Refugees, internally displaced persons higher today than any time since World War II
June 20 is World Refugee Day and this year a report was issued revealing that the number of displaced persons has reached a post-World War II high.
Over 51 million people have been forced out of their homes as a direct result of war and instability. The leading conflicts responsible for this burgeoning problem are a direct result of imperialist policies initiated by the United States in Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia. (http://www.unhcr.org/53a155bc6.html)
This year’s report was largely kept out of the mainstream press fearing that the Washington and Wall Street ruling class would be targeted as the major source for international instability, dislocation, hunger and insecurity.
U.S. foreign policy is guided by the economic and strategic interests of the bankers, mining firms and defense contractors and therefore concerns about the impact of war and displacement remains secondary to the overall approach of corporate interests who determine the political direction of the capitalist state.
As the U.S. discusses a purported withdrawal from Afghanistan, this region of the world has been devastated as result of Washington’s actions since the late 1970s. Since the beginning of the war against the socialist government in Afghanistan initiated by the administration of President Jimmy Carter, the region has known no peace.
A full-scale occupation beginning in October 2001 only made matters much worse. Under the guise of fighting “terrorism” this time and not communism, millions of people in both Afghanistan and Pakistan have been dislocated and hundreds of thousands have been killed.
Some thirteen years later the Taliban has become stronger than they were in 2001 and al-Qaeda affiliates and offshoots are still fighting in other geo-political regions including Syria, Iraq, Yemen and North Africa.
Even though the administration of President Barack Obama says that the combat forces are being pulled out there will be an ongoing presence of at least 10,000 troops. A weak Afghanistan government cannot contain the Taliban and other opposition forces and consequently the internal and regional situation could spawn even more displacement both internally and across the borders.
U.S. Must Be Held Accountable for the Crises in Iraq and Syria
In 2011 the U.S. initiated a war of regime-change in both Libya and Syria. In Libya Obama sent in hundreds of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives early on during the rebellion which began in Benghazi.
On March 19, 2011, eight years after the initiation of the second bombing and occupation of Iraq, the Pentagon began operations against Libya by air and sea. Estimates indicate that some 50,000-100,000 people were killed and several millions were dislocated both inside the country and in neighboring states as well as Southern Europe.
Around the same time the U.S. along with its NATO and Middle Eastern allies supported the unrest aimed at toppling the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. As the conflict became more deadly, hundreds of thousands of Syrians, Palestinians and others fled across the borders into Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey.
It was the U.S., Britain, France, Turkey and their partners in the Gulf monarchies who armed, trained and provided diplomatic cover for the atrocities committed by the armed opposition groups in Syria. Military equipment which poured into Syria was utilized by organizations such as the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Levant (ISIL).
Today the U.S. government and the corporate media describe these formations as “radical Islamists” or “jihadists.” Yet when these organizations were wreaking havoc on the cities and villages of Syria they were described by leading political forces including the White House as “freedom fighters.”
The stated policy of the White House is to continue to push for the removal of President al-Assad’s government. An election which was held recently in Syria enjoyed a large turnout both inside the country as well as among the refugee and expatriate communities within neighboring states and abroad.
Nonetheless, the official White House position is that the elections were not legitimate. President al-Assad won by a landslide and this fact exposes the undemocratic and imperialist program that is being directed by Washington against Syria and other progressive forces in the region.
This war against Syria is now spreading with a vengeance into Iraq where the ISIL has taken huge swaths of territory in the northwest of the country, which is still devastated from the U.S. and British occupation between 2003-2011 in addition to the international sanctions regime implemented through the United Nations from 1990-91.
Over a million Iraqis died because of the sanctions, imperialist war and ongoing airstrikes during 1991-2003, even prior to the full-scale occupation which last for over eight years.
In corporate media accounts and statements from U.S. officials they fail to address their own culpability in the Iraq and Syria crises. At the same time the ongoing fighting in Iraq and Syria provides the U.S. and its allies with a rationale for carrying out a renewed round of military actions including airstrikes and the deployment of so-called “advisers.”
Somalia and the Horn of Africa
Another major source of internecine conflict, dislocation and food deficits is Somalia and the entire region of the Horn and East Africa. The U.S. has fomented unrest and sectarian violence in the Horn of Africa since the Ethiopian Revolution beginning in 1974.
In 1992 the U.S. led a failed so-called “humanitarian mission into Somalia. Within a year the Pentagon forces were in retreat due to the resistance of the Somalian people.
After 2001 the successive administrations in Washington have continued to intervene in the internal affairs of Somalia. The 1996-97 invasion of Somalia by Ethiopian military forces was encouraged by the Bush administration.
Since 2007 the U.S. has engaged in bombing operations, drone attacks and commando raids into Somalian territory. A 22,000 African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) military force has been occupying the country since 2007 and is funded by Washington and the European Union (EU).
During the period of 2008-2011 Somalia experienced the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. These problems are resurfacing as a result of the failure of AMISOM and the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) to bring stability particularly in the South of the country.
Ending Imperialist War Will Resolve the Burgeoning Refugee Problem
Anyone examining this history could not fail to recognize that the source of the displacement of millions throughout the oppressed world is the direct result of the militarist and corporate policies of U.S. imperialism. Consequently, the anti-war movement inside the U.S. and other allied Western states has a tremendous role to play in pointing out these realities to their constituencies.
One key aspect of exposing imperialism as the source of displacement and underdevelopment is that it undercuts the ideological position of the transnational corporations, the State Department, NATO and the White House. The problem is not “terrorism” since the same groups who are designated as such are funded by Washington and its surrogates around the world.
A drive for resource domination, the containment of China, Russia and Iran and the entrapping of billions through indebtedness to the banks is leading not only people in the Middle East, Asia and Africa into socio-economic crises but is having a deleterious impact on workers, farmers, youth and the nationally oppressed inside the U.S. and other Western countries.
The inability to provide jobs, social services, environmental justice, racial equality and self-determination to the majority of working class within the imperialist states is directly related to astronomical military budgets and the expropriation of wealth by the ruling class.
Mr. Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire, is one of the frequent contributors for The 4th Media.