Friday 28 February 2020

Bernie Sanders and the Resurrected Russiagate Smear

Newspaper opinion piece by Stephen Kinzer  acknowledging the debunking of “Russiagate” (Boston Sunday Globe, April 7th 2019)

Even after the “Russiagate” claim of supposed Russian interference in the last US Presidential Election was irrefutably debunked, members of the Democratic Party elite and sections of the US “Deep State” of National Security/Intelligence in alliance with sections of the mainstream media continue to peddle this asinine and tiresome trope that posits certain American politicians as collaborators, assets or useful idiots of the Russian state. Hillary Clinton used it against US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, and now the same ploy of projecting a political figure as being Russia’s “favoured candidate” is being used against another presidential aspirant US Senator Bernie Sanders.

The 2019 report into “Russiagate” by Robert Mueller turned up no credible evidence to back up the narrative that the Russian state orchestrated a powerful and effective campaign to influence the presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The core narrative of “Russiagate” lacked solid evidence. Right from the beginning, astute commentators such as Emeritus Professor Stephen Cohen, an expert in Russian affairs for decades, pronounced the two central documents on which the whole Russiagate sage relied as “impotent”. If anything the real interference which inspired “Russiagate” had to do with the State of Israel attempting to fix a vote in the United Nations in regard to which the Israelis hoped that Russia would refrain from exercising its right of veto in a UN Resolution concerning the Palestinian issue. It speaks volumes that the mainstream media and the politicians of the world’s most powerful nation are fearful of speaking out about the power of the Israel Lobby in US domestic politics and foreign policy.

It is important to explain the motivation behind “Russiagate” and the actors who perpetrated the myth. “Russiagate” is simply the fruit of an alliance between the Democratic Party elite and members of the military-security establishment. The former wished to exact revenge on Trump for inflicting an unexpected defeat on their candidate, while the latter have a financial interest in prolonging a Cold War with Russia because peace or rapprochement would effectively mean the extraordinary levels of money spent by the United States on defence in terms of manufacturing weapons, maintaining bases around the globe and justifying its vast intelligence network would be rendered redundant.

The Russia smear is thus a political weapon directed at any politician who speaks out against American militarism, whether as pertaining to the manufactured Cold War against the Russian Federation or to the unchanging policy of instigating overt and covert wars of regime change.

Those who threaten the interests composed of defence contractor companies such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon along with serving and former serving officials of the Pentagon imperil the continuation of an extremely lucrative trade in arms, ammunition and miscellaneous weapons of war.

Thus, when Trump promised during the presidential election campaign of 2016 to leave NATO, as well as his description of Russia as not an enemy, he was inviting the wrath of a amalgam of powerful interests. The same may be said of Tulsi Gabbard and her campaign against the American policy of regime change wars, and of Bernie Sanders and his perennial anti-war stance.

This powerful and malevolent interest group wields considerable clout in American politics through the control and influence exercised on political representatives in both houses of the United States Congress. It is a group which President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the American public to be wary of, when giving his farewell address to the nation. Eisenhower described this burgeoning interest group, in his words “an immense military establishment and large arms industry” as the “Military Industrial Complex”. He prophesied that it would threaten American democracy in the future.

The “unwarranted influence” acquired by the Military Industry has come to pass.

Tufts University Professor Michael J. Glennon in his lengthy paper cum book “National Security and Double Government” identified what he termed the “Trumanite” institutions (in contrast to the “Madisonian” institutions of state governance prescribed by the American Constitution), an unaccountable collection of former military, intelligence and law enforcement officers whose influence has been strong enough to ensure that America’s national security policy, one of consistent militarism, has essentially remained unchanged through the administrations of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

The Military Industry has its tentacles in politicians whose payoffs are enabled by laws which allow unlimited electoral spending. It also has a pervading influence on the mainstream media regardless of the ideological designation of “liberal” or “conservative”. Thus we see Democratic Party Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who tore up President Trump’s State of the Union address, rise up to applaud Trump’s expression of support for the US puppet Juan Guaido, the man being used by the US National Security State to overthrow the legitimate government of Venezuela.

