Motion 67, which was passed at this year’s NIPSA Annual Conference, called “on the incoming General Council to support the refugees in their plight through lobbying, highlighting and raising awareness through the Global Solidarity Committee.” In the debate, we noted the failure of the media to properly define and differentiate between people falling within the various legal categories and statuses, who seek to enter the country. People, regardless of circumstances, are too often simply referred to, generically - as “migrants”. Caught up in this definition, are ‘asylum seekers’, refugees’, ‘economic migrants’ and European citizens openly availing of the free movement of people, goods and services, guaranteed by the EU. Despite the negative public perceptions generated by certain right-wing newspapers and the assertion that “these people are a drain on the economy”, the reality of the latter group is outlined in a report titled “Challenging Racism: Ending Hate”, by Dr. Richard Montague and Prof. Peter Shirlow. In this they point out that “recent European immigrants in the UK have paid £8.8 billion more in tax than they have consumed in public services.”
What then is a refugee?
A refugee is a person, defined within the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951, who ‘owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country…’ Because of the well founded fear of persecution, Article 31 of the Convention prohibits states from - “penalising a refugee for illegal entry when the purpose of their entry is to claim asylum”.
The real origin of the Refugees crisis
But, people smugglers are not the only villains of the piece when it comes to the “causes of refugees.” There are others in respectable society and the recently published Chilcott Inquiry has exposed some of them - most notably Tony Blair, who was the most vocal cheer leader for the United States’
“Global War on Terror”. That “ asymmetric” war against an abstract noun, continues without end. The majority of the world’s refugees are the victims of pre-planned interventions made by the US/UK in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and other conflicts, which have led to the slaughter and displacement of millions of people.
The British Ambassador’s view of Tony Blair
Christopher Meyer, the former British Ambassador to Washington commented on Tony Blair’s support for the Iraq invasion, in an article in the Daily Mail on 15 June 2014, stating amongst other things - “Last year,.... Tony Blair sought to justify his decision to go to war by arguing that Iraq was a far better place for the removal of Saddam Hussein. ‘Think,’ he said ‘of the consequences of leaving that regime in power.’ But today, - “Iraq is descending into such violence and disorder that its very existence as a sovereign country is under threat.”
“So, we are reaping what we sowed in 2003. This is not hindsight. We knew in the run-up to war that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would seriously destabilise Iraq after 24 years of his iron rule.“ “For all his evil, he kept a lid on sectarian violence. Bush and Blair were repeatedly warned by their advisers and diplomats to make dispositions accordingly.” Of course much the same thing could be said today about the situation in Syria and the position of President Assad, but our media and politics is not in a rational place at present. Christopher Meyer closed his article stating – “In 1999, in a speech in Chicago, Blair proclaimed his doctrine of intervention abroad in the name of liberal values. It became the philosophical underpinning for Britain’s invasion of Iraq. The time has surely come to consign the Blair doctrine to the dustbin of history.”
The Blair Doctrine - 22 April 1999
The Blair Doctrine, was announced in at the Economic Club in Chicago on 22 April 1999. It was a speech in which Blair effectively laid out the role Britain would play in the service of the United States and its global interests. He reflected - “At the end of this century the US has emerged as by far the strongest state.” He then challenged the principle of non-intervention in other countries, other than for the purposes of immediate self-defence, stating - “The most pressing foreign policy problem we face is to identify the circumstances in which we should get actively involved in other people’s conflicts. Non -interference has long been considered an important principle of international order. And it is not one we would want to jettison too readily. One state should not feel it has the right to change the political system of another or foment subversion or seize pieces of territory to which it feels it should have some claim. But the principle of non-interference must be qualified in important respects….” “I say to you: never fall again for the doctrine of isolationism. The world cannot afford it. Stay a country, outward-looking, with the vision and imagination that is in your nature. And realise that in Britain you have a friend and an ally that will stand with you, work with you, fashion with you the design of a future built on peace and prosperity for all, which is the only dream that makes humanity worth preserving….”
The Project for a New American Century
Blair’s words chimed perfectly with the “vision and imagination” outlined in the Statement of Principles of the Project for a New American Century, issued on 3 June 1997. In these, the Neo-Cons who would go on to senior positions in several US administrations, described the United States as the “world’s pre-eminent power,” and asserted that the nation faced a challenge to “shape a new century favourable to American principles and interests.” This would of course require significant increases in spending on defence and for the promotion of “political and economic freedom abroad.”
