Thursday, 18 May 2017

Schadenfreude - Why Putin is Laughing

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin is probably laughing his head off.

The current Russian-centred imbroglio in the United States involving its Congress, its President and the hidden state, replete with ill-tempered verbal jousting and backdoor scheming has gathered a level of momentum many would suggest amounts to a state of impeachment fever.

Why might the president of the Russian Federation feel disposed to privately allow himself a chuckle at the present state of affairs in the United States? The answer lies in the not uncommon human capacity for schadenfreude.

The United States has consistently created mischief in countries bordering the Russian Federation and within Russia itself in order to put pressure on a state which unlike the one headed by Boris Yeltsin has not been inclined to bow to the foreign policy dictates of the United States which finds it intolerable for other nations to pursue an independent course in foreign relations.

The United States has sought to intimidate Russia by expanding the Nato military alliance close to its borders as well as by fomenting a so-called ‘Color Revolution’ in Ukraine between 2004 and 2005, a war with Georgia in 2008 and a coup d’etat in Ukraine in 2014. These were covert operations involving the use of proxies which included NGO fronts and neo-Nazi militias.

While Russia has been reactive rather than proactive in the various crisis around its borders, it is nonetheless clear that it has a national policy objective geared towards weakening American influence in Europe. It has provided varying degrees of support and encouragement for nationalist political parties in countries such as France and Hungary. This is widely believed to include financial support.

Parties such as the Front National and Jobbik are strongly anti-European Union. Russian animus towards the EU is hardly surprising given its view that the EU has been used as a tool by Washington as cover for United States aggression including the anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the EU over the Crimean Crisis; a crisis caused by the American-backed overthrow of the Yanukovych government which threatened Russia’s vital national security interests in regard to its Baltic Fleet based in Crimea.

Only a few could fail to understand if the Russian response to this catalogue of aggression was to back an American presidential candidate who was promising to improve relations between both countries. The question which has consistently exercised many in the United States is whether such support went to the extent of the provision of finance, cyber-hacking and even blackmail.

It is an issue often presented by the American media with an affectation of moral integrity that camouflages the unsavoury history of United States interventions in foreign nations using such means as electoral fraud, economic blackmail, political assassinations and the violent overthrow of governments.

The post-Soviet Russian state has been on the receiving end of electoral manipulation directed by the United States. An American-directed IMF “emergency infusion” of over ten billion dollars into the Russian economy re-routed a substantial amount of this sum into the coffers of the Western-backed lackey Boris Yeltsin who had been languishing with a single-digit approval rating in the run-up to the Russian presidential elections of 1996.

Yeltsin would win a disputed election during which the pro-Yeltsin team engineered a dirty tricks campaign that included  the use of disinformation and disruption tactics against the opposition.

The American media which is quick to chase the scent of any form of difficulties faced by the Kremlin and of dissent within Russian civil society is now contending with a daily news deluge of chaos in the White House intensified after the recent dismissal of FBI head James Comey by President Donald Trump.

Comey’s sacking, the resignation of Michael Flynn as national security advisor,open bickering between the president and the intelligence community as well as calls in congress for the appointment of a special prosecutor have at their root the question of supposed Russian meddling in the last American presidential campaign.

Observing the United States in turmoil over the Trump presidency, Putin could not prevent himself from making the following barbed comment over the recent allegation that Trump had revealed classified intelligence to visiting Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov:

We see that the United States has been developing political schizophrenia, this is the only thing I can think of when I hear allegations saying that the president has revealed some secrets to Lavrov

The still unproven allegations of Russian hacking during the American presidential elections as well as that related to Trump being compromised by a blackmail operation conducted by Russian intelligence only serve to confirm that the United States has plunged itself into a self-inflicted state of tumult.

The baleful westward gaze of the Russian sphinx described by Aleksandr Blok in his poem The Scythians might for a short time at least be replaced by a softer, wrinkly countenance suggestive of a smile.

