Afghanistan before the attacks of 9/11. Threats of military intervention had emanated from Washington during the summer of 2001. The underlying reason involved the United States setting up a base close to the oil-rich lands of Central Asia. That rationale and the one being proffered by Michael Silver only serve to reinforce the thesis propounded by Major General Smedley Butler that war is a racket.

Unfortunately for the American people, the Afghan racket, along with other unjust wars, has only served to enrich the nation’s oligarchs while they suffer the consequences of a chronic national debt.

© Adeyinka Makinde 2017

Adeyinka Makinde is a London-based writer. He can be followed on Twitter @AdeyinkaMakinde

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Zulus, Redcoats and Sabaton

Watercolour of a Zulu Warrior by William Whitelock Lloyd

“What do you know about Zulus?”
“Bunch of savages, isn’t it?”

An exchange between a Boer and a British soldier in a scene from the 1964 Paramount International release Zulu kick-starts a series of clips from that movie set to a frenzied burst of ‘Power Metal’ music played by the Swedish band Sabaton.

According to Wikipedia:

The band’s main lyrical themes are based on war and historical battles -the name is a reference to a sabaton, knight’s foot armour...Lyrical content drawn from World War I, World War II and other historical conflicts is prevalent and lyrics often recite stories of heroic deeds by men and armies from all over the world.

Thus the group have written songs dedicated to the likes of the Seventh Panzer Division of the Wehrmacht, the ‘Ghost Division’ which was commanded by Erwin Rommel, the Swiss Guards, a mercenary unit involved with defending the Holy See during the sacking of Rome in 1527, and the 24th Regiment of Foot, the defenders of the mission at Rorke’s Drift.

While the band have on occasion had to explain that they espouse neither nationalist nor racist sentiment, the videos made by connoisseurs of their music on youtube tend to attract commentators who wish to read those values into them. Thus the crusader theme accompanying the track “The Last Stand” brings out a number of trolls expressing hatred for Islam and the need to be instilled with the crusader spirit in order to stem the perceived invasion of Europe by Muslims.

Similarly, the song “Rorke’s Drift” which is about the heroism of 150 British redcoats defending an outpost against between 3,000 to 4,000 Zulu warriors attracts the odd acerbic comment such as “Fuck Black Lives Matter”. Having said that, the commentary is a mixed bag with a fair proportion displaying good knowledge of history.

It has to be said that the lyrical content of Sabaton songs are not laced with the sort of ambiguity which has bedevilled several songs written by the German ‘Industrial Metal’ band Rammstein which have been used by a multitude of youtube video makers seeking to glamorise the Third Reich and the Waffen-SS.

The bone one picks with the Sabaton rendition of Rorke’s Drift is the analysis of history. Among the opening lines are:

Chance for peace and justice gone and all talks had been in vain
A prince had been offended and he has gone the path of war

These words remove the backdrop of the Anglo-Zulu wars being one predicated on the aggression of the British seeking to extend the frontiers of the their empire. While the Zulu empire may have been a militarised society along the lines of Ancient Sparta, its ruler, King Cetewayo, was keen to reach an accommodation with the neighbouring British colonial authorities.

But the British wished to break up the Zulu nation in order to achieve wider objectives related to establishing new trade routes and facilitating the conduct of mineral exploration and commercial opportunities.

The song also fails to mention anything about the ineptitude of General Chelmsford in leading the British Army to defeat at iSandlwana. The opening words refer to the main force having been slain and towards the end that the empire is “saved”. The Battle of Rorke’s Drift did not of course ultimately decide the Anglo-Zulu War -the decisive confrontation would occur six months later at Ulundi- instead it was used at the time as a propaganda piece to deflect public scrutiny from the failings which had led to humiliation at iSandlwana.

The song’s chorus is all about the resilience and fortitude of the redcoat in the face of the approaching Zulu hordes:

Zulus attack
Fight back to back
Show them no mercy and
Fire at will
Kill or be Killed
Facing, awaiting

No mention of the heroism of Zulu warriors charging against an onslaught of bullets and as defenders of their realm from foreign aggressors.