The group stated that the United States should strengthen ties with its democratic allies, “challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values”, and preserve and extend “an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity and our principles.” Singing from the same hymn sheet, Blair had asserted in Chicago - “ Globalisation has transformed our economies and our working practices. But globalisation is not just economic. It is also a political and security phenomenon.” The same is true of trade. Protectionism is the swiftest road to poverty. Only by competing internationally can our companies and our economics grow and succeed….. And it means using the new trade round to be launched at Seattle to extend free trade.”
The British American Project (BAP) and New Labour
Unfortunately Blair was not alone in his “Atlanticist” world view. An article in the Guardian in November 2004, exposed the role of the British American Project within New Labour. This group was founded in 1985 by the US Republican administration of Ronald Reagan, with a mission “to perpetuate the close relationship between the United States and Britain.” On the election of the New Labour government in 1997, the Project released a private circular headlined, “Big Swing To BAP.” The circular stated, “No less than four British-American Project fellows and one advisory board member have been appointed to ministerial posts in the new Labour government.” One of the key figures in this cabal was Peter Mandelson, who masterminded Tony Blair’s Labour leadership election in 1994. Subsequently Blair had him appointed as European Commissioner for Trade (2004-2008). In this role, he served as a bridgehead for the interests of the Project in promoting Free Trade, deregulation and the expansion of the EU relentlessly towards the borders of Russia. Another member, George Robertson, was Blair’s Defence Secretary. He became NATO Secretary General from 1999 to 2004 and was able to advocate for NATO membership for the former soviet, accession states to the EU. NATO describes itself as “A unique and essential partner to the EU” and there is a deliberate overlap in membership of both.
The Guardian revealed that BAP included a number of prominent UK and US journalists and broadcasters among its membership. The UK journalist, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, told the Guardian of one BAP conference: “The amount of drink, the way you were treated, the dinners with everyone who was anyone. ... Jonathan Powell [Tony Blair’s chief of staff] used to come a lot. I remember having many an argument with him beside swimming pools in white towelling dressing gowns. ... It was money that I’d never seen at any conference before. We [the participants] used to joke, ‘This is obviously funded by the CIA.’” President Obama’s “impertinent” intrusion into the Brexit vote in the UK, where he cautioned the electorate against Leaving the EU, is a little less surprising in this light.
General Wesley Clarke - Reveals the Neo Con Plans
And so a British Labour Government had committed the future of the country to an agenda directed from the United States, with its support already guaranteed for any and all military and economic interventions thought necessary by them. And the Neo-Cons had a plan, of sorts. In a candid interview with Amy Goodman on the US TV programme Democracy Now, on 2 March 2007, General Wesley Clark, a retired four-star general, who was Supreme Allied Commander of NATO during the Kosovo War, recounted a conversation he had in the Pentagon in September 2001-
“About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said “Sir you’ve got to come in and talk to me a second.” I said “Well you’re too busy.” He said “No, no.” He says, “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.” This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, “We’re going to war with Iraq? Why?” He said, “I don’t know.” He said “I guess they don’t know what else to do.” So I said, “Well did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?” He said “No, no.”
He says, “There’s nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq.” This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, “We’re going to war with Iraq? Why?” He said, “I don’t know.” He said “I guess they don’t know what else to do.” So I said, “Well did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?” He said “No, no.” He says, “There’s nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq.” He said, “I guess it’s like we don’t know what to do about terrorists but we’ve got a good military and we can take down governments.” And he said “I guess if the only tool you have is hammer, every problem has to look like a nail.” So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said “Are we still going to war with Iraq? And he said “Oh, it’s worse than that.” He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, “I just got this down from upstairs” – meaning the Secretary of Defense’s office – “today.” And he said “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and finishing off Iran.” I said “Is it classified? He said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “Well don’t show it to me.”
General Clarke was interviewed again by Amy Goodman on 10 March 2007, in which he recounted a conversation with Paul Wolfowitz in 1991:- “I said to Paul and this is 1991, I said Mr Secretary you must be pretty happy with the performance of the troops in Desert Storm. And he said, well yeah, he said but not really, he said because the truth is we should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein and we didn’t. And this was just after the Shia uprising in March of 1991, which we had provoked and then we kept our troops on the sidelines and didn’t intervene. And he said, but one thing we did learn, he said, we learned that we can use our military in the region in the Middle East and the Soviets won’t stop us.
