Sunday 27 October 2019

The Enduring Fela - "Alu Jon Jonki Jon"

Etching of Fela by the Chicago Tribune in 1977

An instrumental cover of Fela Kuti’s “Alu “Jon Jonki Jon” by Michael Leonhart Orchestra evokes an old Yoruban fable and confirms the enduring appeal of Fela’s music.

The lyrics to the track “Alu Jon Jonki Jon” from the 1973 album Afrodisiac by Fela Kuti were derived from an old Yoruban folktale. The fable was about how during a famine in the animal kingdom, all the animals killed their mothers for food except the dog who hid his mother in heaven, that is “Aja gbe ti e, o d’orun”.

The lyrics earned Fela one of the many aliases with which he was bestowed by his fans, this one, “Omo Iya Aje” (“Child of a Witch”), went together with “Chief Priest”, “Black President”, “Abami Eda” (“Strange One”) and others.

Fela (1938-1997) was, along with drummer Tony Oladipo Allen, the inventor of the syncretic genre of music called “Afro-Beat”. His influence on other Nigeria, West African and African musicians of the 1970s was palpable and he attracted the attention and admiration of rock musicians such as Ginger Baker who opened a studio in Lagos and recorded music with Fela. Paul McCartney was reportedly moved to tears by the power of his music and many years later could play note-for-note a tune he heard Fela perform during his visit to Nigeria in 1973 to record his album Band on the Run. The song was “Why Black Man De Suffer”.

Today, Fela’s genre of music is not only continued by the still active Tony Allen and Fela’s sons Seun and Femi, but by groups from all over the world such as Antibalas, New Ben, Chopteeth Afro-Funk Band, and Albinoid Afro-Beat Orchestra.

Abami Eda lives!

© Adeyinka Makinde (2019)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Monday 21 October 2019

Tulsi Gabbard and the Cost of Exposing American Militarism

Major Tulsi Gabbard of the Hawaii Army National Guard at the ceremony at which she was promoted from the rank of captain. She is the serving representative for Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district

Tulsi Gabbard, one of the candidates competing to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, has been particularly prominent in the American and global news media over the past few days. Her views in relation to America’s enduring policy of effecting “regime change” in foreign nations has provoked a storm of controversy in her country, bringing forth bitter criticism. Gabbard has even been denounced as a “Russian asset” for arguing against American interventionism. The furore is quite revealing on several levels. For one, it yet again exposes a shocking embrace for interventionist wars by members of the liberal elite. It also reveals a disturbing tactic utilised by politicians and the mainstream press to label those who do not toe the establishment line on military policy as traitorous. Above all, it also exposes a fundamental defect in the American political discourse; that is the lack of a genuine national dialogue on the underlying reasons for the drift towards American militarism after the end of the Cold War, and the entrenchment of this militarism after the attacks of September 11th 2001.

To get to the heart of the matter as I see it, Tulsi Gabbard is one of the few high profile American politicians to have addressed the publically undebated phenomenon of America’s endless wars. The United States has never had a public debate related to what retired General Wesley Clark referred to as “a policy coup” in the immediate aftermath of the attacks of September 11th at which point according to Clark, a group of “hard-nosed people took control of policy in the United States.”

Since then, America, under the auspices of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), has attacked Iraq under false pretences, engineered the destabilisation of Libya and sought to do the same to Syria. The modus operandi utilised against both Libyan and Syrian governments; like Saddam-era Iraq secular in nature, was through Islamist proxies, that is, militias professing the ideology of those claimed to have been responsible for the 9/11 atrocities.

The amorality of these tactics and techniques are never seriously questioned in the media and by legislative institutions even though they have been conducted in plain view such as the visits to eastern Libya and Syria by the late Senator John McCain or where admissions have been made by high-profile politicians such as former Vice President Joseph Biden and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton who revealed the help given by America’s regional allies to Jihadist groups.

In identifying the pattern of “regime change wars” in which she has served in the US Army, Gabbard has presented an opportunity for America to come to grips with the underlying reasons for the germination of this militarism which has been fueled to a large extent by the military industry and lobbies associated with the State of Israel.