It also explains the pro-war sentiments of supposed liberal media figures such as  Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper, both of whom are emblematic of the sort of liberal political and media figures who subscribe to “Humanitarian Wars” which fulfill the war agenda of the Military Industry and its perennial allies associated with the neoconservative agenda and the Israel Lobby.

The “Russiagate” smear is a disinformation exercise geared to denigrate and to discredit politicians. It is not limited to effecting the derailment of political campaigns, it also serves as a tool to be used to control the policy of a successful candidate in terms of their conduct of relations with Russia.

The reactions of those targeted has been varied. While Trump and Gabbard have actively fought against it, Sanders has unwisely played into the narrative by accepting the intelligence services claim that Russia has habitually interfered with the US electoral process and by referring to Vladimir Putin as an “autocratic thug”.

Many unfortunately are still unable to ascertain the obeisance to the dictates of the Military Industry as being at the root of the attacks and smears mounted against the likes of Gabbard and Sanders, and as a result the mainstream media is able to revive the canard of the Kremlin-orchestrated undermining of American democracy.

The question now is how much longer will the insouciant masses keep falling for the same old ruse?

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020).

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Sunday 23 February 2020

Fela and Acheampong

Colonel Ignatius Acheampong and Fela Kuti

A lot of people think that Thomas Sankara was the only African military ruler who was liked and respected by Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

This is not true.

For sure, Sankara was the only military ruler with whom he had a genuine personal friendship, but Fela praised Idi Amin, the Ugandan military dictator. It was a controversial decision for which he received a good deal of criticism, but one that was predicated on Amin’s anti-imperialist stance and his frequent denunciations of Apartheid South Africa.

Fela also took a liking to the Ghanaian military Head of State, Colonel Ignatius Acheampong. This in many ways is not surprising given that Acheampong had overthrown Dr. Kofi Busia, an arch-enemy of Fela’s hero, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, whom Fela had met as a child through his mother, Funmilayo Kuti.

Acheampong was known to be broadly sympathetic to Nkrumah’s ideology. His government “in the spirit of the January 13th (1972) Revolution” revoked the Busia government’s offer of a reward of $120,000 for anyone who could bring Nkrumah back to Ghana “Dead or Alive”. He declared a day of national mourning after Nkrumah’s death in exile, and was responsible for negotiating the return of Nkrumah’s remains to Ghana from Guinea. Acheampong had promised that Nkrumah would receive a burial befitting of his status as Ghana’s Founding Father.

An appreciative Fela dedicated a 1972 re-issue of his album Open and Close to “his Excellency I.K. Acheampong, Ghana Head-of-State, the first head-of-state I ever entertained. It was beautiful.”

But Fela’s respect for Acheampong would wane. 

During a temporary sojourn in Ghana to which he had sought refuge after the sacking of his Kalakuta Republic commune by soldiers of the Nigerian Army, Fela actively supported the cause of Ghanaian student activists in their protest actions against Acheampong, whose initial sense of promise had degenerated into the sort of economic mismanagement and blatant corruption of which he had consistently accused Nigerian military regimes. His 1976 song “Zombie”, which lampooned the Nigerian military, became popular among dissident university students who felt the lash of persecution for opposing Acheampong. The uneasiness felt by the regime over the songs use as a rallying call against the Ghana military was compounded by Fela denunciation of Acheampong and his cohorts on stage at Accra’s Apollo Theatre.   
Fela’s conduct culminated in his deportation from Ghana, an action that he felt was preceded by consultations between Acheampong and his Nigerian counterparts. Acheampong also imposed a travel ban on Fela which was not lifted until 1982 by the military regime headed by Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings.