He said, and we have got about five or ten years to clean up all those Soviet client regimes; Syria, Iran, Iraq – before the next great super power comes on to challenge us. […]” “This country was taken over by a group of people with a policy coup, Wolfowitz and Cheney and Rumsfeld and you could name a half dozen other collaborators from the Project for a New American Century. They wanted us to destabilize the Middle East, turn it upside down, make it under our control. It went back to those comments in 1991.”
The Global War on Terror and its Prosecution
Afghanistan - RAMBO unmasked
The first intervention of the “Global War on Terror,” was against Afghanistan, which was invaded in 2001. The mood for this was prepared by, amongst other things, changing the closing credit of Rambo 3 which had until then stated – “This film is dedicated to the brave Mujahideen fighters of Afghanistan,” to then read “ to the gallant people of Afghanistan”, in the re-releases after the 9/11 attacks in the USA, as many Mujahideen fighters formed allegiance with Al Qaeda during the civil war following the Soviet withdrawal. The current Afghan war continues to rage, with the Taliban making major advances in Helmand Province, formerly ‘held’ by British troops. The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, has stated in his recent report that “the US-led intervention in Afghanistan led to large-scale internal displacement”’. The report also states that there remain “at least 948,000 people displaced as a result of conflict and violence” and over 2 million Afghans cannot return to the country because it is too dangerous for them to live there.
Iraq is in chaos. As Christopher Meyer has described above.
Libya has not fared very well since Hilary Clinton joked of Muammar Gaddafi’s murder on 20 October 2011- “We came. We saw. He died.” ISIS has set up a Caliphate stretching 125 miles along the coast, with its headquarters in Sirte, the birthplace of Muammar Gaddafi. It is now under challenge from rival militia groups. Le Figaro has reported that Sirte has become “a hell on the Mediterranean”. More than two thirds of its residents have fled. Shops, schools and hospitals have closed.
The Hisbah (religious police) patrol the streets, punishing those who smoke, listen to music or dress immodestly. Residents are made to watch executions in the public square. Alleged spies are shot and then left strung up in crucifixion poses. Two rival governments are battling for control of a country that was once prosperous and at relative peace.
Syria – the latest Humanitarian Intervention?
In Syria, the analysis made by then Daily Telegraph Political Editor, Peter Oborne in his column on 5 June 2013, is playing out before our eyes - “.... Mr Cameron made a statement that dealt principally with the civil war in Syria...., “When I see the official Syrian opposition,” he replied, “I do not see purely a religious grouping; I see a group of people who have declared that they are in favour of democracy, human rights and a future for minorities, including Christians, in Syria. That is the fact of the matter.” “.....the Prime Minister has got it wrong from the start. He massively underestimated Assad’s support and staying power. He was absurdly contemptuous of the Russians (who have outmanoeuvred us all along). Above all, he has failed to understand the rebels.
.....Mr Cameron has made the mistake of taking the Syrian National Coalition seriously. They are intelligent, educated, well-intentioned men in suits – hotel guerrillas – and as such irrelevant to what is now happening in Syria. The Prime Minister would do well to read the mea culpa published last week in Al-Monitor, by a pseudonymous writer from Aleppo who calls himself Edward Dark. “So what went wrong?’ asks Mr Dark. “Or, to be more accurate, where did we go wrong? How did a once inspirational and noble popular uprising calling for freedom and basic human rights degenerate into an orgy of bloodthirsty sectarian violence, with depravity unfit for even animals?”
Mr Dark describes how the revolution has been captured by a collection of gangsters and fanatics. “This wasn’t what we revolted for,” he says in despair at the dreadful fate that has overcome the country he loves, “to replace one group of criminals with another.” Mr Dark now says he has given up on the revolution. He says that he has seen that the only way forward is “through reconciliation and a renunciation of violence”. “But armed elements funded and supplied by interested parties in Saudi Arabia and Qatar were also present from the start. Their fundamental aim was nothing to do with human rights and the protection of minorities. It was to destabilise and destroy President Assad, Iran’s closest ally in the region, and therefore assert Saudi dominance.” “To what extent have Britain and America been complicit? It is hard to judge. What can be said with certainty is that over the past decade the Middle East, and to some extent the Islamic world, has broken down into two armed camps. On the one side are Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, backed by the United States and (quietly) Israel. To everyone’s enormous embarrassment, al-Qaeda is very firmly in this camp.