Perhaps one expects too much from the lyrics of a Power Metal band.

But if the heroism of members of a British infantry is the focus there, the 1981 song “Impi” by the South African multiracial band Juluka highlights the valiant effort of the Zulu army in inflicting a defeat on the British at the aforementioned Battle of iSandlwana. And if truth be told, the lyrics of Johnny Clegg provides more detail on the doomed army of Chelmsford as they brace themselves for war on the eve of the battle.

There are no forensic references to izimpondo zankomo - the battle formations of the Zulus, the boldness in charging rifle-armed soldiers and the climax of the short spear-wielding warrior killing the red-coated invader. Instead Clegg relies on a refrain sang in the Zulu language to convey the power and mystique of the army of a people who Disraeli described as a “remarkable people who defeat our generals, convert our bishops and who on this day have put an end to a great dynasty”:

Impi! Wo ‘nans’ impi iyeza
Obani bengathinta amabhubesi?

Translation

Here comes the army
Who can touch the lions?

Perhaps Sabaton might have examined heroism from both perspectives in a way similar to that attempted by the heavy metal band Iron Maiden in their 1982 song “Run To The Hills”. That song contrasted the plight of the nomadic Cree Indians with that of the white settlers, who acting on the religious-derived and state approved ideology of ‘Manifest Destiny’, sought to ethnically cleanse the indigenous populations from the Atlantic Seaboard to the Pacific Ocean.

But song lyrics as with movie scripts are noted for their often ruthless view of history. And in this regard, Sabaton’s “Rorke’s Drift” is no different.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2017)

Adeyinka Makinde is a London-based writer. He can be followed on Twitter @AdeyinkaMakinde


Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Remembering Fela Anikulapo Kuti - Revolutionary African Musician

“Roar”. A portrait of Fela Anikulapo Kuti by Colombian-born artist Heriberto Cogollo

Fela Kuti was a revolutionary African musician, the inventor of a genre which he called ‘Afro-Beat’ and the scourge of successive military dictatorships and civilian governments whose misrule of Nigeria has blighted the development of Africa’s most populated country. Fela was an iconoclast who challenged the powerful in society, a rebel whose bohemian lifestyle traversed the boundaries of socially prescribed behaviour as well as a social commentator whose lyrics, often suffused with coruscating barbs and comical vignettes, laid bare the daily tragedy of the lives of the suffering African proletariat. His death twenty years ago was mourned by millions of his countrymen and his legacy of social activism, critique of Nigeria’s governance as well as his Pan-Africanist aspirations remain as valid today as they did at the time of his passing.

Fela was born into the upper-middle class elite of colonial-era Nigerian society in the Yoruba city of Abeokuta. The first part of his original hyphenated surname, Ransome-Kuti, was bestowed on his grandfather Josiah Jesse Kuti, an Anglican clergyman, by an English benefactor. Josiah was a talented composer of Christian hymns and a church organist. Fela’s father, Israel Ransome-Kuti was a prominent educator and his mother, Funmilayo Kuti was a feminist and social activist with Marxist leanings who was part of several national delegations representing Nigeria at conferences which were designed to set out a pathway to independence from Britain.  It is from these antecedents that Fela’s talent for music, a predisposition to rebel and his interest in politics and the plight of the ordinary person stem.

Fela formed his first band Koola Lobitos in London when studying at Trinity College of Music where he enrolled in 1958. He learned classical music by day and played the trumpet at nightly and weekend gigs which catered to the tastes of Britain’s West African and Afro-Caribbean communities. He played conventional West African-style highlife music: songs about love and the mundanities of everyday life. It was a style he continued with on his return to Nigeria in 1963 right through to the period of the Nigerian Civil War when most of the federation was pitted against the secessionist state of Biafra in a bloody civil war that raged between 1967 and 1970.