Fela did not visit Ghana and does not appear to have endorsed Rawlings despite the revolutionary inclinations of his first government and the early proclamations of a radical type during the second one. Nonetheless, he did become very friendly with Capitaine Thomas Sankara, the Marxist and Pan-Africanist orientated military leader of Burkina Faso, who was a regional ally of Rawlings. Sankara’s assassination is said to have devastated Fela who described his death as a “terrible blow to the political life of Africans.”

He remembered Acheampong far less fondly.

So embittered was Fela by his treatment at the hands of the Acheampong regime that when recalling the uprising that brought junior officers of the Ghanaian military to power in 1979 to his biographer, the Cuban-born Carlos Moore, Fela referred to “That Acheampong motherfucker, who’s dead now. Got his ass kicked good by Jerry Rawlings!”

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020).

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Monday 10 February 2020

The American Malaise: Reflecting on Whether U.S. Politics is "Beyond Repair"

Tattered Glory” by Helena Martin

A recent BBC News article asked the quite pertinent question of whether U.S. politics is “beyond repair”. The points that the writer Nick Bryant makes regarding political “hyperpartisanship”, what he terms “the degradation of debate” and the corruption of both major political parties on the electoral front are quite valid, but fail to get to the heart of the matter. This is because it does not address deeper issues that link America’s social, political and economic malaise to the need for profound reform of America’s rigged economic system, its flawed electoral laws and its prevailing foreign policy.

America’s Economic System

The United States is a heavily indebted country. As of February 2020, the debt of the federal government stands at just over $23 trillion. It is a state of affairs which is often discussed at great length and one in which the country’s politicians and economists direct a great deal of blame at specific targets. Yet, no American politician of prominence ever addresses the role of usury at the heart of an economic system which is geared towards the facilitation of enduring and frequently unpayable debt.

Under a capitalist system, which some have termed state-sponsored usury; an unremarked but ever present conflict persists between labour and usury. And while usury is persistently triumphant, the inescapable truth is that labour is the only source of value. America needs to reject usury as the basis of money supply.

Unfortunately, there are few eminent intellectuals who are calling for such a profound change, which would logically begin with the abolition of the Federal Reserve System. The Federal Reserve was created in 1913 to take away control of the supply of money from America’s elected officials and privatise the supply of money and credit. As a result, it functions to serve the interests of the monied classes and not the public interest.

And while its heads are appointed by Washington, the oligarchs of Wall Street possess an effective power of veto. While its official aims are to promote “price stability” and “full employment”, a closer analysis of its modus operandi and its record in these areas reveals that attaining these objectives always involves subordinating the wider public interest to the interests of the financiers. Indeed, Alan Greenspan, the one-time head of the Federal Reserve, once stated that he believed full employment to be incompatible with the ideal of price stability. The body was responsible for using American taxpayer’s money to fund a bailout of ‘too-big-to-fail’ financial organisations, many of who operated in a criminally negligent manner while many Americans had to endure the humiliation of property foreclosures, denuded pensions and unemployment. In the final analysis, it exists to promote the interests of the minuscule creditor class at the expense of the majority debtor class.

In his book Killing the Host, Michael Hudson, a distinguished professor of economics, argued the case for re-regulating the whole of the financial system. This would require a revolutionary tax policy geared towards preventing the financial sector from extracting economic surplus and capitalizing on debt obligations paying interest to that sector.

The ending of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union is often hailed as the historical triumph of laissez faire economics. Yet, contentious debate about the merits of the Austrian School of Economics in relation to the Keynesian School, or of capitalist versus socialist models ignore the crucial issue of usury which saddles most of the population with debt.

Those in America who argue for neo-liberalism also ignore the fact that it has created as many ills in society as its proponents claim socialism creates. Only a small fraction of the society thrive in a system that is rigged in favour of oligarchs and corporations who often pay a lower tax rate than the average working man. It creates the conditions through which the parasitical and exploitative role of hedge-fund speculators can thrive. The neo-liberal ideology also creates the sort of casino banking culture that brought the United States to the brink of economic collapse in the late 2000s, as well as the sort of vulture capitalism which wrecks small American communities, the island of Puerto Rico and nation states such as Argentina and the Congo.