But this cannot be achieved where the modus operandi of her political opponents and journalists working for the mainstream press constrict the parameters of debate by not only propagating false narratives of how America’s recent wars have been initiated, but also by smearing those who advocate a fresh approach to American policy. Just as Donald Trump’s announced intention to seek a rapprochement with Russia was met by the weaving of the false narrative of “Russia-gate” which included allegations of collusion with the Russian state to undermine the democratic process, Gabbard has been referred to as a “Russian asset”.

That the use of a smear involving Russia can still have any currency after the thorough debunking of “Russia-gate”, which any objective researcher would have known from the outset had little merit, demonstrates how once again political tribalism and geopolitical illiteracy, both facilitated by mainstream media propaganda, have triumphed over reason.

To her credit, Gabbard has hit back at what she described as “a concerted campaign to destroy my reputation.” And in issuing a stern rebuke to Hilary Clinton who had made a veiled reference to Gabbard as a candidate being groomed by the Russians to run as a third party candidate, she identified what she described as Clinton’s “proxies and powerful allies in the corporate media and war machine” as been at the root of these smears.

The significant word used by Gabbard is “corporate”. For it addresses the question of the control exerted on US politicians by corporate entities linked to Wall Street and the military industry who fund them. These interests also clearly have the ability to influence the corporatised American media which today is dominated by five corporations.

So compromised is the mainstream media and the politicians that the American public have never been given a comprehensively articulated picture of the origins of America’s post-Cold War militarism in terms of conception and chronology. This would necessitate a reference to the application of the “Wolfowitz Doctrine”, by which is meant the policy objective after the fall of the Soviet Union of aggressively deploying America’s military resources to reshape the world during the ensuing power vacuum before the emergence of a global competitor.

It would also involve a careful scrutiny of the tentacles of the military industry, as well as a precise and frank inquiry into the workings of the “Deep State”. It is clearly the case that the policy of war has been an essentially unchanging one from one administration to the next. Thus, Michael J. Glennon, a professor of international law at Tufts University, has posited a scenario in which actors belonging to what he terms “Trumanite” institutions have usurped power from the trioka of “Madisonian” institutions of state, the latter which he argues are no longer accountable in the manner people think they are.

The time is long overdue for a national dialogue in which politicians, journalists and academics address this fundamental shortcoming of American foreign policy: that the purpose of the military is to deter conflict and not to start wars by invading countries and instituting regime change by covert means. Failure to do this only serves to perpetuate the costs to America, both in terms of adding to its spiralling sovereign debt and the undermining of its moral prestige and authority among the global community of nations.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2019)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Sunday 20 October 2019

Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi (1942–2011)

Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi

Muammar Gaddafi was a young Libyan army officer who overthrew King Idris in September 1969.  Infused with revolutionary ideas designed to modernise his nation and work towards a greater union of Arab peoples, he transformed his country into a new breed socialist state called a Jamahiriya in 1977.

Over the years, he achieved a great deal, using Libya’s oil revenues to facilitate the establishment of free health care, housing projects, as well as the construction of the “Great Man-Made River”.

His rule was authoritarian in nature. He had no compunction about jailing his political opponents and even organised assassination squads to take out dissidents living in exile in parts of Europe.

Under him Libya was a secular state hostile to the spread of the sort of Islamism that had begun to lay deep roots in the Arab world after the failure of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Pan-Arab dream. After his coming to power, Gaddafi earned a reputation as an adventurer and even a troublemaker. Early into his reign, he had several border disputes with his neighbours in Egypt and Chad, and fell out with many Arab leaders one of whom, Sudan’s Gaafar an-Nimeiry, once described him as “a split personality -both evil.”

Under him, Libya became a pariah state among Western countries, because of his support for radical liberation movements and the incidents such as the shooting of the British policewoman Yvonne Fletcher and the blame attached to him after the Lockerbie bombing.