It was not until he embarked on a tour of the United States during the war that Fela’s music and his raison d’etre undertook a radical shift. His association with Sandra Isidore, a black American immersed in the politics of the Black Panther Party and the growing drift towards Afrocentricity, ignited in Fela a new vision that involved integrating black politics with a hybrid style composed of contemporary horn-driven Afro-American popular music, psychedelic rock and the African rhythmic cadences of vocal and instrumental expression. A key part of this musical expression was the drumming of Tony Oladipo Allen whose input first in regard to an increasingly jazzified element to the music of Koola Lobitos and then with the new breed of politicised and funked-up music qualify him as being the co-creator of Afro-Beat.

The musical rebirth led to Fela renaming his band the Africa 70. American funk and soul collided with Yoruban rhythms which were accompanied by lyrics layered with Pan-Africanist sentiment. Fela’s new model sound, a symbiosis of Afro-Diasporan elements, sounded fresh but also natural. The Yoruba culture is one which is highly syncretic in nature.

The new bent towards protest singing was also consistent with Yoruban modes of expression. In contrast to the praise-singing directed at the wealthy and the important in traditional society was abuse-singing. Fela’s Yabis songs which ridiculed and denigrated the rich and powerful in Nigerian society would form the backdrop to many popular compositions as well as a multitude of iron-fisted reprisals from the authorities. His popularity markedly increased as the 1970s developed and his audience ravenously anticipated his next incendiary epistle on long-playing vinyl.

Fela lampooned the high-handedness of police officers and soldiers in “Alagbon Close” and “Zombie”. His disdain for the ‘foreign imported’ religions of Christianity and Islam and his belief that they served as an opiate for the masses was reflected in “Shuffering and Shmiling”. He criticized middle class Nigerian aping of Western mannerisms in “Gentleman” and mocked African females who bleached their skin in “Yellow Fever”. His uncompromising position on eschewing the colonial-derived mentality and promoting black pride formed the backdrop to his dropping ‘Ransome’ from his surname. In its stead, he adopted the name ‘Anikulapo’ which means “he who carries death in his pouch”.

He had established his pan-African outlook via his album “Why Black Man Dey Suffer” in 1971 but when criticising the racist regimes of Rhodesia and South Africa in songs like “Sorrow, Tears and Blood” and “Beasts of No Nation”, did not fail to remind his listeners of the hypocrisy and the brutality of Nigeria’s military rulers. He sang against imperialism and neocolonialism while pointing out that he felt certain of Nigeria’s elite such as the wealthy businessman, Moshood Abiola were agents of the Central Intelligence Agency. Abiola, who rose to be the Vice President of the African and Middle Eastern region of the International Telephone and Telegraph company (IT&T), was lambasted in the song “ITT (International Thief Thief)” in a diatribe against the exploitation of Africa by multinational companies and the African ‘big men’ who aid them in this endeavour.

Corruption and the inhumanity of Nigeria’s elites were a consistent topic for Fela in his recordings, his stage banter at his popular club ‘The Shrine’ and in his frequent utterances to the press. When Nigeria hosted the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture in 1977, he refused to perform at the gathering in protest at the corruption surrounding the event. “Money is not Nigeria’s problem”, the overthrown General Yakubu Gowon had said a few years before, “it is how to spend it.” And ‘Festac’, the abbreviated name of the festival, had induced a wild spending spree by the Nigerian government which proceeded with the obligatory backhanders for organising officials.

The bringing together of artistic talent from Africa and the African Diaspora had appealed to the Pan-Africanist sentiments of Fela who as a young boy had been introduced to its greatest champion, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, by his mother. He felt that the gathering could be used to “redirect the thinking of the common man”. He had been invited to join the National Participation Committee for Festac along with other luminaries from Nigerian drama, music and literature, including his cousin the future Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, but along with Soyinka and a few others withdrew disillusioned.