America’s Electoral Funding Laws

The development of the laws governing the funding of America’s elections, beginning with the 1976 case of Buckley versus Valeo culminated in the Citizens United versus Federal Electoral Commission case of 2010 has effectively given unrestricted power to the oligarchs who control America’s political class.

The decision in Buckley involved striking down certain provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act (1974), which removed limits to the amount of money which could be spent on campaigns, although limits remained in regard to the contributions of individuals. The Citizens United case went further. In overturning sections of the Campaign Reform Act (2002), it removed limits to expenditures made by non-profit and for-profit corporations. And in 2014, McCutcheon versus Federal Election Commission added to this by removing the biennial aggregate limit on individual contributions to national party and federal candidate committees.

Former President Jimmy Carter once bluntly stated what the implications are:

It violates the essence of what made America a great nation in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or being elected president. And the same thing applies to governors, and U.S. Senators and congress members. So now we’ve just seen a subversion of our political system as a major pay-off to major contributors, who want and expect, and sometimes get, favours for themselves after the election is over. … At the present time the incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody that is already in Congress has a great deal more to sell.

The law ensures that both Democratic and Republican parties are under the thrall of the rich and super-powerful lobbies such as the military industry, the Israel lobby and Wall Street interests. It also means that little or no scrutiny is directed, for instance, at the activities of sponsors such as Paul Singer, the second largest donor to the Republican Party in 2016 who funded a super-PAC that supports Republican senators.

It has also had implications in regard to the calibrating of the foreign policy of the United States. For instance, the financial contribution made to the election campaign of Donald Trump by the billionaire and self-avowed ‘Israel-Firster’ Sheldon Adelson, was explicitly related to changes in foreign policy. Adelson demanded that Trump recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He also expected Trump to renege on the nuclear agreement painstakingly reached between Iran and other nations. All of this has only succeeded in dangerously ratcheting up tensions in the Middle East.

For some, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is controlled by a triumvirate of oligarchs: Sheldon Adelson, Bernard Marcus and Paul Singer; a cynical but understandable analysis of the situation.

American Foreign Policy

Few among the American populace appear to be aware of the fundamentally unchanging nature of U.S. foreign policy. American militarism expressed through a perpetual interventionist policy of regime change has added considerably to its national debt and undermined its moral authority among the global community of nations. While regime change policies have a basis in the application of ‘American Exceptionalism’, as well as the influence of the neoconservative ideology, the unbending trajectory of foreign policy owes a great deal to the machinations of a hidden government of the sort expounded by the 19th century English constitutionalist Walter Bagehot.

While the term ‘Deep State’ has entered the lexicon of everyday language, it is rarely clearly defined and specifically linked to the conduct of America’s foreign policy, which Professor Michael J. Glennon of Tufts University posits has a great deal to do with an unaccountable entity that wields a great deal of power in the governance of a nation.

Glennon's argument is that what he terms the ‘Trumanite’ institutions composed of ex-military and security officials run national security policies at the expense of the ‘Madisonian’ institutions; that is, the separated organs of state which function to constitutionally check the power of each other and who are accountable to the electorate.

This assessment partly explains why no politician of note has ever addressed retired U.S. General Wesley Clark’s assertion that American foreign policy was “hijacked” by “some hard-nosed people” in the wake of the terror attacks of September 11th 2001. They have failed to address the war agenda revealed in numerous position papers published by neoconservative think tanks in the 1990s and 2000s which called for the destruction of a number of states perceived as being opposed to the interests of the United States. Uncoincidentally, most were enemies of the State of Israel.

