Sunday 27 May 2018

Gareth Bale's UEFA Champions League Goal: A Short Discourse on the Bicycle Kick

Gareth Bale’s ‘bicycle kick’ is being touted as the most spectacular goal in the history of the European Champions’ League tournament.

Maybe it is.

The ‘overhead’ or ‘scissors’ kick as it is alternatively termed is a manoeuvre that requires great physical dexterity and timing if it is to accomplish its desired objective. That objective may relate to its use as a defensive measure or to score a goal. It is something which, according to Herman Schwameder, a German scientist, is based on “instinct, a lot of courage -and a bad cross”.

Among the great players to whom the the technique has been famously linked are the Brazilians Leonidas and Pele. The West German striker, Klaus Fischer, all but made it his signature goal in the 1970s.

Although Leonidas, the top scorer of the 1938 World Cup, is often credited with ‘inventing’ the kick, its origins lie further back in time. But tracing its origins to South America appears to be sound. Oral history indicates that Afro-Peruvians performed the bicycle kick or Tiro de Chalaca (Chalaca strike) in matches involving British sailors and railroad employees. And Chilean footballers such as Ramon Unzaga and David Arellano became adept at executing the kick in the early 20th century.

It can be argued that every goal utilising the bicycle kick is a ‘great’ one whether scored on a recreational ground or in a football stadium. What separates one from the other has to do with the occasion, the time that it occurs during the match and the acuteness of the angle from which it is scored.

In Bale’s case, his foot could have connected with the ball at an even more ‘comfortable’ location, he had just come on as a substitute, and he was playing in the final of the world’s premier club competition.

So maybe it is the greatest bicycle kick goal in the history of the tournament or even the greatest goal bar none.

Or not.

In recent years, Wayne Rooney’s goal during a Manchester derby, Ronaldo’s in a Champions’ League match against Juventus and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s long range strike against England all stand in contention for any form of honorific.

But one thing all may be able to agree upon is, to misappropriate George Orwell’s words, all bicycle kicks are spectacular, but some are more spectacular than others.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2018)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Armando Picchi - In Memoriam

A large image of Armando Picchi posing with silverware adorns the wall of Inter Milan’s dressing room at the San Siro Stadium. [PHOTO: Adeyinka Makinde]

The death earlier this year of Fiorentina’s Davide Astori evoked memories of other tragedies involving Italian football players. Fans and journalists recalled the sudden deaths of Livorno’s Piermario Morosini in 2012, Perugia’s Renato Curi in 1977, and, in 1969,  Roma’s Guiliano Taccola.

I don’t follow the Italian league as rigorously as I once did, so it is information about the players of yesteryears which spark the greatest amount of empathy in me. The news of Astori’s passing brought to mind the tragic demise of Armando Picchi, the captain of the Internazionale side of the 1960s immortalised as “La Grande Inter.”

The Livorno-born Picchi led Inter Milan to three scudetti, two European Champions cups and two Intercontinental Cups. He was a player of formidable tenacity whose role as a sweeper was a vital part of the Catenaccio system successfully applied by Helenio Herrera. Herrera’s version of Catenaccio was the proceed of his modification of a 5-3-2 tactic known as the Verrou (door bolt) which had been developed by Karl Rappan in Switzerland.

It was a defensive strategy aimed at stifling attacking play, into which Herrera incorporated a flexible plan for mounting counter-attacks led by the likes of Sandro Mazzola and Giacinto Facchetti. Working between the the goalkeeper and the line of four man-marking defenders, Picchi helped develop the sweeper role, setting the standard for the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Gaetano Scirea and Franco Baresi. For some, Picchi was the first ‘libero’ of the modern game.

The following comment by English journalist Kenneth Wolstenholme encapsulates the passion and the efficiency for which Picchi became renowned:

If a player got beyond the line of four backs, either by dribbling his way there or by creating space with one-two passing movement with a colleague, he would be confronted by Picchi. Any player who ran through to pick up a long pass would be confronted by … Picchi. Any high lob or centre which was floated into the Inter Milan goalmouth would be picked off by … Picchi.

On the field of play, Picchi’s influence on his team mates was tangible and is said to have surpassed that of Herrera’s. In times of difficulty, it was Picchi to whom players such as Sandro Mazzola looked:

Picchi was our captain, a great captain and a clever man. We did everything for him. There were days when Herrera would tell us something and Picchi would say, “he’s wrong; today we do it this way” and we always did what Picchi said because he was our leader.

But Picchi’s success at Inter did not translate into a substantive international career. He was considered as overly defensive-minded by Edmondo Fabbri who left him out of the Italian squad for the 1966 World Cup in England. And while Fabbri’s successor Ferruccio Valcareggi selected him for many of the qualifying matches for the European Nations Cup of 1968, a fractured pelvis injury sustained during a match against Bulgaria ruled him out of the competition.

Picchi was by all accounts a personable and humane person. For instance, he is said to have taken the time to help negotiate the contracts for his teammates. His generosity extended further than the world of football. There is a story of how a woman brought her three-year-old daughter, to the wake where Picchi’s relatives were watching over his coffin. It was around 4AM and the astounded mourners who were on the verge of scolding the woman were disarmed by her explanation of why she had insisted on bringing the little girl: She wanted her daughter to see the remains of a man who had done so much to help her family.

Picchi’s coaching career, still in its infancy at Juventus, was cut short by the onset of a tumour in his sixth left rib which ended his life at just 36 years of age.