It is a smile that reeks of schadenfreude.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2017)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Captain Robert Nairac - An Enduring Mystery

Robert Laurence Nairac, GC

May 15th 2017 marked the fortieth anniversary of the passing of British Army intelligence officer Captain Robert Nairac while serving on undercover duty during the Northern Ireland Troubles.

I suggested back in March that the narrative of Nairac’s activities in Northern Ireland would be presented in as polarized a manner as was the recent passing of former Provisional IRA commander, Martin McGuinness.

The British narrative I predicted would emphasize that he was a ‘tragic hero’: a brave and well-intentioned maverick soldier who might have become the Lawrence of Arabia of Northern Ireland. The Republican counter-narrative would cast him as a bloodthirsty adventurer at the helm of a number of loyalist death squads which committed the most heinous of crimes directed against the nationalist community.

Nairac, an officer of the Grenadier Guards, remains one of the few disappeared of the conflict whose remains have yet to be returned to their respective families for burial, in Nairac’s case one which would be according to the rites of the Roman Catholic faith into which he was born.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2017)

Adeyinka Makinde is a law lecturer with an interest in intelligence and security matters.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

France: A Nation's Conscience and the Question of Terror


The French presidential election being contested by Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen has provided analysts with much to ponder over the direction offered by two candidates who are presenting themselves to the electorate as non-establishment outsiders.

Points of demarcation over foreign and domestic policy often posit Macron and Le Pen respectively as  representing “internationalism” versus “nationalism” and of “centrism” against “neo-fascism”.

Elections also provide a platform for grappling with national existential anxieties. The French nation is one which is perennially involved in soul-searching; of presenting a rationale for its nationhood and the ‘mission’ it has within the global community of nations and cultures. Such soul-searching has included periods in history concerned with the ceding of global power and influence to the Anglo-Saxon nations, the experience of defeat and temporary occupation by Germany during World War Two, the loss of empire and more recently the impact on national identity of immigration from non-white and particularly Muslim lands.

One constant in these episodes of national meditation has been the matter of re-asserting pride in La Grande Nation. The restoration of national pride as well as the reassertion of national independence formed the backdrop to President de Gaulle’s resistance to the irresistible rise of the American empire which saw de Gaulle evicting Nato from its original headquarters in Paris, removing France from the military command hierarchy of the United States dominated Nato and maintaining a nuclear deterrence capability independent of America.

But Gallic pride has often blinded its people to facts and realities. For instance, the Gaullist-inspired narrative of the French Resistance having liberated France during the Second World War has been definitively exposed as a myth. It was pride and with the objective of underscoring her nationalist credentials that Marine Le Pen recently claimed that France was not to blame for the round-up and deportation of Jews during that war.

Her statement contradicted the 2009 ruling of a French high court which held France “responsible for damages caused by actions which did not result from the occupiers’ direct orders, but facilitated deportation from France of people who were victims of anti-Semitic persecution.”

The disconnect between national sentiment and reality continues to the present day.

While many French may wish to perceive themselves as an independent nation only somewhat impeded by obligations imposed by its membership of the European Union, the truth is that France has lost a great deal of control over its foreign policy.

For one, France’s decision under President Nicolas Sarkozy to reintegrate into all structures of Nato in 2009 has effectively put it under direct American influence. Far from representing, as Sarkozy put it, a “strengthening of our sovereignty”, France’s mutation to a certain kind of vassalage was exposed in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis.

An American stage-managed coup d’etat on Russia’s border created the conditions for a Russian reaction -the annexation of Crimea- which was interpreted as Russian aggression; an act that warranted the imposition of sanctions.

The imposition of American-directed sanctions under the auspices of the European Union forced France to cancel a multi-billion dollar sale of warships to the Russians. Sanctions have also proved harmful to French agriculture. In early 2017, the former frontrunner in the presidential race, Francois Fillion declared the regime of anti-Russian sanctions to be “pointless”.

