by Danny Haiphong
The same imperialist powers whose proxy war created the Syrian refugee crisis claim a “humanitarian” responsibility to wage more war against the country – “a reworking of the centuries-old imperialist logic that US and European domination brings ‘civilization’ and ‘democracy’ to the native.” Europe will now reap the whirlwind of blow-back, “this time in the form of uncontrollable migration.”
The Refugee Crisis and the Truth behind Imperialism's "Humanitarian" Response
by Danny Haiphong
“Imperialism is set to justify all future interventions in the region through the continuation of the supposed humanitarian war on ISIS.”
Whatever imperialism touches, crisis follows. In recent weeks, the imperialist bloc in Europe and the US has been forced to respond to the migration of hundreds of thousands from the Middle East and North Africa. These so-called refugees are a product of imperialism's policy of destabilization in the region. Up until this point, imperial destabilization has been largely ignored by the large majority of people who live in the countries responsible for the destruction. This changed when the corporate media reported about three year-old Aylan Kurdi, whose dead body washed ashore on a beach in Turkey during his family's migration from Syria to Europe.
The image of the body exposed for all to see the inhumanity of what is happening to the people of the nations in question. Suddenly, Europe and the US scrambled to ensure refugees had somewhere to go to escape imperial carnage. Germany and other European nations decided to open their borders to hundreds of thousands despite the racist and xenophobic conditions that exist for non-whites in the EU. Since at least 2001, capitalist economic crisis and the War on Terror have reinforced what has been a historical fact for centuries: Europe is the birthplace of colonialism and racist terror. The "Je Suis Charlie" demonstrations and the mass drowning of North Africans in the Mediterranean last year are evidence of Europe’s consistently racist policy on migration.
“Europe is the birthplace of colonialism and racist terror.”
But given the global scale of imperialism's path of destruction, the US and its allies haves found it necessary to develop a humanitarian narrative to cloak the consequences of their war crimes. This narrative is a reworking of the centuries-old imperialist logic that US and European domination brings "civilization" and "democracy" to the native. Iraq and Afghanistan have lost millions of people along with their self-determination since the US-led "democracy" project began in 2001. In 2011, the US and its allies asserted a "Responsibility to Protect" UN proclamation in order to justify the overthrow of Libya's socialist government. The dismemberment of Libya was deemed a "humanitarian intervention" to save the Libyan people from the Gaddafi-led state. After NATO bombs laid waste to Libya, the nation came under the rule of competing jihadist forces financed by the imperialist powers. These forces have rendered the nation ungovernable ever since.
Imperialism has employed the same strategy for Syria, the nation that is seeing the highest rates of migration around the world. The war on Syria also began in 2011 as a "humanitarian intervention" on the part of imperialism to topple the Assad government. Just as the corporate media and its masters in Washington spewed viscous lies about the Gaddafi government's mass slaughter of Libyan civilians, so too was Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused of maiming his own citizens. This narrative justified imperialism's support for proxy terrorist forces such as the Free Syrian Army, Al-Nusra Front, and ISIS. When this strategy failed to overthrow Assad, imperialism continued the "humanitarian" war in Syria under the guise of fighting the very same ISIS terrorists it has supported since the war's inception.
“No mention can be found in the corporate media of imperialism's culpability in the largest civilian migration since World War II.”
Syrians are migrating in droves due to the terror that regular airstrikes and imperialist-backed terrorist forces have wrought all over the country. The supposed “resettlement” of migrants, whether it is in Germany or any other imperialist state, should thus be seen as an act of war. The corporate media's coverage of the crisis since Aylan was found on Turkish shores is a critical piece to this war. No mention can be found in the corporate media of imperialism's culpability in the largest civilian migration since World War II. The official debate has kept the political narrative within the confines of imperialist interests. Either imperialism extends a "humanitarian" hand to the victims of its policies or it closes its borders and punishes the victims as Israel does to its African refugees and the US does to undocumented migrants from Central America and Mexico. Both policies end up serving the same imperial agenda.