Decades later, his untimely death was brought under scrutiny by allegations made by the late Ferruccio Mazzola, the younger brother of Sandro. In a 2004 autobiography entitled Il Terzo Incomodo, Ferruccio claimed that Herrera had created a regime in which performance enhancing drugs were regularly administered to Internazionale players. The pill, which Ferruccio insinuated contained amphetamines, was first given to the players, many of whom spat it out because of its pungent taste until Herrera supposedly chose a more discreet method: dissolving the drug in the player’s morning coffee.

These allegations were refuted by his brother Sandro and also denied by Massimo Moratti, the then chairman of Inter Milan, who sued him. Ferruccio responded that his brother’s position was based on a resolve not to ‘wash dirty linen in public’. Moratti’s action was settled in Ferruccio’s favour. Ferruccio sought to back up his claim that Picchi was the first to succumb to death and various forms of debilitating illnesses caused by Il Caffe Herrera (Herrera’s coffee), by pointing to the deaths of Marcello Giusti, who died of brain cancer in the 1990s, and Carlo Tagnin, Mauro Bicicli and Ferdinando Miniussi who all passed away in the early 2000s.

It is unlikely that such a link will ever be definitively made.

Those who prefer not to believe Ferruccio Mazzola’s claims, insist that the only ‘drug’ Herrera administered on the likes of Picchi was of a psychological dimension. Whether in denial or objectively affirming the potency of the original thinking and innovative stratagems of Herrera, a vindication of the doping allegations as well as those relating to match-fixing,* tends to undermine the achievements of the Nerazzurri as well as to besmirch the reputation of men like Armando Picchi.

For his devotees, these revelations serve to detract from Picchi’s abilities and pose a cruel question mark on his legacy.

Fate already dealt Picchi the cruellest of blows, for May 27th, the day on which he tragically passed in 1971, had been the date of his greatest triumphs on the football field when Inter had respectively defeated Real Madrid in 1964 and Benfica in 1965.

* Brian Glanville, the English football writer and investigative journalist, claimed that matches were fixed in favour of Inter during the 1960s at the behest of Inter’s president Angelo Moratti, Dezso Solti, a Hungarian match fixer and Italo Allodi, Inter’s sporting director.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2018)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Saturday 26 May 2018


Miles Davis (Oil on Panel by Hyatt Moore, 2008)

Born on May 26th 1926, Miles Davis often claimed in his raspy voice, “I changed jazz five or six times”. He was, as a youngster, at the epicentre of the ‘Be-Bop’ movement led by the likes of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

But putting his thesis to the test we can admit that his Birth of the Cool album created a new pathway in jazz as did his orchestral collaborations with Gil Evans on Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain. Then, of course, came his excursions in modal jazz exemplified by the hugely influential Kind of Blue.

Kind of Blue was performed with his first great quintet, which included luminaries such as John Coltrane and ‘Canonball’ Adderley. And his second great quintet which featured the likes of Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock also took jazz music to unparalleled heights with albums such as E.S.P., Miles Smiles, Sorcerer and Files De Kilimanjaro.

This was followed by his controversial immersion in jazz-rock fusion, which created new directions in jazz and popular music.

It’s a suitable day to build around the music of Miles Davis. Just for a day. Maybe tomorrow too.

Listening to Miles’s music is a life-long passion.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2018)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Pardoning Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson behind the wheel of his 90 horsepower Thomas Flyer race car

Originally the prerogative right of the English sovereign, the issuing of pardons by those who wield executive power in countries to which Britain bequeathed its political and legal culture represents the state-sanctioned ‘forgiveness’ of a criminal act.

It does not amount to exoneration.

The Mann Act made it a serious criminal offence to engage in interstate or foreign commerce transport of “any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose”.

While it is true that Jack Johnson was specifically targeted by the authorities of the day who disapproved of his dalliances with white women, Johnson was guilty according to both the letter and the spirit of the Act.

The world of the boxer and the prostitute frequently melded together in the turn of the 20th century America. Constantly moving in search of money, both tended to lead peripatetic lives and to live on the margins of what could be termed ‘respectable society’.

Johnson may not have been a ‘pimp’, but he did avail himself of the services of prostitutes, some of whom he knew for a while and who often travelled with him. Those who travelled across state lines with a woman to whom they were not married technically fell afoul of the law because they were engaging in ‘sinful’, or in the words of the Act “immoral” behaviour. For instance, a man who took his secretary to another state for a weekend jaunt would have been going against the law.

Context is important.

The Mann Act was passed during what is referred to as “the Progressive Era”. This was a period during which many Christian leaders called for greater moral decorum. It was a time of widespread evangelism replete with influential preachers whose fists thudded on their pulpits as they railed against what they saw as the social ills which were becoming more pervasive in a rapidly modernising society.

These 'ills' included the consumption of alcohol, out-of-wedlock couplings and the sport of boxing.

Johnson was guilty as charged, but his prosecution was motivated by the idea of cutting down to size a figure who was seen as a threat to the social order.

The idea of a pardon for Jack Johnson began to be actively pursued from around the 1960s when the social climate changed to one that was favourable to racial integration. The Great White Hope, a Broadway play based on his life, had a successful run and a film version was later released.

But pardoning Jack Johnson was always going to be a controversial decision. Johnson, after all, was not the only person convicted under the Act. A not too unreasonable argument proffered was that a pardon for Johnson should also warrant a pardon for those who, not being involved in the sex industry or otherwise exploiting another, were convicted purely for having out-of-marriage sex.

Jack Johnson was a free-spirited man who did not believe in being constrained by the social and legal boundaries of the day. In fact, he was in many ways an unruly person and a supreme egotist who was prone to ride roughshod over many moral and legal rules. The litany of speeding tickets that he accumulated in his life time provides one example of this trait.