His frustration at being rebuked by many Arab states, many of who were beholden to his sworn enemies, the Wahhabist rulers of Saudi Arabia lay perhaps with his decision to cultivate more substantive links with countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

He mended fences with the West and was in the midst of a rapprochement when the Western powers in the form of NATO facilitated an Islamist-led insurrection in the city of Benghazi which led to an air campaign designed not only to degrade the ability of his army to contain the rebellion, but to destroy the country which because of its relatively high standard of living, had often been referred to as the “Switzerland of Africa.”

Gaddafi, it appears was earmarked for destruction because he was the driving force behind a plan to develop an African currency which would be independent of the imperial dollar.

The results of his deposing were far reaching. Libya was transformed into a failed state with warring tribal groups vying for power. Slave markets sprang up and its seaports became the staging post for an onslaught of refugees from Africa, the Middle East and further afield, seeking to reach the shores of Europe. What is more, the fall of the Libyan army whose armouries were raided led to a transfer of weapons to the NATO and Gulf-backed Islamist rebels seeking to destroy the Ba’athist government of Syria. And alongside the developing Syrian tragedy, the availability of weapons Gaddafi’s military led to an escalation of jihadist insurgencies in the Maghreb and Lake Chad regions respectively by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Boko Haram.

The tragedy of Libya, with its descent into lawlessness after Gaddafi’s brutal demise at the hands of Western-backed rebels, is somewhat emblematic of the fate suffered by countries such as Iraq and Syria, like Libya secular states, whose rulers were determined by Western governments to be far too independent, as well as being implacable foes of the State of Israel.

He was a dictator for sure, but the consequences of his removal from power only served to worsen the spectrum of conflicts and security spanning a number of regions.

It was in the final analysis a serious and costly mistake.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2019).

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England. 

Saturday 19 October 2019

"No Angels": Kurdish Militias, "Betrayal" and the Campaign to Destroy Syria

Map depicting concentrations of Kurdish populations within Syria and in neighbouring countries

It is presently fashionable, but totally erroneous to aver that the Kurds have been “betrayed”. The truth is that the Kurds and the Americans have used each other for their mutual ends in the Syrian War, a catastrophe orchestrated by the United States and its regional allies Saudi Arabia and the State of Israel.

For the Saudis, the animus against the Assad government is based on the fact that it is ruled by what is considered by mainstream Sunni Muslims to be a heretical minority, the Alawites, whose alliance with Shia Iran poses a threat to Saudi influence in the Muslim Arab world.

And for the Israelis, it is the threat posed by the Triple Entente of Iran, Syria and the Lebanese militia, Hezbollah, an alliance that is sometimes referred to as the “Shia Crescent”. The destabilisation and the destruction of Syria would, from Israel’s perspective, have achieved three goals. Firstly, the weakening of Iranian influence in the region. Secondly, the isolating of Hezbollah, the militant Shia group created out of the embers of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in the early 1980s, which was responsible for the Jewish state’s withdrawal from the south of that country on two occasions. It is Hezbollah that has prevented the longstanding goal of colonising Lebanon south of the Litani River. Thirdly, a fractured Syria would from an Israeli view mean that no successor state would make a legal claim for the restoration of the Golan Heights, which was illegally annexed in 1981.

The object of Israel has always been to balkanise its Arab Muslim neighbours, and the enduring influence of its lobby in the United States is the overriding factor in this enterprise which provided the Saudis with the role of funding the anti-Assad jihadist insurrection begun in 2011. Israel, for its part, provided medical, logistical and financial assistance to a number of these jihadi fanatics and struck at Assad’s forces to weaken the Syrian effort in confronting them.

It is useful to be reminded of a declassified U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document circulated in 2012 which explicitly sought the creation of a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in eastern Syria. The so-called Islamic State (IS) and other Islamist-orientated militias functioned as the U.S.’s proxy army to achieve this end.

But Russian intervention with the help of Iranian soldiers and Hezbollah -all invited onto Syrian soil by the legitimate government of the country- beat back the threat posed by IS. The Americans, whose presence in parts of Syria is illegal, reacted by arming, training and supplying Kurdish militias such as the YPG to continue the quest of creating a statelet in oil-endowed eastern Syria.

