U.S. wars, starvation sanctions and planned destabilization are the overwhelming cause of the surge of hundreds of thousands of war refugees flooding across European borders and across the Mediterranean Sea. The major European-NATO powers collaborated with U.S. imperialism in each war.
The corporate media are publishing painful pictures of drowned children, sinking boats, news stories of suffocating trucks and reports of thousands camped in train stations and along roadways. They rob these reports of context by omitting the cause of the refugee crisis. Some people fear the enormous media coverage could even be cynical preparation to justify a new military offensive by NATO countries against Syria.
The real dimensions of the humanitarian disaster are largely hidden. The 340,000 destitute refugees who have reached Europe constitute only 3 percent of the over 10 million displaced people barely surviving in refugee camps in Syria or in countries bordering Syria. These neighboring countries are also destabilized by the surge of refugees and disruptive sanctions against Syria that ripple throughout the region.
The European governments dismissed the war-caused havoc as long as the crisis was kept off their doorstep.
The refugees’ dire conditions worsened because the meager United Nations Food Program has exhausted its funds and is now cutting hundreds of thousands of refugees off its aid in U.N. administered refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Syria. The U.N. agency needed a mere $236 million to keep the program funded through November.
According to NationalPriorities.org, the U.S. government has spent that much on wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria every 28 hours since 2001.
The largest numbers of refugees are fleeing from war-torn Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and South Sudan. U.S. corporate power, driven by its insatiable drive to secure control of valuable resources and push back progressive change, had targeted each of these countries. Not one of these wars was for humanitarian purposes. Each war is a source of enormous super profit in military contracts for U.S. and European Union corporations … and ruin for millions of people.
Washington’s strategy in each of these imperialist wars has been to enflame sectarian, ethnic, national and religious differences. This means organizing contending militias, pitting group against group to break down national pride and unified resistance. Divide and conquer is the strategy that dates back to the U.S. wars against Indigenous peoples on the North American continent.
The Pentagon cynically targets civilian infrastructure, including electric grids, fuel depots, irrigation, water purification, sanitation, local industries and especially schools in an effort to demoralize and disorient the population. Washington arms and empowers the most reactionary forces and corrupt warlords as collaborators.
Refugees of current U.S. wars
Syria today has the highest number of people displaced by war. U.S. sanctions as of 2010 were followed in 2011 by U.S./NATO and Saudi arming and financing of mercenary forces. This war has destroyed a formerly prosperous country where the population had modern infrastructure, quality free health care and free education.
Now almost half of Syria’s 23 million population is displaced. More than 4 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries. Mercenary and fanatic sectarian forces within Syria now number about 125,000 in a thousand competing bands from 80 or more countries.
The U.S. war in Iraq from 1990 to 2003 included massive, systematic destruction of infrastructure and 13 years of economic sanctions. The 2003 U.S.-British invasion and occupation of Iraq brought catastrophic ruin and orchestrated sectarian violence unknown in Iraqi history. Refugees and internally displaced people reached 4.7 million people. Almost half of the Iraqi refugees received shelter in overburdened Syria.
Since the 1978 Saur Revolution, which overthrew the monarchy in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has provided more than $3 billion to counterrevolutionary and warlord forces to destroy the revolution. For three decades, war-torn Afghanistan led in the U.N. lists in the number of war refugees. Through the 1980s, there were 3.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and 2 million in Iran.
The 2001 U.S./NATO occupation of Afghanistan created new waves of refugees. There are currently 1.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and 1 million Afghan refugees in Iran and millions of displaced people within Afghanistan itself.
In Libya, seven months of U.S./NATO bombing in 2010 destroyed the entire infrastructure of a modern state where nationalized oil helped achieve the highest standard of living in Africa. Hundreds of thousands of workers throughout Africa had found jobs in Libya, which had also provided economic development aid throughout Africa.
In appealing for assistance, Tunisia’s President Moncef Marzouki explained that two million Libyans, or one third of Libya’s pre-NATO-intervention population, have taken refuge in Tunisia. The number is equivalent to one fifth of Tunisia’s population.
Today, South Sudan has the largest number of refugees in Africa. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, there are 2.25 million refugees and spiraling civil war in this oil-rich country. As the Jan. 3, 2014, New York Times explained, South Sudan is in many ways a U.S. “creation, carved out of war-torn Sudan in a referendum largely orchestrated by the United States, its fragile institutions nurtured with billions of dollars in American aid.”
More than 2 million refugees in Ukraine represent the newest refugee crisis, caused by the expansion of the U.S.-commanded NATO military alliance to the borders of Russia. While Washington fails to provide funds to feed refugees from U.S. wars of aggression, the U.S. government spent $5 billion to fund the fascist forces and social networks that overturned the elected government in Ukraine. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland even bragged of this funding. The Kiev coup government is now waging war against anti-fascists in east Ukraine.
According to Russian Federal Migration Service-FMS statistics, a total of 2.6 million Ukrainians are currently in Russian territory. Some 1 million are from Ukraine’s southeastern regions, fleeing armed conflict in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
Past waves of U.S. war refugees
U.S. wars in Southeast Asia ripped Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos apart in the 1960s and 1970s. The effort to dominate the region failed but the massive destruction left 4 million dead, millions maimed and 2 million Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees desperate for resettlement.
Funding militias, warlords and drug lords was U.S. policy in Central America in the 1980s. The U.N. estimated that one-third of the workforce of El Salvador fled the country in the 1980s. More than a half million reached the U.S.
The war to expand NATO and dismember Yugoslavia, in Bosnia in 1995 and in Serbia in 1999, again used destruction of civilian infrastructure and enflaming sectarian differences. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, 3.7 to 4 million people were displaced and became refugees.
It should not be forgotten that it is more than 60 years of U.S. funding and equipping of Israel that enabled the expropriation of hundreds of thousands of people from Palestine, the longest and most protracted refugee problem in the world. BADIL, a research and advocacy center focusing on refugee rights, estimates that there are more than 7 million Palestinian refugees and displaced persons. This figure includes the 4.2 million Palestinians registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and other Palestinians displaced in 1967 and still displaced internally in Israel.
While billions of dollars continues to be allocated for war preparation, the World Food Program cut 1 million Iraqi refugees and millions of Syrian refugees from receiving $14 monthly food coupons. This confirms in the most violent terms that capitalist rulers are incapable of solving the humanitarian disaster that they have created. War preparation is profitable. Distributions of surplus food are not.