And if he is to be the sole beneficiary of a pardon, that would suit ‘Papa Jack’ just fine.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2018)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England. He is the author of Dick Tiger: The Life and Times of a Boxing Immortal.

Thursday 24 May 2018

Book Review of 'The Addis Ababa Massacre: Italy’s National Shame'

Ian Campbell (2017). The Addis Ababa Massacre: Italy’s National Shame, First Edition. London: Hurst Publishers. ISBN 978-1-849-04692-3. 440 pages. £30.00

The 20th century is often remarked on by historians to have been one of the most tumultuous periods in human history. Some would go so far as to assert that it was the most violent century in modern times. Certainly, the advances in technology ensured that human life could be destroyed in far greater numbers and with more rapidity. And in an age of warring empires, colonial repression and the coming to power of regimes adhering to the ruthless ideologies of totalitarianism, episodes of the mass murder of innocent civilians are abundant.

The loss of life during the massacre of Nanking and the bombing of Guernica, for instance, are tragedies that are emblematic of the troubled times leading to WWII, as are the names of the death camps and mobile killing units associated with Nazi Germany during that conflict.

Less well-known, if known at all, is the massacre which was initiated by Fascist Italy in the Ethiopian city of Addis Ababa in February 1937. This savage event, staged as a retributive measure, after an assassination attempt on Marshal Rodolfo Graziani, Benito Mussolini’s viceroy to Italian East Africa, is essentially a half-forgotten one.

The fact that an atrocity of this magnitude was not thoroughly documented, dissected and memorialised until recent times may strike the observer as somewhat surprising.

This amnesia persisted in regard to both perpetrator and victim. There was no war crimes investigation and little scholarship was directed at it. The reasons for this are manifold and are revealed by Ian Campbell in his book The Addis Ababa Massacre: Italy’s National Shame, the fruit of two-decades of research.

The task of setting out the chronology of events while striving to maintain accuracy, as well as reaching empirically valid conclusions pertaining to the controversial matter of an overall death count was an onerous one.

For instance, the author had to contend with the large-scale destruction of evidence. This relates both to the destroying of official records as well as to the physical elimination of Ethiopian witnesses.

Thus, he needed to find alternatives to the use of archival documents as historiological sources.

Most notably, this involved painstakingly tracking down and interviewing eyewitnesses over a considerable period of time, recording their recollections and then embarking on a laborious process of cross-checking and cross-referencing.

He also assembled and reproduced a vast array of photographic evidence. Many of the shots were originally published in Sylvia Pankhurst’s anti-fascist journal New Times and Ethiopia News, while other previously unpublished ones taken by foreign diplomats, residents of Addis Ababa, rampaging Blackshirts and Italian soldiers.

The book captures the world on the precipice of an enormous conflagration and serves to remind the reader that the outbreak of WWII had several preludes.

Whereas the Asian prelude is composed of both the 1931 Japanese  invasion of Manchuria and the Sino-Japanese War of 1937 (with the European prelude occurring in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland), for Africa, the dawning of that conflict was marked by the invasion of Ethiopia by Italy in 1935.

The issue of appeasement looms large in the African context as it did in the European arena. An analogy can be made between the sacrifice of Czechoslovakia at the 1938 conference in Munich, which arguably emboldened Adolf Hitler to pursue his objective of further territorial acquisition, and the failure of the collective security system promised by the League of Nations in restraining Mussolini’s expansionist ambitions in East Africa. Campbell’s work may also remind the reader of the degree to which earlier events on the African continent prefigured the policies followed by the totalitarian powers prior to and during the war.

For instance, the racial experiments conducted by Joseph Mengele at Auschwitz were foreshadowed by those carried out by Mengele’s mentor, Eugen Fischer, on the indigenous population of German South West Africa (Namibia).

Further, the concentration camp system established during pre-world war colonial conflicts by the Italians in Libya, Eritrea and Somaliland was, during the war, extended to Yugoslavia and to Italy itself.

The war crimes committed by Italian forces during the Spanish Civil War, and during WWII in Greece and Yugoslavia, were a continuum of the brutality exhibited during the period of Italian colonisation of East African territory.

Campbell’s book provides clear and ineluctable confirmation of fascism’s inherent tendency towards brutality and violence. The killing of Ethiopians began during the afternoon of Friday 19 February, almost immediately after Graziani was injured by a grenade attack carried out by two Eritreans, Moges Asgedom and Abriha Deboch.

An official declaration promulgating three days of vengeance followed soon after and the author constructs, in harrowing detail, the methodology of revenge. Guns, knives, pick-axes and truncheons were handed out to ‘repression squads’ consisting of black-shirted militias and Italian civilians, who, working in concert with armed soldiers and carabinieri, attacked defenceless Africans.

The victims were stabbed, bludgeoned and incinerated. Flamethrowers were used to set fire to cottages dotted around Addis Ababa in which thousands of innocents - defenceless children, women and the elderly-  were immolated. Campbell estimates that 18-19,000 people were killed in Addis Ababa out of a population of 100,000.

The merciless and unrelenting nature of the violence is underlined by the fact that the pogrom continued even after Mussolini sent word for the killings to stop on the day Graziani had awoken from his coma.

Graziani ordered Guido Cortese, the local leader of the Black Shirts, to halt the slaughter. But Cortese had promised his underlings three days, and so the murders, centred now in the outlying suburbs where they were not as visible to the party leadership, continued until the Sunday evening. This marked the first phase of the genocide. The Italian authorities then targeted Ethiopia’s ‘nobles and notables’. Travelling ‘Caravans of Death’, consisting of portable gallows, were used to hang influential members of the community including those of the aristocratic class. The author provides evidence ascertained from the national archives in Rome that this was not an improvised policy but had in fact been planned in advance. There had been a stated policy of the fascists to behead the intellectual leadership of Ethiopia, a cadre of persons specifically selected by Haile Selassie to be educated in European and North American institutions.