Those who are versed in the history of the region know that the Turks will not tolerate the creation of an independent Kurdish state on its border. Moreover, members of the Syrian-based YPG also operate as guerrillas for the Turkish-based PKK, a group designated by the Turks as well as the U.S. and the EU as a terrorist organisation.

The Turks are of course no innocents in regard to the Syrian War. They were part of the original U.S.-Saudi-Israeli effort to overthrow the Assad government. Turkey provided a route through which jihadist fighters could infiltrate Syria’s borders. The Turkish Army High Command furnished these mercenaries with encampments and training facilities, and as IS began carving out its U.S. approved principality in eastern Syria, the Turks facilitated the establishment of this nascent caliphate by buying oil exploited from oil fields previously developed by the Syrian national government. Indeed, many will recall the role played by members of the Erdogan family in this illicit trade.

But while the Turks, like the U.S., the Saudis and the Israelis are no innocents in the enterprise that was geared towards destroying the Ba’athist government of Syria, President Donald Trump described the Kurds as being “no angels”.

Do the Kudish militias have clean hands? An examination of the facts reveals that they do not. For during the quest to carve out a seperate, autonomous territory in eastern Syria (Kurds represent just 8% of the population of Syria), Kurdish militias ethnically cleansed the region of its Arab Muslim population and murdered Christian Assyrian communities. As noted earlier on, their primary role was to carve out a chunk of territory and the decision to arm Syrian Kurds taken by Trump in 2017 because it was seen as the fastest way to seize Raqqa, the capital of the proclaimed caliphate. It was a decision of course which drew opposition from Turkey.

The irony is that the Kurds would have been on more secure footing had they joined forces with the legal, secular government of Syria in fighting the locally-bred jihadists, as well as the imported Islamist fighters of al-Qaeda, al-Nusra and IS.

But they have miscalculated. Some accuse Ottoman-era Kurds of having facilitated the genocide of Christian Armenians in the early part of the 20th century, as a means through which thet could obtain a state of their own. But they were denied this. And now in the 21st century, they look certain to be denied this.

The famous maxim in international relations of their being no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent national interests may explain Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from this area of Syria. For while the national interests of the Turks, the Saudis and the Israelis are clearly defined, the national interest on the part of the United States in pursuing the policy of balkanising Syria. If the illegal presence of the United States in Syria was indeed to fight jihadis, then it would have logically sided with the Syrian administration.

Those who claim that the Kurds have been “betrayed” do so largely out of ignorance of the wider facts. And among neoconservative figures such as US Senator Marco Rubio and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, the frequent references to the Kurdish role in fighting jihadis is to say the least disingenuous. Lindsey Graham, a senator from South Carolina, was perhaps more honest when assessing that the biggest losers from Trump’s decision would be the “Kurds and Israel”.

For it has been in Israel’s interests that the campaign to destroy Syria has been waged, and not, as Graham strongly, albeit inadvertently implies, in the interests of the United States.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2019).

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Friday 18 October 2019

Colonel Shittu Alao (1937-1969)

Colonel Shittu Alao (left), Chief of the Nigerian Air Staff, alongside Major General Yakubu Gowon (centre), and Colonel Udoakaha Esuene, in February 1968.

This is a rare colour picture of Colonel Shittu Akanji Alao who died on October 15, 1969 in an air crash at Uzebba, about 50 miles northwest of Benin.

Alao, had been appointed the Chief of the Air Staff of Nigeria’s air force  in August 1967, and was the second indegene to hold the office.

Alongside Alao are Major General Yakubu Gowon, the Nigerian Head of State and Colonel Udoakaha Esuene, the military governor of the South Eastern State. They were inspecting a five-seater aircraft which was seized from Biafran forces by Federal troops during fighting in the Nigerian Civil War.

The son of a father from Nigeria’s Western Region and a mother who hailed from the North, Alao was of striking appearance, being of great height (around 6ft 5) and build. He also had facial scarification marks (“Gombe”/”Keke”), which reflected his father’s Ogbomosho origins.

He was born in 1937.


© Adeyinka Makinde (2019)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.