Refugees: Failure of big power diplomacy
Nearly 100 per cent of western press have taken up the problem of Lesbians and Homosexuals – so much they have forced governments in their countries to change the laws in their own countries – same sex marriages – all within the narrative of libertarians and equality and non discrimination.
I do not see the same dedication when the issues are foreign affairs and the responsibility of the West for their actions. 9/11 was an attack by seven Saudi Arabians on the World Trade Centre. All flights were grounded; yet six Saudi princes flew out of the U.S. in their private jets. Suspicion was centred on Saddam Hussein of Iraq who at that time was accused of having weapons of mass destruction, of having gassed his own people, that the Kurds were fighting a war of independence against Saddam Hussein and Iraq.
That country was subject, like North Korea to a series of UN sanctions and probes. These sanctions produced no credible effects except to make the middle class in Iraq poorer; encourage fundamentalism and radicalism, driving more people into the arms of the terrorists.
The UN set up an inquiring as to whether Iraq had any weapons of mass destruction under the Swedish diplomat, Hans Blitz. Meanwhile no propaganda stone was left unturned as the western press went after Saddam Hussein. He may have been an odious man but he was his country’s leader of choice. The U.S. went so far as to print playing cards of the 52 most wanted Iraqis and dropped these into Iraq. The divisions in Iraq between the Bathists and others, is between Sunnis and Shiites. Most of the world went along with the western narrative: no one questioned this narrative seriously.
Throughout the period that the UN mission was doing its investigation into the presence of weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. was preparing for war; large areas of countries surrounding Iraq were hosting massive U.S. invasion troops; all the surrounding seas were full of U.S. and other western nations’ Navy; there was no doubt in the minds of anyone that the U.S. was going to invade Iraq, acting under an enforced UN mandate, obtained by lies and forceful crude manipulation.
Saddam Hussein was no saint. He was an idiotic bofoon, a power drunk and despicable man. Earlier on, he had invaded Kuwait in an attempt to revive an old claim that parts of Kuwait belonged to Iraq. It was an unsustainable claim. Saddam’s forces were deservedly thrown out of Kuwait. He was humiliated and half his army destroyed or abandoned in the desert.
Even so, was the invasion of Iraq by the West – a coalition of 23 countries – against Iraq justifiable? The West spoke of regime change; they called Saddam Hussein a bloodthirsty despot, and lied to their colleagues in the UN and the rest of the world about Saddam and weapons of mass destruction. Hans Blitz had found none. But the war machine had already been started and could not be stopped. Donald Rumsfeld, General Colin Powell and President Bush, Tony Blair etc. were straining at the leech to unleash terror on Iraq with the might of the U.S. In six short days the war was over.
No contest, the Iraqi army, the largest in the Middle East, disbanded. Handpicked leaders were put in power when it became obvious Iraq could not be ruled as a conquered country. Worse than that, Iraq became the home of continuous hit and run guerilla tactics – it was ungoverned and ungovernable. Ineffective elections were held but insecurity and instability continued. Thousands left the country. The West had won the war, but could not win the peace.
At the same time, the West, having supported the ousting of the Soviet Union, in Afghanistan, helped impose probably the bloodiest regime the world has seen – the Taliban. It was not too long before the Western Coalition were locked in a bloody conflict in Afghanistan which, with Pakistan, had become the training ground of terrorists in their madrassas. It turned out that America’s most hated adversary, Bin Laden, was hiding within plain view in and around Afghanistan/ Pakistan.
More troops were dispatched to Afghanistan; another handpicked corrupt leader was put in charge of Afghanistan until an inconclusive election was held bringing a national government into existence there. Thus Iraq, Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan became a continuous theater of war, or a theatre where war was imminent.
These insecurities could never bring normal life in any of these countries, widespread humanitarian abuses that followed were all a direct result of the West behaving badly in that area. Such behaviour continued, with the complete disregard of international law and the establishment of a semi permanent state of war, causing hundreds of thousands to become homeless and refugees.