The rounding up and summary execution of many of this elite who were referred to as the ‘Young Ethiopians’ fulfilled an order given by Mussolini on 3 May 1936.

Again, it is worth reminding that the merciless forms of homicidal violence employed by the Italians and their attendant rationales presaged their implementation by the Fascists and Nazis in the impending war in the European theatre.

The destruction of the social elite –the ‘Young Ethiopians’- with the objective of leaving an occupied population rudderless and more malleable to subjugation, mirrored the Intelligenzaktion employed by the Nazis in Poland which targeted Polish teachers, priests and doctors.

Also, the merciless retribution was employed not only in Addis Ababa, but extended to the ruthless destruction of the priests of the monastery of Debre Libanos who were suspected of having harboured Graziani’s assailants.

And of course, the initial invasion of Ethiopia which featured the merciless aerial bombardment of towns and villages predated the notorious bombings by the Luftwaffe of republican enclaves in the Spanish Civil War, during which the Aviazione Legionaria of the Italian Air Force was responsible for the deliberate targeting of civilians in Barcelona.

Campbell brings the reader’s attention to the reasons for Western silence and inaction at the time of the Addis Ababa Massacre. The evidence he provides shows that information compiled by foreign diplomats and journalists in relation to the atrocity was actively suppressed in the futile hope of keeping Mussolini from entering into a military pact with Hitler.

He also addresses the issue of why figures such as Graziani and Cortese, who were not made subject to war crimes trials, did not face the same punishment as the likes of General Hideki Tojo and SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Karl Hermann Frank did. The answer is simply that the dawning of the Cold War and the fear that Italy could fall into the hands of communists meant that figures associated with fascism needed to be preserved.

A war times trial in East Africa along the lines of the ones in Nuremberg and Tokyo would have been considered impolitic given that it would in essence have presented a situation where black Africans were prosecuting white Europeans - an affront to the sensibilities of the time when most of the black and brown world was still under European colonial rule. Ethiopia was thus denied membership of the United Nations War Crimes Commission.

Selassie’s ostensible act of magnanimity in forbidding reprisals and calling for reconciliation can be understood as a pragmatic response to British pressure consisting of the threat not to support Ethiopia in its claims over Eritrea and the Ogaden region if it insisted on pressing its claim for a war crimes trial. He was also keen to recommence his programme of modernisation, in regard to which he would need Western assistance.

The book achieves a great deal. In overcoming the formidable obstacles related to the destruction of original sources of information and the passage of time, Campbell puts a lie to the idea of Italy having governed itself and others through a form of ‘benign’ fascism.

Silvio Berlusconi’s description of  the fascist regime’s internment camps as having been ‘like holiday camps’ does not reflect the brutal circumstances in operation at the concentration camps to which Ethiopians were sent during the period of Italian occupation: Danane in the Ogaden region and Nokra in the Dahlak Archipelago.

The book offers confirmation of high-level Vatican support for the Italian conquest which many priests considered to be a ‘holy mission’.

For while the rationales for the colonisation of Ethiopia encompassed the racial doctrine of subjugating a people considered as being of an inferior race, as well as serving as a revenge for the Italian defeat suffered in 1897 at the Battle of Adowa, some within the higher echelons of the Roman Catholic Church considered the Ethiopian Christian Orthodox Church to be a heretical institution.

This research also exposes a chapter of Italian history which has been practically expunged. The unexpurgated truth regarding Italy’s legacy of violent colonial rule in East Africa, as well as its military adventures in the Balkans, has never been made the subject of public debate.

Instead a combination of the institutions of the state, the media and academia has propagated the myth of Italy as having been solely the victim of fascism. An early indication of the sensitivity about these matters came in the 1950s when the makers of a film depicting the Italian invasion of Greece were arrested and jailed.

Also, a 1981 Libyan-financed movie entitled The Lion of the Desert, which depicted Graziani’s pacification of Libya was banned from Italian cinemas. Academic inquiry into Italy’s colonial policies is seemingly verboten (forbidden). Historians such as Angelo Del Boca, who have examined Italy’s colonial crimes, have been subject to obloquy. Italy has in effect remained a nation in denial. The book puts firmly in the public domain a ground-breaking work of history that will add to the overall understanding of how the war impacted on Africa, which for the most part is dominated by renditions of British battles with Italian and German armies in the North African desert.

The Addis Ababa Massacre: Italy’s National Shame is a magisterial work which deserves the attention of a wide audience as it provides a sober yet spellbinding narrative of one of the era’s greatest desecrations of humanity.

While some may choose to accuse the author of being overtly prosecutorial, it would be more accurate to describe it as a project which sets the record straight. It points the finger and is accusatory but is by no means defamatory.

That the massacre of Addis Ababa is not as firmly imprinted in the consciousness of history on par with the massacres of Katyn, Babi-Yar and Nanking is an injustice, and with this book, Ian Campbell has played a part in correcting this oversight.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2018)

“Italy’s Ethiopian Massacre Finally Comes to Light” (Book Review of Ian Campbell’s The Addis Ababa Massacre: Italy’s National Shame). New African Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 584 June (2018) 68-71.

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer and law lecturer based in London, England. He is a geopolitical analyst, historian and aficionado of boxing. He is the author of the book Dick Tiger: The Life and Times of a Boxing Immortal.

