Friday, 20 July 2018

NATO and the Irony of its "Everyday Fight Against Terrorism"

A recently released animated video produced by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) depicts the body as being resolutely involved in what the video describes as the “international fight against terrorism”. The irony, however, is that NATO has a history of perpetuating terror in order to achieve the objectives of its political masters.

How can one not react with cynicism to NATO’s claim to “fight terrorism everyday” when its actions in attacking Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011 have facilitated the creation and sustaining of Islamist terror organisations?

The occupation of post-war Iraq led to an insurgency by malcontents from the Sunni community, who felt deprived of the power and privileges they had held during the rule of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist Party. It is from the initial rebellion that the seeds of future Islamist terror groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the Islamic State (IS) were sown.

NATO’s strategic bombing of Libya’s infrastructure and its armed forces was done with the specific aim of overthrowing the secular government of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. These actions were in support of a rebellion by Islamist groups, the most notable at the time being the al-Qaeda-affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). In fact, it was revealed that British Special Forces trained these rebels and were embedded with their brigades.

The result was not only the entrenchment of Islamist-friendly militias in what had previously been hostile territory for such groups, but also that Libya became the repository of battle-hardened jihadis who transferred their expertise to Syria where NATO countries were also trying to engineer the overthrow of the secular government of Bashar al-Assad. What is more, sizeable quantities of the munitions depots of the fallen Libyan army have got into the hands of Islamist groups active in North Africa such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and further south, in West Africa, where Boko Haram continues to wreak havoc in Nigeria and Cameroon.

NATO has not only created the conditions for terrorism to flourish, member states have actively utilised Islamist groups as proxies in pursuit of the geopolitical goals of the Western alliance. The aforementioned training of members of the LIFG by British Special Forces is not the only documented interaction between the armed forces of NATO members and Islamist groups. The Turkish High Command was involved in setting up training camps for rebels, and enabling their infiltration of Syria. In March 2013, the British Guardian newspaper reported that British, French and American military officers were giving rebels what it termed “logistical and other advice in some form”.

The truth is that NATO has a troubling historical connection to terrorism.

NATO, to this day, refuses to give a full or even partial disclosure of its role in managing the stay-behind networks in its member states, and the role they allegedly played in fomenting terror as a means of discrediting the political Left during the Cold War era. For instance, an Italian investigating judge named Felice Casson was able to link the bomb which exploded and killed three Carabinieri in Peteano in 1972 to military-grade munitions (C4), only available to NATO, discovered at an arms dump created for the Italian stay-behind.

The stay-behinds were groups of secret soldiers who were tasked with the role of fighting occupying troops of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies in the event of an invasion of Western Europe. The networks were supervised by the Allied Clandestine Committee (ACC) of NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). In Italy, the secret army was known by the code-name ‘Gladio’.

It is widely believed in Italy that Gladio was used to facilitate many key terroristic outrages during the anni di piombo (Years of Lead), which lasted roughly from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. The idea was to forestall the coming to power of the Italian communists and other Leftists who were gaining a significant amount of electoral support. This, it was reckoned, could be achieved by putting in place a strategy of tension, that is, creating the conditions where terror outrages, carried out by state-aided neo-fascist groups, would be blamed on the Left, and the resultant high level of fear and outrage on the part of the population would lead to widespread calls for the firm rule of a Right-wing government.

This modus operandi as applied in the Peteano attack involved using Vincenzo Vinciguerra of the neo-fascist Ordine Nuovo to plant the bomb, and then calling on the services of Marco Morin, an explosives expert for the Italian police, who forged a report which asserted that the explosive was of a kind traditionally used by Brigate Rosse, Italy’s foremost Left-wing terror group. Morin, was also a member of Ordine Nuovo.

The true origin of the bomb used for the Peteano outrage, Judge Casson later discovered, was from a Gladio arms dump hidden beneath a cemetery near Verona. They were military grade C4 plastic explosives used by NATO.

It should also be noted that Gladio’s commander at the time of the incident, General Geraldo Serravalle, would later testify to an irregularity at another munitions dump near the city of Trieste. Gladio had logged seven containers of C4, but when the Carabinieri had stumbled upon a cache of weapons there in February 1972 -two months before the Peteano incident- there were just four containers left.

At the time of the Trieste discovery, the police had assumed that they had stumbled across an arms cache owned by a criminal syndicate. The connection to Gladio was not discovered until Casson’s investigation.