This continuation of freewheeling disregard for international law merely bred more extreme reaction resulting in greater radicalization, which feed into the Islamic terrorist and fundamentalist narrative. It is no wonder that each violent Western action feed more violence and more entrenched resistance – one fed on the other, so the west went totally unhinged in Libya and in Syria: net result was more refugees. Syria was bombed almost to smithereens. Again in Syria, Libya and Egypt – the West aimed at regime change, that is, putting leaders favourable to the West – so they killed Ghadaffi, jailed Morsi and now would not rest until Assad is removed from Syria.
There is no doubt that in all these countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Egypt etc. there were people who opposed the leaders of these countries. These opposition leaders would prove no better than the despicable leaders the West has been at pain to push – out. Why? What are the consequences of all these actions?
For nearly 12 years these areas have been in a state of war; more and more of their citizens are radicalized; the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia have proxy wars going on: more refugees – no one is putting pressure on Saudi Arabia – which has a readymade camps to house millions – or Kuwait or any other rich Arab Middle East state to take in their fellow Arabs and Muslims (except Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey). Now, the President of the European Union is asking refugees not to go to Europe.
Where is the international obligation of all countries to take in and look after refugees? Those in Greece are to be repatriated back to camps in Turkey (camps or prisons) where they would stay awaiting entry formalities in Europe. NATO ships would man the oceans and seas to drive back any boats carrying refugees.
The United State takes no refugees: it has a penal colony – Guantanamo Bay – to try people who had not been proven to have committed any crime. They are captured war officers, that is, prisoners or war – why can the U.S. not try them under the Geneva Convention in the United States? Under which international law is there a classification of – “enemy combatants”? It’s alright to put Muslim Arabs and Afghans in a prison camp next to Cuba but their presence can never contaminate the U.S. criminal justice system!
The initial action of the West in the Middle East, and their sustained maintenance of their interest there is responsible for the present migrant problems. The faceoff between the West and Russia, between Sunni and Shiite is working itself out in the Middle East. A western press so eager to stamp out slavery, to allow lesbians marry lesbians, homosexuals to marry homosexual, have such scant sympathy for the women, children, men uprooted from their countries because of the massive bombings, arm supplies of their own governments.
What is causing the division between Russia, China and the United States? Is it ideology, if so, which one? All three seem to be successful capitalist economies, in fact, if not in name. Did they inherit a historical antipathy, but so did the French and the British, Germany and Poland etc.
Perhaps it is that Russia succeeded the Soviet Union and so occupies the old position of USSR in a bi-polar world. This is hardly so: it was the U.S, which destroyed USSR, thus paving the way to perestroika, Gobachev and ultimately Putin.
Is it the struggle for world dominance and Power? Or are they all suffering from structural rigidity? Maybe, even if all profess to want globalization but China, Russia seem more closed than the U.S.
If all three were to be less antagonistic, less bellicose, they might find solutions to world problems: the world would be an easier and more peaceful place. They could mediate between North and South Korea, the Middle East, Latin America and so on. If all three had an entente cordial – what does this say to people seeking freedom under authoritarian rule? Would such a cordial not reduce the unregulated traffic in arms in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and the rest of the world?
The West and Russia need great statesmen who must realise that no matter what happens, the Middle East is lost to them, if not now, soon enough. These statesmen must construct a platform of peace, not a ferocious encouragement of wars. President Nixon saw the power of China long before anyone else and sought to bring that potential state of war to one of respect and peaceful coexistence between China and the West. I thought Obama would have done the same – he is intellectually able to do so, but his political enemies, for all kinds of reasons, including racism, would not allow him to bring peace to the Middle East, the Far East and the rest of the world. He broke the glass ceiling in Cuba. He must wean his warmongers and turn them to peace mongers. Ironically, the U.S. stands to gain more from peace than war.
But for now, the inescapable conclusion is that the refugee problems belong to the West and Russia. General Colin Powell, once memorably said about Iraq: “If you break it, you own it”. The West must accept responsibility for their actions in the Middle East, and the refugee debacle.
• Dr. (Ambassador) Cole OFR, wrote from Lagos.
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