Tuesday 15 May 2018

Snipers in Gaza

IDF Snipers

When I think of army snipers, my mind veers to the duel between Vasily Zaytsev and ‘Major Koenig’, respectively of the Soviet and German armies seeking each other out amid the wastelands of war-ravaged Stalingrad.

Of course, this battle of wits between the reputed best snipers of the Red Army and the Wehrmacht has been found to be most likely a stellar piece of Second World War myth-making, although the capability of Zaytev and many trained snipers of the German military is no myth.

Snipers operate stealthily from camouflaged locations, but it is not necessarily a safe and cosy job picking off unknowing victims from a distance, since in a war between well-trained and equally matched armies, they can be infiltrated behind enemy lines and operate in highly dangerous circumstances. Snipers may thus function as intelligence gatherers as well as taking out where possible important commanders of the opposition.

So far as the snipers who serve the Israeli Defence Forces are concerned, one can only hold them in the utmost contempt for shooting unarmed Palestinian civilians to death and deliberately maiming them during what can only be described as massacres and not “clashes” as a good number of Western news agencies have insisted on referring to the Gazan demonstrators who seek the ‘Right to Return’ to the lands from which they were ethnically cleansed seventy years ago.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2018)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Sunday 13 May 2018

My Interview at 'The Mind Renewed' about Britain's historical and contemporary relationship with Russia - "Russia and Britain: An Enduring But Fruitless Rivalry"

An interview with Julian Charles of ‘The Mind Renewed’ about my recent essay, “Russia and Britain: An Enduring but Fruitless Rivalry”.

TMR Page - Episode 198 “Britain & Russia: An Enduring But Fruitless Rivalry”

We are joined once again by the lawyer and university lecturer Adeyinka Makinde for an in-depth interview on the subject of his recent essay, “ Russia and Britain: An Enduring But Fruitless Rivalry”.

The crisis between Britain and Russia over the alleged poisoning of Sergei Skripal is the latest episode in what has been in recent times a de facto “Cold War” between Russia and the West. However, friction between Russia and Britain is longstanding; indeed it has spanned the centuries -a recurring clash of civilisations fuelled by cultural differences, imperial ambition and ideological antagonism- and manifest today in the West’s attempts to maintain its global dominance in the face of a surgent Eurasia with Russia at its centre.

But with the ideological “Cold War” of the Soviet years a thing of the past,  we must surely pause to ask: Why is Britain prolonging this fruitless “rivalry” with a distant Eurasian power? Whose interests does it serve? And is there, perhaps, a more constructive and, frankly, safer way forward?

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 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.


© Adeyinka Makinde (2018)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Thursday 10 May 2018

Britain and Syria: Ten Questions for the British Government

On May 10th 2018, the British government “condemned” recent Iranian rocket attacks against Israeli positions in the Golan Heights, adding that Israel “has the right to defend itself”. It did not condemn recent Israeli attacks on Iranian positions which apparently killed Iranian personnel, but chose to issue the condemnation once Iran retaliated. Britain has not been an impartial, at-a-distance observer of the conflagration in Syria. Indeed if the recollections of Roland Dumas are anything to go by, it was at the heart of an international conspiracy of nations aimed at overthrowing the government of Bashar al-Assad. And given Britain’s recent participation in the military action taken in concert with the United States and France over a highly disputed allegation of Syrian government responsibility for a chemical attack on the Syrian city of Douma, questions abound as to what interests Britain has in relation to Syria. The following are ten questions which any informed and conscientious British Member of Parliament should take the opportunity to ask either the Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary in a formal letter or during relevant Parliamentary proceedings such as ministerial question time.

1. Why has the British government been silent about many attacks carried out by Israel over the course of the Syrian conflict against both Syrian and Iranian positions?

2. Are Iranian rocket attacks against Israel not justified under international law on the basis of self-defence? After all, Israel has fired at Iranian positions and killed Iranian soldiers. Iran did not fire first.

3. Is it not a contravention of international law to attack a sovereign state (Syria) and another nation (Iran) invited by the legal government to help defend it against externally supported insurgents?

4. If Iran is firing at the Golan Heights, would the British government want to clarify that the Iranian military is in fact firing at territory that has been illegally occupied and annexed by Israel?

5. Would the British government like to comment on former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas’s statement made in 2013 that while on a private visit to England, British officials approached him to join in a plan to organise an armed insurrection against the Syrian government? In his words, the war we have witnessed these past seven years by the Syrian government against Islamic fanatics was “prepared, conceived and organised” at least two years in advance of what became an insurgency. Would the British government care to clarify the capacities of the “officials” who sought Monsieur Dumas’s help in this illegal conspiracy? Were they politicians, intelligence agents, military officers or all of the mentioned categories?

6. Would the British government take the opportunity to explain why, as reported by the British Guardian newspaper in March 2013, British military officers were stationed at the border shared between Syria and Jordan while tasked with offering “logistical and other advice in some form” to rebels and prospective insurgents?

7. Would the British government consider explaining why it allowed the collapse of the 2015 Old Bailey trial of Bherlin Gildo, a Swedish national who had been charged with terrorist activities in Syria? Would the government elucidate on the reasons why Britain’s security and intelligence services would have been “deeply embarrassed” about their covert support for anti-Assad militias?

8. Would the British government explain why British soldiers such as the late Sergeant Matt Tonroe of the Parachute Regiment have been embedded with United States Special Forces in Syria without the express invitation of the legal government of that sovereign nation?

9. Why is the Theresa May-led government keen to continue funding the al-Nusra-linked ‘White Helmets’ group of “volunteer rescuers” which only operates in rebel-held areas? Can the government clarify the extent to which British intelligence is associated with the group’s founder, former British soldier James Le Mesurier and whether British intelligence may have connections with the organisation?