An exchange between Macron and Le Pen during the recent debate in the forthcoming presidential run-off also provides evidence of an inability on the part of many of the French to be self-critical and to appraise the realities of their subservience to external interests.

When Le Pen accused Macron of being weak in regard to the threat of Jihadists in the midst of the country -vowing that she would make France safer by expelling all foreign suspects- Macron, not unreasonably, responded by noting that a great many terrorists were in fact French and that France needed to examine its own conscience for letting that happen.

Much of the media viewed that as an own goal by Macron who was perceived to be making France as responsible for the situation as the terrorists. The public reaction was as unfavourable to Macron as was the reaction to his comments made earlier this year castigating France for its colonial history in Algeria which he described as a “crime against humanity”.

If the French are still resistant to the idea of acknowledging responsibility for facilitating the deportation of Jews and waging brutal wars in their colonial territories to suppress the right to self-determination, they appear equally resistant in present times in acknowledging their part in facilitating the United States-led wars of aggression in the era of the so-called ‘war on terror’.

After taking the lead in protesting the US-led invasion of Iraq which was accomplished under the false pretext of removing Saddam’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, France resumed a role of supporting the United States in a number of ill-fated military adventures which have only served to stir the cause of jihadism.

Even before Sarkozy re-integrated France into Nato’s military command structure, French troops served in Afghanistan. The French air force took the lead in bombing Libya to smithereens, in the process overthrowing Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and creating the circumstance of lawlessness that has allowed the country to be taken over by jihadi-supporting Islamists as well as becoming the staging post for invasions of swarms of migrants heading to parts of Western Europe including France.

The war in Syria has provided the impetus through which the numbers of homegrown Jihadists has expanded as well as enabling an increase in the numbers of European-bound refugees. Yet, many refuse to acknowledge France’s part in this self-inflicted crisis.

The revelation in 2013 by Roland Dumas, France’s former foreign minister, that the war in Syria was the result of an operation which was pre-planned by Western intelligence agencies provides a great deal of illumination.

While France may have been the dominant colonial power in Syria, its interest in overthrowing the secular government of Bashar al-Assad is not readily apparent. If an argument can be made that French policy is based on following the dictates of its ally, the United States, an equally persuasive argument can be made of French policy toward the Middle East being framed by the needs of the state of Israel.

As Dumas related, “In the region (i.e. the Middle East), it is important to know that this Syrian regime has a very anti-Israeli stance...and I have this from the former Israeli prime minister who told me “we’ll try to get on with our neighbours, but those who don’t agree with us will be destroyed.”

The influential French Jewish umbrella organisation CRIF is implacably opposed to the government of Syria. In 2008 it denounced a decision by then President Sarkozy to invite Assad to National Day celebrations although at a 2012 dinner hosted by the organisation Sarkozy predicted that the regime of Assad would fall. Sarkozy, who would be publically critical of his successor Francois Hollande’s perceived weakness in failing to militarily attack Syria, was alleged to have been inspired to intervene in Libya by the French Zionist media intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy.

It was Levy who, before an audience of the first National Convention of the CRIF in November of 2011, claimed that “it is as a Jew that I participated in the political adventure in Libya. I would not have done it if I had not been Jewish. I wore my flag in fidelity to my name and my loyalty to Zionism and Israel.”

When bombs explode and bullets are fired during episodes of terroristic violence on French soil, anti-Muslim sentiment is ratcheted up while critical commentary related to the policies pursued by the French state which have arguably contributed to the cycle of violence is correspondingly suppressed.

But it was revealed in 2012 that France had funded Syrian rebels. It is clear that the overwhelming majority of militias described as rebel factions in Syria have an Islamist agenda. Many of those militias portrayed as ‘secular’ have close working arrangements with more overtly Islamist ones who in any case have consistently proved to be militarily stronger and in many documented incidents have acquired Western supplied munitions and equipment from other rebel factions whether consensually or by force. In 2014, President Francois Hollande confirmed that France had delivered arms to Syrian rebels.