On the other side are Iran, Hizbollah and post-bellum Iraq, strongly backed by Russia and China. Viewed from this wider perspective, Mr Cameron’s claim to be on the side of democracy and human rights, and against dictatorship, is not merely fraudulent – it is patently ridiculous.” Unfortunately UK foreign policy has not much improved with the recent change of Prime Minister.
Lebanon is paying a heavy price for the proxy wars in its region, and not just with the sacrifice of its Hizbollah fighters in the battle in Syria against the murderous fanatics of ISIS. Lebanon, which has a total population of just over
4 million citizens, is housing 1.2 million Syrian refugees from a conflict it did not start, as well as over 450,000 “stateless” Palestinians. That’s a refugee crisis.
A future built on peace and prosperity for all?
We haven’t seen the “future built on peace and prosperity for all,” which Tony Blair told us in Chicago, “is the only dream that makes humanity worth preserving….” What we have seen is ongoing Western intervention in the Middle East, each built up carefully with its own lead in and pretext - in Syria “red lines” crossed in chemical warfare, and various other ‘false flag’ operations. Each prefigured by the use of special forces, like with the SAS in Libya, the use of which at home or abroad, is conveniently not allowed to be disclosed to the UK Parliament. When these are “joint covert operations” between UK and US forces, these are again, conveniently placed outside of democratic scrutiny in the USA too.
We have seen “extraordinary renditions”, with a disgraceful misuse of Shannon Airport, secret CIA detention and interrogation camps across the world, the massive increase in the use of “hunter killer” Reaper Drones and a region awash with military vehicles and ordinance left over or newly provided, for the use of the latest ally amongst the various rebel groups. These alliances change so quickly that the LA Times had a headline in March 2016 stating – “In Syria, militias armed by the Pentagon, fight those armed by the CIA.”
“Tell them they are being attacked.”
The relative political ease with which we can remain at war in successive conflicts, without resolution in sight, whilst blaming the victims for their plight, is somewhat explained by Hermann Goering. This phenomenon is possible, because, as he ventured in his evidence to the Nuremberg Trials - “Naturally the common people don’t want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country. “
Jeremy Corbyn - an aside.
Whatever your views on Jeremy Corbyn, you’d have to acknowledge, he has been constantly attacked for a “ lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger”. This is even though he agreed with the advice given at the time, by the Intelligence Services, that invading Iraq would make Britain and the world less safe and he duly opposed the war on quite sensible grounds, supported of course by many of “the common people.”
Media ‘misdirection’ on the origins of the current refugees.
Despite claims in some of the media that most asylum seekers trying to get into Europe are economic migrants from Africa, the truth of the situation is in the statistics outlined in the most recent Asylum Quarterly Report, published by Eurostat in June 2016, (dealing with the EU alone) which confirms that - “Citizens of 150 countries sought asylum for the first time in the EU in the first quarter of 2016. Syrians, Iraqis and Afghanis were the top 3 citizenships of asylum seekers, lodging 102 400, 35,000 and 34,800 applications respectively.”
The main destination countries
“The highest number of first time asylum applicants in the first quarter of 2016 was registered in Germany (with almost 175 000 applicants, or 61% of total applicants in the EU Member States), followed by Italy (22 300, or 8%), France (18 000, or 6%), Austria (13 900, or 5%) and the United Kingdom (10 100, or 4%). These 5 Member States together account for 83% of all first time applicants in the EU.“
The current refugee crisis and the horrors faced by those fleeing persecution, are a consequence of deliberate US/UK interventions that are largely hidden from public scrutiny. Refugees and Asylum seekers are deserving of our support and sympathy, not our suspicion. The UK is not awash with refugees and we can and should do much more to help them in their immediate crisis. Public opinion and our politicians can be won over to the truth and we should note that all of the Northern Ireland MPs voted against David Cameron’s proposals for military action against Syria in 2013. Finally, we should be proud that the 2016 Northern Ireland Civil Service - Working in Partnership Award was won by the Syrian Refugees Operational Planning Group, Department for Communities – for their work in managing the arrival and integration of Syrian refugees into Northern Ireland. Peace be upon them.