When the festival commenced, Fela denounced the military government in nightly sermons delivered at ‘The Shrine’ where musicians flocked to pay him homage. Among them were Stevie Wonder, Sun Ra and Hugh Masekela. The Brazilian artists Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil who for a time had been forced into exile by the military junta of their country also met Fela.

Fela would pay a heavy price for his harangues. Less than a week after the end of the festival, the army surrounded his commune, known as the Kalakuta Republic, before storming it. Its inhabitants, not least Fela were beaten and the female members of his entourage sexually violated. Fela’s mother who resided at the residence was thrown from a first floor window and although initially surviving the attack died a few months later from injuries that she sustained.

It was a dark period for Fela. He spent 27 days in jail and suffered different bone fractures. He was put on trial and an official inquiry whitewashed the invasion and destruction of his compound concluding that the damage to his property had been perpetrated by “an exasperated and unknown soldier”. To top it all off Fela was branded a “hooligan”.

He went into temporary exile in Ghana and responded with lamentations of his experiences with the songs “Sorrow, Tears and Blood” and “Unknown Soldier”. In the former, Fela rails in his trademark pidgin English which was readily accessible to the common person:

So policeman go slap your face
You no go talk
Army man go whip your yansh (buttocks)
You go dey look like donkey

Fela’s allusion to Army brutality, a common occurrence in 1970s military-ruled Nigeria, carried a resonance among the many civilian victims who had been verbally humiliated, maimed and even killed by soldiers.

Yet Fela remained defiant. He partook in a traditional marriage ceremony with his entire female entourage of 27, performed at the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1978 and in anticipation of the first civilian elections to be held in Nigeria since the middle 1960s, he formed a political party, the Movement of the People Party, and offered himself as a presidential candidate in 1979.

Fela continued to release music and embarked on many tours of European and American cities gaining a wider audience and respect from members of the rock community. He had known Ginger Baker, famous as the drummer for the 1960s blues-rock trio Cream, during his sojourn in England in the 1960s and both men collaborated in the 1970s and met each other frequently while Baker was resident in Nigeria from 1970 to 1976.

Paul McCartney was introduced to Fela when he went to Nigeria to record his album ‘Band on the Run’. After an awkward first meeting that had Fela accusing McCartney of coming to Africa to “steal the Black man’s music”, both men developed a friendship. McCartney would later confess to have been reduced to tears by the power of Fela’s music. In his autobiography published in 1989, Miles Davis acknowledged Fela as a force in music.

Fela would continue to endure numerous arrests: many of them for possession of Indian Hemp but also one last major politically-motivated arrest in 1984 which involved an alleged violation of currency regulations just before he was due to embark on a tour of the United States. His detention under the military regime which had overthrown the civilian government that had been elected in 1979 led to an international campaign spearheaded by Amnesty International to free him. Soon after his release in 1986, he played alongside artists such as U2, Sting and  Peter Gabriel in a series of benefit concerts for Amnesty.

Over a million people turned out for his funeral after a lengthy illness. His brother Olukoye, a medical practitioner, announced that Fela had stubbornly refused to seek medical help and that by the time he agreed to be taken to hospital was not cognizant of the diagnosis of AIDS.

The cause of death many blamed on a hedonistic lifestyle. The image he frequently portrayed in songs and interviews of a playboy were real enough. Alongside  the praise he earned from many of his country men were the denunciations of others. During his life he was criticised for corrupting the nation’s youth due to his fondness for marijuana and his projection of hypersexuality. While he may have spoken up for the nation’s downtrodden underclass, Fela was attacked for exploiting young women many of who came from poor backgrounds. The accusations of misogyny were often backed up by evidence of his living arrangements, the interviews that he gave as well as songs such as “Mattress”.

He was a mass of contradictions. While he may have spoken out against dictators, he ruled his commune in an authoritarian manner. And even the atrocity committed against him by the soldiers ransacking of his home was preceded by an incident in which a number of his employees had a violent confrontation with some soldiers during which they appropriated a motorcycle and later set it on fire. For some, Fela had set himself above the law from openly smoking weed on stage to holding up traffic while he crossed the road on his pet donkey.