Mohamed Merah, the alleged perpetrator of terror attacks in Toulouse and Montauban was believed to have been a double agent working for French intelligence. Merah was not the first or last Islamist apparently under the radar of French intelligence who nonetheless managed to leave and re-enter France with relative ease even after travelling to war zones or countries which are hotbeds of jihadist activities.

In November 2015, the Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar al-Jaafri revealed that an attempt made two years earlier by the Syrian government to share the names of French citizens fighting in Syria was rebuffed by the French authorities.

The truth is that France has slavishly followed the United States-led policy of using Islamist insurgents as proxies in overthrowing secular Arab regimes. In doing so, France has been complicit in providing the cover used by the United States to intervene in the affairs of Muslim nations which in turn has provided the circumstances through which many young Muslims have been radicalised into becoming terrorists and jihadist insurgents. These wars have also contributed to an increase in refugees from those affected nations.

The institution of anti-terrorism laws covering state-sanctioned surveillance of citizens as well as the curtailment of freedoms through the evolution of a perpetual state of emergency have arguably effectively brought the republic to an end.

France’s resolute support for intervention in Syria does not come with the promise of any substantive political or economic benefits. While some among the French elite view it as a recolonisation project that will reassert French grandeur in the region, the proceeds to be obtained from the destruction of Syria will be largely acquired by other state actors including Israel which has claims on Syrian territory and is also anxious to profit from economic opportunities in the eastern Mediterranean.

The largely negative response to Emmanuel Macron’s call for the French to examine their conscience once again demonstrates a recurring blind spot in a nation with a historical predilection for self-examination, and the costs to its national interests are all too apparent.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2017)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

My views on the Syrian Conflict: An Invitation from the British Labour Party

I recently dispatched a circular to a range of persons and organisations including one blind copied to the parliamentary email address of Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the British Labour Party. Sent in the aftermath of the furore over the reported chemical attack in the Syrian city of Idlib, it was a reminder about the genesis of the conflict.

Last week, I unexpectedly received a response from one Dominic of the Membership and communications section of the party inviting me to contribute to the party’s policy forum. The email emanated from Corbyn’s official email address.

What I found striking was that the response did not bear any trace of what I presumed to be Jeremy Corbyn’s position. Dominic, who did not give his surname, appeared to trot out the mainstream media claims of atrocities by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah in Aleppo and takes as a given that Syria committed an atrocity in the city of Idlib.

When Dominic writes about bringing to account those “who have committed terrible crimes in Aleppo and elsewhere”, one wonders whether he is aware of the irony of his words given the dubious legal basis of the involvement of Western powers in Syria including that of Britain. Does he consider Nato actions which have caused civilian deaths in both Syria and Iraq such as relating to the village of Mansoura and Mosul to be war crimes or merely “collateral damage”?

And when Dominic moralises about not allowing those who have committed war crimes to “escape with impunity” and is insistent that “there must be a day of legal reckoning”, is he aware of the irony of those words given the fact that last November, Labour Party MPs turned out in force to vote against a parliamentary motion for Tony Blair to be held to account for misleading Parliament over the Iraq war?

The National Policy Forum, a body charged with overseeing policy development, was itself set up by Tony Blair as part of what was termed the “Partnership in Power” process.

It is, according to Dominic, open to hearing ideas from ordinary members of the public including non-party members.

My circular:

From: Adeyinka Makinde <adeyinkamakinde@xxx.xxx
Sent: 10 April 2017 18:33:35

Subject: Syria - A reminder of the genesis of the conflict

Dear all,

As tensions rise after the alleged chemical attack by the Syrian Arab Army in Idlib, here are two essays of mine which provide an explanation for the reasons behind the West’s desire to overthrow the government of Bashar Assad regardless of the consequence of turning Syria into a failed state along the lines of Iraq and Libya. The Destruction of Syria. Will Military Action put America and Russia on the Dangerous path of a Possible Confrontation? (2013) http://bit.ly/1H1Gk7m and The Syrian Tragedy: Western Foreign Policy and its ‘Useful Idiots’. (2016) http://bit.ly/2egEx3m

- Adeyinka

Adeyinka Makinde


The response:

Re: Syria - Areminder of the genesis of the conflict
Sent: Thu, 27 Apr 2017 15:09
From: Jeremy Corbyn leader@labour.org.uk
To: Adeyinka Makinde adeyinkamakinde@xxx.xxx

Dear Adeyinka,

Thank you for contacting us about the situation in Aleppo/Syria.