10. Finally, would the British government like to take the opportunity to offer a detailed clarification of just what national interest issues compel British involvement in Syria?

© Adeyinka Makinde (2018)

Adeyinka Makinde is a London-based writer and law lecturer with an interest in global security issues. He can be followed on Twitter @AdeyinkaMakinde

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Google Censorship and My Writing

I noticed over the past week that my commentaries and essays which have been published at Global Research dot Canada are no longer coming up when ‘Google News’ is searched.

[Adeyinka Makinde - Archive at Global Research:]

Google is apparently implementing an initiative to block news coverage by the independent media as part of an attempt to preserve the monopoly of newspapers such as the New York Times, or the “failing New York Times” as Donald Trump in one of his more agreeable recurring rants is wont to refer to it and other establishment outlets.

The argument that “false and misleading information” is circulating on the Internet serves as a convenient cover for the avowed aim of effecting political censorship. The irony is that the mainstream media which has become increasingly corporatized is actually the disseminator of many things false and misleading.

‘Operation Mass Appeal’, was an MI6 scheme through which stories were planted in the news media with the aim of making the British public more amenable to the idea that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. Richard Dearlove, then the head of MI6, had advised British Prime Minister Tony Blair that President George Bush had resolved to attack Iraq even though the case for the existence of weapons of mass destruction was “thin”. But Dearlove also told Blair that “intelligence and facts were being fixed (by the United States) around the policy”.

The build-up towards the Iraq war is not the only example.

The press was responsible for disseminating false claims about an impending massacre in the Libyan city of Benghazi at the time of the Islamist-inspired uprising which came to be supported by NATO. A Telegraph report dated March 19th 2011 and headlined “Benghazi Fights For its Life” was one of many that reinforced this. The reporter ended his dispatch by seemingly taking the (Islamist) rebel communique of the situation as the gospel truth before contrasting it with what he termed “Tripoli’s take of events” which warned the world of a take over by “the gangs of al-Qaeda”.

Coverage of the Syrian conflict has also been littered with mainstream press bias. The White Helmets who are presented as an impartial search and rescue organisation is actually one which is strongly linked to various Islamist militia groups fighting to overthrow the secular government of Bashar al-Assad. It is supremely ironic that when a documentary film celebrating the group as heroic volunteers was awarded an Oscar, its leader, Raed Salah, was prevented from entering the United States owing to his connections to Islamist terrorists.

The contrast between the mainstream media’s coverage of the siege of al-Nusra-held Aleppo and the battle for ISIS-held Mosul was stark. While the media was prone to trumpeting any evidence it could muster about Russian bombing leading to civilian casualties, it did not display the same level of horror at the fate of thousands of civilians killed by US-led coalition airstrikes conducted in Mosul, Iraq. When Aleppo fell in December 2016, the cover story headline of the Economist was revealing: “The Fall of Aleppo: Putin’s Victory, the West’s Failure”.

Consider also the difference in coverage between the conflicts in Syria and Yemen. While the Western media generally seeks to highlight what it perceives as the inhumane tactics of the Assad government in combating jihadist militias who were armed and finance by the United States and its regional allies, the depth of coverage and the urgency behind it is lacking in regard to Yemen where the Saudi Arabian military utilises American and British weaponry while it commits genocide.

The coverage of the alleged chemical attack in Salisbury on the Russian double agent Sergei Skripal highlighted the manner in which journalists accept government information with little or no scrutiny. It played a major part in whipping up an atmosphere of hysteria and promoted the idea that those who questioned the flawed and constantly shifting government narrative were conspiracy theorists in the service of the Kremlin.

Where dissenting opinions have unexpectedly surfaced when interviewing ostensible pillars of the establishment, the reactions of interviewing journalists have been illuminating. For instance, Major General Jonathan Shaw, a retired former Chief of Staff for UK Land Forces, was abruptly cut off during an interview with Sky News when he challenged the claim that the Syrian government would need to use chemical weapons in Douma when it had practically won the war against the Islamist insurgents. On the matter of the alleged Douma chemical attack, the former British ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, invited a BBC Radio Scotland journalist to “please engage your brain” when explaining the illogicality behind assuming Bashar al-Assad’s culpability in launching a chemical attack which would serve to, in Ford’s words “pluck defeat out of the jaws of victory.”

An objective reading of trends reveal that much of the mainstream media has seemingly turned into a propaganda mouthpiece for Western governments and institutions such as NATO.

On that point it is worth noting that Udo Ulfkotte, a late German journalist who once served as an assistant editor for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, claimed in his book Gekaufte Journalisten that most Western European journalists of note are on the payroll of the Central Intelligence Agency, and that he was one of them. Ulfkotte even asserted that the whole content of articles can be written by intelligence agents.

Ulfkotte is not the only one to have made such an admission. Frederick Forsyth admitted that he worked for the British Secret Intelligence Service and Roger Auque, a French investigative journalist and war correspondent, disclosed before his death that he had spied for Israel’s Mossad.

It is not difficult to guess why journalists can be used by intelligence organisations. They function in the midst of events ranging from national politics to those with geopolitical implications. The news agencies for which they work help shape public perception of events and naturally governments are interested in feeding the public with a narrative which is favourable to what is perceived to be the national interest. Thus, MI5, the British Security Service, was key to a strategy of feeding the British press with disinformation during ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. In his memoirs, Robert Baer, a former CIA agent, claimed that he and other intelligence agents were given millions of dollars to undermine Yugoslavian unity. He revealed that newsreaders were given prepared announcements which had been composed by the CIA. The objective was to spread hatred and nationalism.