Fela was uncompromising. In the early part of his career he turned down offers from foreign record companies to market Afro-Beat to Western audiences in the way reggae music was because it would have meant that he would have had to shorten the length of his songs. Later on he prevaricated over signing a one million dollar deal with Motown records until the offer lapsed. He could have chosen to live a relatively comfortable existence in European exile in a city such as London or Paris but that was never an option.

He had several distinct nicknames each reflecting a part of his multifaceted personage. ‘Omo Iya Aje’, which translated from Yoruba means the son of a witch, alluded to the belief that Fela inherited supernatural powers from his mother, in her prime a powerful female figure. Fela’s unusual disposition and rejection of convention earned him the sobriquet ‘Abami Eda’ (Strange creature). He was the ‘Chief Priest’ because of his practice of traditional Yoruba religious rites which were featured during his performances at the Shrine. Finally, the ‘Black President’ was an acknowledgement of his leadership qualities and his promotion of ‘Blackism’ and Pan-Africanism.

Now fully two decades after his passing, Fela’s music and the message in his music  continue to resonate. His records still sell and his life story has been retold in several biographies and through a successful Broadway play “Fela!” He was more than a musician simply because his protest songs were not merely abstractions confined to the music studio or to music festivals. He transcended the role of a conventional musician because he spoke to the masses and confronted successive military dictators at great cost.

Wrote Lindsay Barrett, a Jamaican-born naturalised Nigerian novelist: “It is no exaggeration to say that Fela’s memory will always symbolise the spirit of truth for a vast number of struggling people in Africa and beyond.”

Fela Kuti was born on October 15th 1938 and died on August 2nd 1997.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2017)

Adeyinka Makinde is a London-based writer. He can be followed on Twitter @AdeyinkaMakinde


Friday, 28 July 2017

Post-Maidan Ukrainian Anti-Semitism: Another tragic blowback from U.S. interventionist foreign policy?

(PHOTO: Alamy)

The foreign policy of the United States in the post-Cold War era, driven by a doctrine of Exceptionalism and managed by a neoconservative strategy, has been responsible for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Nato’s war on Libya in 2011 and the covert war waged in Syria using Islamist proxies. It was also at the root of its involvement in the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Ukraine in 2014. But the geopolitical advantage intended in each enterprise has brought the proverbial blowback.

The results are plain to see. Libya is now certifiably a failed state. Accompanying the destruction of the country’s infrastructure during the war to overthrow Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was the loss of life which included the targeting by rebel factions of black African migrants and black Libyan citizens. The aftermath of Gaddafi’s fall, which is dominated by enduring battles between rival militias in different regions of the country has seen the rise of Islamist power including offshoots associated with the so-called Islamic State who have been responsible for the beheadings of Christian Ethiopian migrant workers. Migrants intending to reach European shores have lost their lives while embarking on perilous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea and there are even reports of West African migrants being bought and sold openly in modern-day slave markets.

Iraq is now a fractured state where many lives have been lost in a continuing cycle of violence. Added to the casualties of the battles during the invasion were those lost through a campaign to put down a Sunni insurgency which had been taking a toll on American soldiers. The war crimes associated with brutal battles in the city of Fallujah were repeated through a counterinsurgency strategy of U.S.-organised Shia death squads. Iraqi lives have continued to be lost in the ongoing war to liberate those parts of the country which were overrun by the Islamic State.

The Syrian War has cost approaching half a million lives and has led to the internal and external displacement of millions of its citizens. In both Syria and Iraq, Christians have faced violent persecution with those who fled from Iraq to Syria hoping for safety only to find their existence along with that of their Syrian coreligionists imperiled by the rise of jihadist groups.