Almost six years of conflict in Syria, and a devastating campaign waged by Syrian and Russian forces, have left thousands dead, destroyed hospitals and wiped out food supplies.

What is most important now is that we do everything we can to maintain the current pause in violence. The immediate priority should be to enable the peace talks to take place, and the ceasefire has to be observed for that to happen.

There are now estimated to be around 6.5 million people internally displaced across Syria, and there is an urgent need to ensure proper humanitarian support for those in need. If that support cannot be delivered by road, then Labour has called for the UK government to keep its promise and use airdrops as a last resort to get food, water, medical supplies and shelter to all those who so desperately need them.

The UK and others must use the end of the siege to re-engage in serious talks towards a political settlement in Syria, so that the appalling crimes we have seen perpetrated by Russia, Iran and the Assad regime in Aleppo are not repeated in Idlib or anywhere else.

Finally, at some stage there must be a process to bring to account all those who have committed those terrible crimes in Aleppo and elsewhere. Labour believes they must not be allowed to escape with impunity; there must be a day of legal reckoning.

Whether you’re a Labour Party member or not, we want to hear your ideas on how the net Labour government should tackle the challenges our country faces, and build a more equal and prosperous Britain. If you would like to take part in this policy making process, please visit policyforum.labour.org.uk

Best wishes,

Dominic
Membership and Communications Unit
The Labour Party

Sent by email from the labour Party, promoted by Iain McNicol on behalf of The Labour party, both at Southside, 105 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 6QT Website: www.labour.org.uk to join or renew call 0345 092 2299.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2017)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

The Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko Fight


This was my facebook blog entry on the morning of the world heavyweight title contest between the Briton Anthony Joshua and the Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko. While Klitschko is a vastly experienced former champion who has made more title defences than any other heavyweight champion in history save the great Joe Louis, Joshua is a relative neophyte. Klitschko went into the fight with 27 world title bouts behind him in contrast to Joshua having only fought a total of 18 professional fights.

The Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko bout is the biggest fight in Britain for many years. The fight which I most liken it to is Barry McGuigan’s successful world title challenge of Eusebio Pedroza’s version of the world featherweight title in 1985.

Where McGuigan was the poster boy of peace for the violent sectarianism of Northern Ireland, Joshua is the poster boy of ‘urban’ social mobility in 21st century Britain. The analogy arguably holds tight in the sense that although Joshua holds a version of the world heavyweight title, it was Tyson Fury and not Joshua who dethroned Klitschko. That, together with Joshua’s comparative inexperience, makes him a challenger of sorts.

Victory for Joshua -and a clear and divisive one at that- will mark a formal changing of the guard in heavyweight boxing in a way that Fury’s landmark victory should have been held out but which is now dimmed by the controversies that have followed him as well as his absence from the boxing scene.

No need for predictions, it’s just a question of getting out the popcorn, the beer or whatever takes your fancy and leaning back on the sofa to savour a most intriguing bout!

© Adeyinka Makinde (2017)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Sechseläuten - Zurich's Fest of Pageantry and Paganism

The Boogg (PHOTO: Archival)

For those who think of Zurich as a dry, rather staid and oppressively expensive city that is the home of a sinister confederacy of international bankers -the “Gnomes of Zurich” as British Prime Minister Harold Wilson once reminded- the city’s annual Spring Festival or Sechselauten may come as something of a pleasant surprise.