While the revelations of former journalists and intelligence operatives ought not to serve as the basis to discredit wholesale the role of the established media, it should, taken together with the known instances of press disinformation associated with recent American wars in the Middle East, form the rationale for people to exercise caution when reading and processing the information and opinions disseminated by the mainstream press.

Further, the implications of the US Telecommunications Act of 1995 should be borne in mind. This piece of legislation, sponsored by corporate media lobbies and signed into law during the administration of President Bill Clinton, represents the basis under which the American media became corporatized. This is because the Act created the conditions to enable around 90% of the media to be owned by just six media conglomerates: Time-Warner, CBS, Viacom, News Corp, GE and Disney.

The buying up of previously independent outlets has, some argue, has served to erode the independence and the integrity of journalism. Many prominent journalists have effectively become ‘pens for hire’, or, to coin a word originated by Gerald Celente: “Press-titutes”.

Both government and mainstream media appear to be fearful of the scrutiny brought by certain sections, though not all, of the independent media. They are weary about the fact that increasing segments of the public are becoming aware of the shortcomings of the mainstream media and are questioning many of its flawed narratives.

This clamp down on dissent by google bears distinctly sinister overtones. The attempts to pathologize and to demonize those who refuse to submit to Establishment narratives has to be resisted lest we slip into an Orwellian dystopia. It would not be an exaggeration to assert that these policies ought to be considered as a form of book burning.

Thus, it is important to remember these words:

“If they want to burn it, you need to read it.”

© Adeyinka Makinde (2018)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Thursday 3 May 2018

Newsreel of my Father at the Royal Navy Equipment Exhibition at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, September 1971

Lieutenant Commander Emmanuel Makinde at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich (Circa 1971)

Excited to discover yet another piece of vintage newsreel of my Father. This one captures him at a Royal Navy equipment exhibition at the Royal Navy College in Greenwich, London on September 21st 1971.

Newly promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander, he was then serving as the Deputy Defence Advisor at the Nigerian High Commission in London.

He is the bearded figure in the background (commencing at the 5-second mark and ending at the 10-second mark) when Rear Admiral Joseph Wey (in sunglasses and bow-tie), the head of the Nigerian Navy, is shaking hands with Admiral Anthony Griffith, the Controller of the Navy & Third Sea Lord.

© Adeyinka Makinde

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer and Law Lecturer based in London, England.

Netanyahu's Iran Speech in Context: Irony, Hypocrisy and the Undeclared Hijacking of U.S. Foreign Policy

The recent presentation made by Binyamin Netanyahu purportedly detailing a secret Iranian programme aimed at acquiring a nuclear weapons capability is the latest in a long-term effort on his part to obtain United States assistance in destroying Iran. But the actions of the Israeli prime minister are not only ironic and hypocritical: they bring into focus the connection between the purposeful destructions of Iraq and Libya on the one hand and the attempt to destroy Syria, foment conflict in Lebanon and neutralise Iranian military power on the other. Few Americans are aware of this two decade-long grand strategy followed by successive United States administrations because the compartmentalization of events, short-term memory of the public and government propaganda have all served to murky the fundamental picture, that is, one in which the United States continues to follow a policy of taking down countries which pose a threat to the state of Israel. It is a policy which was adopted without recourse to public debate despite the serious ramifications it has had in terms of the cost to American prestige and an ever increasing national debt.

Most of the world’s major national intelligence services have long concluded that Iran has no nuclear weapons development programme. This includes the intelligence community of the United States and up until recently -if Binyamin Netanyahu is to be believed- Israel’s Mossad. A debate within Iran’s political, military and intelligence circles apparently ended with the nation’s supreme leader ruling against the development of nuclear weapons.

The irony is not lost in the scenario of the leader of Israel decrying the acquisition of nuclear technology by another nation, one that is a signatory state to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and subject to the stringent conditions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action reached between Iran and the ‘Five Plus One’ countries, when Israel is in possession of an undeclared arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Israel’s own nuclear weapons programme, which began with the express disapproval of President John F. Kennedy who felt that it would create a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, involved the practice of a grand deception by David Ben Gurion who insisted that the Dimona reactor was for research purposes only and not for the production of plutonium.

A pungent whiff of hypocrisy pervades Netanyahu’s presentation. Israel’s nuclear arms programme has not only been shrouded in secrecy but has involved acts of criminality which according to FBI documents declassified in June 2012 allegedly involved Netanyahu himself. Netanyahu later issued a gagging order directing the unindicted ringleader of a nuclear smuggling ring to refrain from discussing an operation known as ‘Project Pinto’. Israel spied on nuclear installations inside the United States and in the 1960s and it stole bomb-grade uranium from a US nuclear fuel-processing plant.

Netanyahu’s speech is the latest in a campaign by Israel to ignite a war against Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran, a plan which is intimately linked to the effort to destroy Syria over the past seven years.

The war in Syria represents the combined efforts of the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia to destroy the so-called ‘Shia Crescent’ of Iran, Syria and Lebanon (Hezbollah). The centrality of Israel in this effort was made clear by Roland Dumas, a former foreign minister of France in 2013. But Israel, along with the United States and Saudi Arabia, has been enraged by the fact that Bashar al-Assad’s secular government with the help of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, has practically defeated the Islamic fanatics who were introduced into Syria for the purpose of overthrowing Assad in order to balkanise the country and stop Iranian arms shipments to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The reason why Israel wants Iranian aid to Hezbollah cut off and the organisation destroyed is not hard to fathom. Hezbollah is the only armed force within the Arab world willing and capable of taking on the Israeli military. Israel has for long coveted southern Lebanon up to the River Litani. But Hezbollah has twice inflicted humiliating defeats on Israel: first in 2000 when Israel was forced to withdraw after an 18-year occupation of the southern part of Lebanon which had commenced with a bloody invasion, and secondly in 2006 when Israel was forced to withdraw after sustaining heavy losses during a 34-day conflict.

