June 20 is World Refugee Day. This year, a report issued by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees revealed that the number of displaced persons has reached a post-World-War-II high.
More than 51 million people have been forced out of their homes as a 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.
This year’s report was largely kept out of the mainstream press in fear that the Washington and Wall Street ruling class would be targeted as the major source of international instability, dislocation, hunger and insecurity.
U.S. foreign policy is guided by the economic and strategic interests of the bankers, mining and oil firms, and defense contractors. Concerns about the impact of war and displacement remain secondary to corporate interests, which determine the political direction of the capitalist state.
The report comes as the U.S. discusses a purported withdrawal from Afghanistan, which has been devastated as the result of Washington’s actions from 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, millions of people in both Afghanistan and Pakistan have been dislocated and hundreds of thousands have been killed. Some 13 years later, Taliban forces have become stronger than they were in 2001. Al-Qaeda affiliates and offshoots are still fighting in other regions, including Syria, Iraq, Yemen and North Africa.
Even though the administration of President Barack Obama says the combat forces are being pulled out, there will be an ongoing presence of at least 10,000 troops. A weak government in Afghanistan cannot contain the Taliban and other opposition forces. Consequently the internal and regional situation could spawn even more displacement, both internally and across borders.
U.S. must be held accountable
In 2011 the U.S. initiated a war of regime change in both Libya and Syria. In Libya Obama sent in hundreds of CIA operatives early on during the rebellion that 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 to 100,000 people were killed and several millions were dislocated, both inside the country and in neighboring states as well as in 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 that armed, trained and provided diplomatic cover for the atrocities committed by the armed opposition groups in Syria.
More than 1 million Iraqis died because of the sanctions, imperialist war and ongoing airstrikes between 1991 and 2003, even prior to the full-scale occupation which lasted for more than eight years.
Corporate media accounts and statements from U.S. officials fail to address imperialist 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” in Somalia. Within a year Pentagon forces were in retreat due to the resistance of the Somalian people.
After 2001, 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 Clinton administration.
Since 2007 the U.S. has engaged in bombing operations, drone attacks and commando raids in Somalian territory. A 22,000 African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) military force has been occupying the country since 2007, which is funded by Washington and the European Union.
During the period of 2008-11 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 to bring stability, particularly in the south of the country.
What will resolve refugee problem
Anyone examining this history could not fail to recognize that the direct source of the displacement of millions throughout the oppressed world is the militarist and corporate policies of U.S. imperialism. Consequently, the anti-war movement in the U.S. and other allied Western states has a tremendous role to play in pointing out these realities to their members and constituencies.
Exposing imperialism as the source of displacement and underdevelopment 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 designated as terrorist 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 socioeconomic crises, but is also 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 the working class within the imperialist states is directly related to astronomical military budgets and the expropriation of wealth by the ruling class.