Now in Ukraine where a war has raged between the Ukrainian army and the separatist armies of the eastern Donbass region, the country’s Jewish community is facing a rise in anti-Semitism due to a resurgent nationalism; a phenomenon which can arguably be directly attributed to the forces unleashed by the U.S.-sponsored coup d’etat of February 2014.

The narrative of the Western mainstream media in regard to the fall of the democratically elected government of Viktor Yanukovytch still holds that it was as a result of a popular uprising of the masses symbolised by gatherings at Maidan Square in the city of Kiev. The truth is much different.

Serious questions need to be asked in several quarters about how the phenomenon of rising levels of anti-Semitism has been stimulated.

Firstly, what level of forethought was given by the responsible planning officials in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and Nato intelligence as to the range of potential side-effects when making the decision to utilise the services of ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi elements in the endeavour of so-called ‘regime change’?

Secondly, which agency within the government of Israel made the decision to send five Ukrainian Jewish emigres who were former Israeli Defence Force soldiers to lead a group of 40 street thugs in battles against the security forces of the Yanukovych-led government at Maidan? Did it have anything to do with a pledge made in the later part of 2013 by the head of the extremist Svoboda party to the Israeli ambassador that his party was no longer anti-Semitic? Similar assurances were given in February 2014 by the neo-Nazi Pravy Sektor group to the ambassador when its leader claimed that it had rejected xenophobia and anti-Semitism.

Thirdly, why were important figures in Ukraine’s Jewish community quick to dismiss Russian president Vladimir Putin’s condemnation of the role of anti-Semitic groups in the Maidan coup as a cynical ploy aimed at dividing Ukraine’s Jewish community? In March of 2014, 21 leaders of Ukraine’s Jewish community signed an open letter addressed to Putin criticising him while confidently insisting that even the most marginal of Ukrainian nationalist groups did not demonstrate anti-Semitism or other forms of xenophobia.

Part of the letter read: “And we know that our very few nationalists are well-controlled by civil society and the new Ukrainian government -which is more than can be said for the Russian neo-Nazis, who are encouraged by your security services.” Putin’s purported objectives were at the time claimed to have been unsuccessful and according to Timothy Snyder, an American academic, the Jews in Ukraine had become “Ukrainian Jews”.

It is of course possible that the authors of the letter felt compelled to write what they did because they calculated that refusal to do so might have prompted unwanted scrutiny of the loyalties of Ukrainian Jews and even reprisals. Nonetheless, it is clear that several of its contents were manifestly untrue given, for instance, the decision of the post-Yanukovytch parliament to issue an edict abolishing a law which allowed the country’s regions to make Russian a second official language.

The Maidan coup was overseen by Victoria Nuland, then the U.S. Under-Secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, who was captured handpicking the future government of Ukraine in a tape of an intercepted conversation she had with the American ambassador to Ukraine.

Nuland, herself Jewish, had been photographed with Oleh Tyahnybok the leader of Svoboda who in 2004 had spoken about the need to fight the “Muscovite-Jewish mafia” controlling Ukraine. The following year, Tyahnybok signed an open letter to then-President Viktor Yushchenko which called for the government to halt the “criminal activities” of “organised Jewry”.

In the coming years, the dismantling of the Yanukovytch government will come to be seen less as a popular uprising than as a foreign-sponsored intelligence operation along the lines of Operation Ajax, the CIA’s overthrow of the democratically elected government of Mohamed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953.

The CIA had bribed key officials and public figures into denouncing the policies of Mossadegh. It also rented the services of mobs composed of Right-wing activists and members of the underworld to manoeuvre the protests into the direction of violence. In a similar vein, Pravy Sektor and other extremist paramilitary organisations played a key role in the violence in Maidan Square. These bodies are composed of the worshippers and political descendants of Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist leader.

Bandera’s image was on prominent display at Maidan and in a sense he served as a kind of spiritus rector for the enterprise. Bandera was a Nazi collaborator who was instrumental in forming the Roland and Nachtigall Battalions, both of which supported the Wehrmacht during the Nazi invasion of the U.S.S.R. in 1941. The 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (Ist Galician), also composed of Ukrainian volunteers, would later materialise as a fighting force on the German eastern front.