Apart from the aforementioned goal of breaking the conduit between Iran and Hezbollah, the balkanisation of Syria would mean that any of the successor states would find it difficult to make a claim for the Golan Heights which Israel conquered in 1967 and which it illegally annexed in 1981. Israel is also supportive of the idea of a Kurdish state being created out of Syria as a means through which the transfer of oil and gas could be facilitated.

Much evidence exists of a pre-existing Israeli plan to destroy Syria. The Yinon Plan of 1982 and a series of position papers produced by Israel-friendly neoconservative ideologues in the United States (the Project for the New American Century’s ‘Rebuilding America’s Defenses - Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century’ in 2000) as well as for the Israeli government (‘A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm’ in 1996) bear this out. Each document clearly calls for the neutralising or the “rolling back” of several states including Syria.

The Yinon Plan, the name given to a paper entitled ‘A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s’ which was published in February 1982 in Kivunim (Directions), a journal written in Hebrew, set out Israel’s enduring aim of balkanising the surrounding Arab and Muslim world into ethnic and sectarian mini-states. Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq were prime candidates.

It was not a unique or suddenly arrived at policy, but simply set out in detail an overarching policy pursued by Israel’s leaders since the founding of the state. For  instance, the diaries of Moshe Sharett, an early prime minister of Israel, laid bare David Ben Gurion and Moshe Dayan’s aim of weakening Lebanon by exacerbating tensions between its Muslim and Christian population in the course of which Dayan hoped that a Christian military officer would declare a Christian state out of which the region south of the River Litani would be ceded to Israel.

A crucial point to mention is that the policy of the United States towards Syria and others is congruent with that of Israel. In fact, America has been pursuing a two-decade long strategy aimed at destabilisation and balkanisation regardless of the political stripe of the president in office. After the attack of 9/11, the United States set in motion a plan, in the words of retired U.S. General Wesley Clark, “to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran”.

The secular nations of Iraq, Syria and Libya had no links to the Sunni Islamist al-Qaeda cell which purportedly carried out the attacks on 9/11. Neither did Shia Iran. Yet, America foreign policy has been geared towards destroying nations who happen to oppose Israel and who are supportive of the Palestinian cause.

To quote General Clark again, American foreign policy was “hijacked” without a public debate.

While the adoption of this policy remains officially unacknowledged, the modus operandi by which the United States has sought to destroy these countries is clear. A succession of position papers as well as the intended effect of United States and NATO interventions point to the exploiting of ethnic and sectarian conflicts as well as the use of Islamist proxy armies as the standard tactic utilised to bring down governments.

For instance, a Pentagon-funded report by the RAND Corporation in 2008 entitled ‘Unfolding the Future of the Long War: Motivations, Prospects and Implications for the U.S. Army’ explicitly refers to the need to foment conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims as a means to the end of controlling the resources of the Middle East.

Another tactic alluded to by a 2012 document created by the Defense Intelligence Agency is that of declaring ‘Safe Havens’ -a term synonymous with the often used ‘No-Fly Zones’- ostensibly as a humanitarian policy, but which is a technique used to shield and preserve areas controlled by Islamist insurgents. It was utilised by NATO forces as a means of protecting the al-Qaeda-affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group during its campaign to overthrow the government of Muammar Gaddafi, and an attempt was made to implement this prior to the fall of the al-Nusra-controlled city of Aleppo.

America’s Founding Fathers warned against getting involved in foreign entanglements, yet it devotedly follows a Middle East policy that clearly benefits the interests of another nation state. It is a policy which risks setting off a major regional war based on sectarian lines as well as embroiling it in a conflict with nuclear armed Russia.

For Israel, the goal remains the establishment of its undisputed hegemony in the Middle East. However, while an economic rationale predicated on relieving Europe of its dependency on Russian gas via a pipeline from the gulf is occasionally referenced, there has never been a comprehensive articulation of what America’s fundamental interests are in destroying Syria and Iran.

Pursuing such a policy without having had a full and thorough public debate tends to confirm key areas of dysfunction in the American system of governance. First it highlights the power and influence of those lobbies associated with Israeli interests and the Military Industry, and secondly, the unchanging nature of this policy which has been followed by the respective administrations of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump provide evidence that what Michael J. Glennon terms the ‘Madisonian’ institutions of state are no longer accountable in the manner which people still think they are. Instead power in regard to crucial issues on American national security rests with an unelected group of people outside of the separated organs of government: what Glennon, a professor of law at Tufts University, refers to as ‘Trumanite’ institutions.

The implications for the health of American democracy are all too apparent.

The pursuit of a strategy which has served to diminish American esteem among the global community as well as adding to the increasing national debt represents a catastrophic failure not only on the part of the political class, but also on the part of the mainstream media, which has consistently presented a narrative devoid of its true context. The intellectual community comprised of university academics and scholars working for think tanks must accept a large share of the blame.

Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech, a shameless attempt at goading the United States into breaking its obligations under an international agreement as a prelude to fighting a war which would serve Israel’s interests, ought to ignite a full and transparent debate on American national security policy in the Middle East.

A failure to do this risks future costly disasters which would dwarf the debacles of Iraq, Libya and Syria.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2018)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.