While visiting the Pentagon during the period following the September 11 attacks, Clark was shown a plan of action which proposed the destruction of seven countries over a five-year period, starting with Iraq and ending with Iran. What is remarkable about Clark’s revelation is that all the countries on that list have been targeted since that time by a series of overt and covert military actions carried out by different administrations. Glennon’s allusion to the ascendancy of Trumanite institutions goes some way in explaining the unchanging national security policy of the administrations led by George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

The result of the implementation of the agenda has been an enduring engagement in Afghanistan, invaded in 2001 under the guise of a police action, but which has turned out to be America’s longest war; the respective destructive wars against Arab secular governments of Iraq, Libya and Syria, as well as the imposition of sanctions and persistent threats of war made against Iran.

The other salient expression of the new militarism developed in the aftermath of the ending of the Cold War is the designation of Russia as an enemy state. Here, the twin doctrines expressed respectively by Paul Wolfowitz and Zbigniew Brzeziński, have been crucial. The Wolfowitz Doctrine sought to formalise American hegemony by sanctioning the overthrow of governments resistant to the dictates of American interests and accepting such course of actions even when riding roughshod over multilateral agreements. The Brzeziński Doctrine incorporated a resolve to militarily intimidate and ideally balkanise Russia for it to be used as a source of the energy needs of the West. Both doctrines endorsed the view that in the light of dissolution of the Soviet Union, no power should be allowed to rise and challenge American supremacy over the globe.

This led to the expansion of NATO in contravention of an agreement reached between the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union that a condition for the reunification of Germany would be that NATO should not expand one inch eastwards. It has also resulted in the unilateral abrogation by the United States of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty in July 2002 by George W. Bush and Donald Trump’s renunciation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in August 2019.

A concomitant to this prevailing policy has been the orchestrated demonisation of Vladimir Putin -once compared to Adolf Hitler by Hillary Clinton- whose foreign policy decisions in relation to military engagements in Georgia, Ukraine and Syria have all been reactive to U.S. foreign policy objectives of destabilisation.

The United States, which has not won a war since World War II, constantly risks igniting a Third World War by these actions, which are stimulated by the Military Industry which thrives on the existence of conflicts. It bullies smaller nations through the threat of or imposition of sanctions and hypocritically, it has fought a succession of proxy wars through Islamist fanatics professing the ideology of the group which it holds responsible for instigating the 9/11 attacks.


Few Americans appear to be cognisant of the relative powerlessness of the office of the presidency. It is occupied by a person who may espouse and administer policies which appeal to their ‘Liberal’ or ‘Conservative’ constituents in the typically fractious discourse that permeates America’s ‘Culture Wars’, but who cannot address the fundamental issues affecting America’s decline.

Unless these issues relating to usurious economics, the control of politicians by oligarchs and the pernicious rationales governing foreign policy begin to be seriously addressed by America’s political and intellectual classes, the malaise, characterised by unending wars, extraordinary sovereign debt and increasing social polarisation, looks certain to bring about the collapse of the American Republic.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020).

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Miles, "The Prince of Darkness"

The ‘Prince of Darkness’ standing in the shadows. Miles captured at the Salle Pleyel Concert Hall, 8th Arrondissement, Paris on Monday, November 3rd 1969.

Just as Louis Armstrong was known as ‘Satchmo’ and John Gillespie was ‘Dizzy’, ‘Prince of Darkness’ was the acknowledged nickname of Miles Davis (1926-1990).

How did Miles come to be known as such?

It came from his penchant for wearing dark suits; the sombre, at times surly ambiance on stage which occasionally involved Miles playing with his back to concert audiences, as well as that dark, raspy style of speaking that became his trademark.

The Wayne Shorter-composed “Prince of Darkness” in the Miles Davis Quintet’s 1967 album Sorcerer alludes to it. Miles was a complex man who had a mean-hearted side, and yes, he was a genius and innovator who in his inimitable words changed jazz “five or six times”.

Few to none would argue with argue with him over that claim.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.