Anti-Semitism is embedded in the history of Ukraine. Ukraine composed a large geographical segment of the Pale of Settlement where Jews were largely restricted at the time of the Russian empire. Babi Yar, the ravine site of an infamous massacre of almost 34,000 Jews in 1941 is situated in Kiev.

Prior to the emergence of modern Ukraine after the breakup of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, each of the two previous independent Ukrainian states to have emerged during the course of the 20th century which were headed by the nationalist figures Symon Petliura and Stepan Bandera were linked to the commission of anti-Jewish pogroms.

Tyahnybok’s “Muscovite-Jewish” reference reflects the prevailing view propagated by nationalists who blame the historic misfortunes of the Ukrainian people on Russia and the Jews. This interpretation of history holds that the great famine of the 1930s, known in Ukraine as the Holodomor, was instigated by the ethnic Russian and Jewish Bolshevik leadership in the Kremlin, with the Jewish Lazar Kaganovich playing a key role in the tragedy in which millions of Ukrainians starved to death.

So poisonous is the legacy of anti-semitism in Ukraine that Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the lawyer and economist who became the first prime minister of Ukraine after overthrow of the Yanukovytch government, denied being Jewish in the face of contrary evidence. It is a stance which prompted the followers of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to publish a lengthy open letter condemning Yatsenyuk for denying his Jewishness. In the same vein, nationalists frequently cast aspersions on the Ukrainian heritage of President Petro Poroshenko and opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko by referring to the supposedly Jewish surnames that feature among the antecedents of both.

The ascendance of several Jewish figures such as Yatsenyuk to political power including the installation soon after the Maidan coup of the Jewish oligarch Ihor Kolomoysky as governor of Dnipropetrovsk, a part of the eastern region, is taken by ultra-nationalists as confirmation of a disproportionate level of Jewish power and influence in Ukraine.

The country is mired in an endemic culture of corruption and a patriarchal system which is proving difficult to reform. Poroshenko’s initiative to enable foreigners to be appointed to top positions in government through a special law which fast-tracked those earmarked via a presidential decree was seen as evidence of Ukraine’s dire economic circumstances. It also did not meet with the approval of Ukrainian nationalists many of whom voiced concerns about the implication that Ukrainians lacked the talent and expertise to transform their own fortunes as a nation.

Economic stagnation, if not regression, along with an intermittent but vicious civil war with Russian-speaking separatists in the eastern Donbass region render Ukraine as species of a failed state. And it is in circumstances of economic difficulties that anti-Semitism has often reared its head.

There have been recent publicised instances of Ukrainian public figures making blatantly anti-Jewish remarks. For instance, in March Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian army pilot turned politician, claimed that while she did not consider herself anti-semitic, she did not like Jews because although constituting “two per cent” of the population, they “occupy 80 per cent of power.”

In May, Vasily Vovk, a retired general with connections to the country’s security service, called for the destruction of the Jewish community. Vovk asserted that he was “completely against Jews” and that they were not Ukrainians. “I will destroy you along with Rabinovich. I’m telling you one more time - go to hell, zhidi (kikes), the Ukrainian people have it here with you”. “Rabinovich” is believed to refer to Jewish Ukrainian oligarch and politician, Vadim Rabinovich.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a global organisation which monitors anti-Semitism,  has highlighted concerns expressed by the Jewish community of a rise in bigotry and violence. If Ukraine is drifting slowly but inexorably into a new dark era of naked anti-Semitism, it is clear that the United States which backed the xenophobic Banderovsti at Maidan must reflect on the costs of its actions one of which has been the increase in Jewish insecurity and even flight from from the country.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2017)

Adeyinka Makinde is a London-based writer. He can be followed on Twitter @AdeyinkaMakinde