Literally meaning “the six o’clock ringing of the bells”, it has its origins from the 16th century, when the Guild-dominated City Council passed an ordinance which mandated that an extra hour of work be allotted during the summer. It was an extension of the 5PM limit when workers downed their tools owing to shorter daylight hours during the winter months.

At first, the event was tied to the occurrence of the vernal equinox. On the first Monday after this, the second largest bell of Grossmunster church would proclaim the coming of spring by ringing out at 6PM. However, since 1952, it has been celebrated on the third Monday of April although this is shifted forward by one week if there is a clash with Easter Monday.

Sechselauten is marked by two days of parades and street parties. The first on Sunday is a children’s parade when two to three thousand children aged between five and fifteen dress up in historical costumes and walk through a part of the city centre to the accompaniment of approximately eight hundred musicians.

The following day is the main parade during which over three thousand guild members and three hundred and fifty on horse parade through the a route starting at Bahnhofstrasse and ending at Sechselautenplatz.

Sechsenlauternplatz is the largest square in the city and it is here right in front of Opernhaus that the Boogg, a snowman representation of winter is put on top of a pyre and is set alight at six o’clock.

As the Boogg burns, each guild supplies a group of horsemen who run circles around the snowman. This ritual burning of an effigy is a throwback, or more accurately, a continuation of the pagan rites involving fire sacrifice. The idea is that fire, representing the energy and the spark of life, will create a ‘spirit messenger’ which will enable the celebrants to connect to powers which ordinarily would be beyond their control.

In England, where the Druid-originated ‘Wicker Man’ still resides in popular consciousness, it famously involves ridiculing and cursing the papist Guy Fawkes for the failed attempt at blowing up Parliament, while in Zurich it is about praying for a pleasant and bountiful summer. It has its attendant superstitions:

The faster the Boogg’s head explodes, the better, it is believed, that the summer will be.

The atmosphere at each of the parades was extremely cordial and relaxed. Flower bouquets were handed to participants in return for a kiss while the participants in the convoys intermittently threw liquorice, toffees and other wrapped sweets into the crowds.  The drummers pounded with vigour and the costumes worn alike by children and adults were most eye-catching. There were ‘soldiers’, ‘peasants’ and ‘workers’; some on horses and most on foot.

The celebrations do not end after the Boogg’s demise. The ending of the official celebrations makes way for what is claimed to be the largest barbecue party in Switzerland as celebrants of all ages gather around the glowing embers of the bonfire to barbecue their sausages.

There may be much truth to Zurich’s reputation as a place of very serious-minded people who run their city with typical teutonic efficiency, but they are certainly not averse to indulging in merry-making.

While it may lack the expanse of the better known Munich Oktoberfest which is the world’s largest volksfest, Zurich’s Sechselauten has a distinct charm and aura all of its own.

Attendance is highly recommended.

 Sechselauten Children’s Parade on Sunday, April 23 2017....
 ...a band enters Bahnhofstrasse
 The Zunft zum Widder were originally butchers and cattle merchants
 Heading down Bahnhofstrasse towards Zurichsee
Female marching band at the tail end of Bahnhofstrasse 
Child participants at Burkliplatz 
 Sechselauten Parade, the climax of Zurich’s Spring Festival held on Monday, April 24 2017
 ...marching...
 Gloriana Pipes and Drums
 ...mounted on horses...
 ...wind, percussion and drums...
A member of the Zunft zur Saffran waves to the crowd
 The Zunft zur Saffran were originally merchants of textiles and spices.
 The Zunft zum Kambel, originally a guild of food dealers and wine merchants, costumed in Arabian garb and parade with camels
 ...Closer inspection revealed more than a hint of ‘black face’...
 On their way to circle the pyre
 The Boogg, an artificial snowman effigy is placed on a stake atop a pyre in the middle of Sechselautenplatz
 The Pyre is alight on the square in front of the Opera House
The gathered commune with the ‘spirit messenger’

© Adeyinka Makinde (2017)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.