Vinciguerra himself explicitly linked NATO to many of the outrages perpetrated during the anni di piombo beginning with the bombing at Milan’s Piazza Fontana in 1969. In 1990, he issued the following statement to the Guardian newspaper:

The terrorist line was followed by camouflaged people, people belonging to the security apparatus, or those linked to the state apparatus through rapport or collaboration. I say that every single outrage that followed from 1969 fitted into a single, organised matrix… Avanguardia Nazionale, like Ordine Nuovo, were being mobilised into battle as part of an anti-communist strategy originating not with organisations deviant from the institutions of power, but from within the state itself, and specifically from within the ambit of the state’s relations within the Atlantic Alliance.

Although General Paolo Inzerilli, the head of Italy’s secret service would announce in the latter part of 1990 that Gladio had been disbanded, there is no evidence that this was ever done, or that it was simply transformed into a new model of Special Forces irregulars.

Meanwhile, the communist enemy has been replaced by an Islamic one, and it would not be unreasonable to consider whether Gladio-type units are active in fomenting outrages which give the politicians from NATO countries the excuse to sanction military interventions in Middle Eastern countries, as well to pass legislation of the sort that has been gradually eroding civil liberties since the beginning of the so-called ‘War on Terror’.

It is while bearing these historical and contemporary events in mind that one pauses to reflect on NATO’s fight against terrorism. Its motto, Animus in consulendo liber, Latin for “A mind unfettered in deliberation” could arguably be more fittingly expressed as “A mind unrestrained by diabolical conspiracies”.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2018)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England. His tweets can be read at @AdeyinkaMakinde

Sunday, 15 July 2018

The Rebirth of a Nation: West Germany versus Hungary, the 1954 World Cup Final

Fritz Walter (left) and Ferenc Puskas, respectively the captains of West Germany and Hungary, exchange pennants before the 1954 World Cup Final in Berne, Switzerland.

Throughout its history, the popularity and influence of the game of association football has been consistently subjected to a great deal of assessment and analysis through the respective lenses of culture and politics. Football has been posited as the bringer of war and as an arbiter of peace. While some view football culture as the vulgar exercise of tribal rites in modern society and the World Cup tournament an excuse for the mass indulgence in crude jingoism, others have noted its redemptive qualities: To this day, many Germans believe that winning the 1954 World Cup signified the rebirth of their nation, which less than a decade earlier had lain in ruins after the fall of the Third Reich.

British Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson believed that he lost the General Election of 1970 to his Conservative Party rival Edward Heath, because of England’s shock 3-2 defeat to West Germany in a World Cup quarter-final match held in Leon, Mexico. And while myth surrounds a claim that Pele’s visit to Nigeria with his club Santos in 1969 led to a ceasefire between the warring armies of Nigeria and the secessionist state of Biafra, it was certainly the case that a two-legged World Cup qualifier between El Salvador and Honduras sufficiently exacerbated already existing tensions between the two states to cause a war. La guerra del futbol lasted for 100 hours.

As is the case with national achievements in sporting events, football events have allegedly caused spikes in birth rates. This was apparently the case with Germany -a country which perennially struggles with a low rate of birth- in the aftermath of the 2006 World Cup tournament. Such is the hold which football has over the minds of millions that Bill Shankly, the man behind the rise of Liverpool Football Club as a force in British and European football, once famously claimed the following:

Some people think football is a matter of life and death, I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.

While some might consider Shankly’s words to be verging on the pretentious –if not outright preposterous, they tend to strike a chord with others. For many German people, the victory of an unfancied national team in the 1954 World Cup Final was more than a temporary moment of popular exhilaration: it was a transcendental event of profound significance to the psyche of a recently defeated and divided nation, and one which would shape their collective destiny.

Dubbed Der Wunder von Bern, the match was a clash between pre-tournament favourites and a team of underdogs that the Hungarian side had trounced 8-3 in an earlier match held in the group stage.

It cannot be overstated just how lauded and respected the Hungarian team were. They were Olympic champions, had a lengthy unbeaten run, and could boast of many great players including Ferenc Puskas. One highlight of the ‘Golden Team’ was the 6-3 dismantling of England at Wembley Stadium the previous year. That victory irrevocably changed the English, who for decades had remained aloof and unimpressed about the development of the game they had created.

While Josef Herberger, the West German coach, had left out several first choice players in the group match for tactical reasons, no one could foresee his team beating the ‘Mighty Magyars’. And victory for the Hungarians seemed a certainty when they quickly raced to a 2-0 lead.