The "humanitarian" narrative is arguably more dangerous to the struggle against the roots of the current migration crisis than the rampant xenophobia experienced by migrants in the West. It feeds on the trough of white supremacy's guilt complex, which has provided the foundation for the NGO-wing of the imperialist system. Non-Governmental Organization's have been useful for imperialism in the formerly colonized world. For example, the Clinton Foundation has accumulated billions from Haitian resources in the aftermath of the cholera and earthquake disasters. NGO's such as the Red Cross are painted as "humanitarian" institutions that provide economic and political development to the so-called underdeveloped world. What they actually do is facilitate the looting of these nations.
“The corporate media has effectively positioned the creators of the crisis as the victims' saviors.”
NGOs are driven by the imperialism’s "humanitarian" ideology. So too is the imperialist response to the migrant crisis. Imperialism has revived the "humanitarian" narrative to keep people from questioning the causes of the crisis. CNN and other media mouthpieces for imperialism have played a central role in this regard. By promoting non-stop coverage of how the imperialist countries should or should not address the crisis, the corporate media has effectively positioned the creators of the crisis as the victims' saviors. Many have understandably become outraged at the site of hundreds of thousands of refugees leaving their war-torn nations. Some have demanded that Europe and the US provide immediate asylum. But such a narrow view of the crisis inevitably misleads people in the US and Europe toward the colonialist idea that the West (imperialism) has the responsibility to come to the humanitarian aid of “less fortunate” peoples of the world. This colonialist narrative gives fertile ground for imperialism to launch future "humanitarian" interventions whenever convenient.
A key task for revolutionary minded people is to counter the white supremacist narrative of humanitarianism as the sham that it is. The “human rights” NGOs Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International promoted the idea of imperialist benevolence to help the US and its allies wage outright war on Libya in 2011. Now, with Syria hanging onto its self-determination and sovereignty among a similar dual assault of imperialist air strikes imperialist-backed jihadist forces, imperialism is set to justify all future interventions in the region through the continuation of the supposed humanitarian war on ISIS. Australia is set to bomb Syria while accepting more refugees. This is a blatant indication that “humanitarian intervention" is the cause of the refugee crisis plaguing imperialism today. Once imperial lies about the crisis have been dispelled, the question of why the system cannot control the consequences of its wars requires explanation.
“The people of Syria, Iraq, Libya and nations all over Africa and the Middle East are fighting for survival against the most deadly imperialist wars history has ever known.”
The answer lies in the fact that the imperialist system is in an irreversible crisis, one which leaves it vulnerable to collapse. And since at least 2001, imperialism has possessed a hit list of non-cooperative nations to balkanize in its quest to maintain global hegemony. Syria made the list alongside Iran, Somalia, Libya, Sudan, Lebanon, and Iraq. Most of these nations have long since been destabilized, but Syria and Iran remain independent. Imperialism sees these countries as reservoirs of wealth that will give a boost to the falling profit rate of the Wall Street economy. Their ruin will also weaken the resistance axis to imperialism that is currently led by Russia and China.
Yet the imperialist system has bit off more than it can chew. It does not possess the capability to conduct full scale invasions without sending the capitalist economy into a crash. Imperialism has coalesced with its allies to wage wars of destabilization instead. As a consequence, destabilization is coming to the doorstep of imperialism's borders. Europe is being saddled with the task of "resettling" the refugees despite the EU's capitalist economy's shaky condition. Clear observers can only come to one conclusion. Imperialism must either roll back its endless war program on the sovereign nations of the world or continue to incur blow back, this time in the form of uncontrollable migration. Imperialism is incapable of doing the former, so expect the latter under its dictates.
Imperialism's crisis can only be resolved through the system's destruction. This will take a revolutionary movement led by oppressed people that is prepared to seize the time and turn delicate situations into opportunities to strike. The people of Syria, Iraq, Libya and nations all over Africa and the Middle East are fighting for survival against the most deadly imperialist wars history has ever known. It is beyond time that we strengthen the development of an anti-imperialist political movement in the imperialist center (US) rooted in the self-determination of oppressed people. Only this can challenge the imperialist ideal of "humanitarianism" in this era and replace it with the revolutionary ideal of human liberation.
Danny Haiphong is an organizer for Fight Imperialism Stand Together (FIST) in Boston. He is also a regular contributor to Black Agenda Report. Danny can be reached at [email protected] and FIST can be reached at [email protected]m