But captained by Fritz Walter, the Germans came back. All seemed to be in their favour. Fortune smiled in the form of two Hungarian plays bouncing off the German goalpost, and a Puskas effort which ended at the back of the net was disallowed. The weather elements played their part, because the rainy conditions in which the match was played was known to German football fans as ‘Fritz Walter Weather’. The more adverse the conditions, the better Walter’s game is claimed to have got. Technology also played a part. The Germans were kitted-out with Adidas boots, which had revolutionary screw-in studs. And the German players were emboldened and fortified by what was claimed to be a pre-match injection of either glucose or Vitamin C, but which some suspect may have been Peritin (methamphetine), a stimulant which had been given to German soldiers during the Second World War.

West Germany won the match 3-2.

Only nine years previously, their nation had been reduced to ruins by allied armies advancing from the west and the east. Many German footballers had been consumed by the flames of war. For instance, the talented Adolf Urban, a player for Schalke who had represented the pre-war German team, was posted to Stalingrad where he perished alongside the many dead of the vanquished Sixth Army.

The aftermath of the war had been a horrific episode in German history. Defeat did not end with the people being subjected to inevitable physical and material privations of what came to be known as “Zero Hour”. Widespread anti-German sentiment meant that they suffered pogroms across the continent, while German females were victims of mass rapes conducted by soldiers of the Red Army. They were also subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation by occupying allied soldiers. Across Europe, ethnic Germans had been ejected from lands on which they were long settled such as East Prussia, the Sudetenland and Volga-Land.

While the reasons for the subsequent Wirtschaftswunder, or economic miracle, are manifold and complex, many Germans continue to insist that victory in the 1954 World Cup was a key factor in the economic and political resurgence of West Germany in the post-war period. For them, German football commentator Herbert Zimmerman’s exhultant proclamation to millions of his countrymen listening on the radio that “Deutschland ist Weltmeister” symbolised their collective emancipation from “Zero Hour”.

As Joachim Fest the German historian put it, the game marked the “true birth of the country.”

© Adeyinka Makinde (2018)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

“En Même Temps”: Emmanuel Macron Visits Fela Kuti's Shrine in Nigeria

French President Emmanuel Macron poses with Femi Kuti (Left) and Youssou N’Dour (Second from Right) at The Afrika Shrine in Lagos on Tuesday, July 3rd 2018. (PHOTO: Ludovic Marin, Getty Images)

So French President Emmanuel Macron made good on his promise to visit ‘The New Afrika Shrine’ in Lagos.

The venue was built as a homage to the late Nigerian musician-activist Fela Kuti, who was a vehement critic of the military and civilian administrations that governed Nigeria during his lifetime.

I wonder how President Muhammadu Buhari took to Macron’s initial announcement of the visit. You see, Buhari was a member of the military government which on February 18th 1977 attacked and burned to the ground, the original ‘Shrine’. Fela’s ‘Shrine’ was considered by Nigeria’s rulers to have been a den of political subversion and deviant behaviour. And Buhari was of course the person who effectively set Fela up to be jailed for a currency violation offence during his later tenure as military dictator.

Like Barack Obama, who once mildly admonished an NBA basketball star for deigning to introduce him to Fela’s music by promising to gift him a Fela album (Obama: “You think I don’t know who Fela Kuti is?”), Macron is clearly one of these establishment-sponsored, high-achieving politicians who are nonetheless familiar with the pulsating beat and firebrand lyrics of fundamentally anti-establishment music.

Macron’s contradictions are legion. For instance, while he often speaks of his determination to restore French grandeur, he also calls for deeper European integration, a policy which necessarily entails French acceptance of German domination. Also, his initial highly publicised flattery of Donald Trump was followed by a severe rebuke of Trump’s policies in a speech that he gave before the American Congress.

His inconsistencies are underlined by his often used phrase: “en meme temps”, which means “at the same time”. So maybe the conversation with Buhari, or rather, his monologue to Buhari went something like this:

Monsieur President, I am totally against decadent marijuana-smoking, hyper-sexual persons like Fela, who wish to overthrow the existing social and economic order. At the same time, I will be going to pay homage to that principled and rebellious musician who you jailed in 1984 - the same chap who referred to you and other Nigerian dictators as “animals in human skin”.

L’homme est une contradiction ambulate …

© Adeyinka Makinde (2018)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.