Syria Calls Refugees Home While US Imperialism Punishes the Refugees it Creates

In a photo taken during a guided government tour, Syrian soldiers raise their weapons while holding a picture of President Bashar Assad as they leave the eastern city of Deir al-Zour on Aug. 16, following a 10-day military operation.

by Danny Haiphong, first Published on Black Agenda Report

“Our focus should be on stopping the wars that create refugees, including the fascistic war on the Black poor.”

For seven years, the US ruling class has united with a broad array of vultures to suck the nation of Syria dry–of its independence, sovereignty, and oil and gas resources. Israeli, Turkish, Saudi, Qatari, and European oligarchs joined forces with the US to launch an offensive in 2011 aimed at destroying the Arab nationalist state of Syria. Jihadist mercenaries of various shades and forms invaded the nation from all directions, creating one of the greatest refugee catastrophes in human history. Yet Syria never bowed down and, although far from total victory, has been able to achieve a virtual stalemate with its imperial enemies. The US plan to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has failed, and Assad is calling Syrians back home.

According to PressTV , the Syrian government has called upon the international community and humanitarian organizations to assist in the voluntary return of Syrians displaced during combat with foreign invaders back to the country. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) most recently recaptured a strategic town in the province of Daraa . This province has long been known as an entry point for armed groups into Syria. The truth is that the SAA has been consistently taking the country back from hoards of armed mercenaries backed by the imperial powers and their junior partners. This is an inconvenient reality for the US war machine since it calls into question the lie that “Animal Assad” has been the primary cause of the ills afflicting Syria.

“The US plan to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has failed, and Assad is calling Syrians back home.”

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is depicted by the US and its imperial allies as a savage, an autocrat, and a ruthless tyrant. Orientalist and racist depictions of Assad have ensured that few people living in the US or Western orbit are willing to speak up about the atrocities that their nations have committed in Syria. In fact, Orientalism compelled some sections of the so-called left to protest anti-imperialist organizer and journalist Ajamu Baraka at this year’s Left Forum. The hundreds of thousands of Syrians that have been killed and the millions that have been displaced have all been conveniently blamed on a “foreign” dictator said to possess not an ounce of humanity for his own people. Like Libya, many opponents of the Syrian government also claim to stand for justice for displaced refugees. They see no irony in the fact that while little evidence can be found of Assad’s culpability in the production of refugees, plenty of evidence exists that implicates the United States in the creation of uprooted people all over the globe.

Unlike Assad, US imperialism creates refuges, then punishes them. In Africa and the Middle East, US-imposed starvation sanctions and proxy invasions have sent millions fleeing to Europe from terror in Somalia, Libya, Mali, and Syria. Successive administrations since Clinton have created a humanitarian catastrophe in Somalia without much of a word from the corporate media. Thousands of people in the US and Europe have demonstrated against racist immigration laws that have made the lives of those fleeing from Latin America even more precarious. Yet few oppose the “free trade” agreements that have devastated the economies of nations such as Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador or the long history of US intervention in these countries that has created the conditions that make it necessary for people to flee.

“US imperialism creates refuges, then punishes them.”

It is critical for leftwing organizers and journalists to raise the issue of war to the forefront of all analyses and organizing work conducted in the United States especially. We don’t oppose US militarism or imperialism out of some need for moral or political superiority. In the age of austerity and neoliberal capitalism, any efforts to expand housing, jobs, and healthcare for the masses have been and will continue to be violently opposed by the capitalist oligarchs at the helm of imperialism. Trump was not wrong when he said during his 2016 campaign that trillions have been spent on wars overseas since 9/11 alone. This is a fact that must not be disregarded just because Trump said it. The trillions that the US military state requires to destabilize nations abroad is wealth stolen from workers and poor people, wealth that could be used to repair the harm done to people abroad AND secure the needs of the oppressed residing here too.

War is often mistakenly viewed as foreign policy or the military dimension of the US state. Many use the term “imperialism” to describe US warfare. Indeed, war is a critical component of US imperialism, but it is not the only component. Imperialism is the system of monopoly capital that requires war to expand its profitable ventures. Finance capital rules and seeks to engulf the world in the flames of war to ensure that wealth concentration remains unchallenged. Refugees are expected byproducts of imperialist social relations and are treated as “collateral damage” by the lords of capital.

“It is critical for leftwing organizers and journalists to raise the issue of war to the forefront of all analyses and organizing work.”

There are numerous examples historically where the US has ruthlessly punished the refugees that have emerged from its destructive imperial policies. As a burgeoning imperial power, the US plundered East Asia through an “open door” policy while systematically excluding and lynching Chinese migrants who made their way to US shores. During World War II, the United States rejected the admission of Jewish migrants fleeing Nazi persecution after major US corporations helped bankroll the rise of Nazism in Germany. The US also imprisoned thousands of Japanese Americans in gulags at the height of the so-called “good war.” And in the recent refugee crisis in the Middle East and North Africa, the US has used its influence to convince Europe and Turkey to absorb as many refugees as possible, all the while refusing to accept any of the millions that have been displaced from Syria or the broader region.

Syria has lost nearly half of its population to displacement or death, all thanks to the United States and its imperial partners. Even the BBC has acknowledged that the war on Syria has largely been a foreign-sponsored proxy war. It should be cause for celebration that the Syrian government has regained enough strength and territory to confidently invite citizens back home to the sovereign nation. Syria has shown people around the world what really stops and prevents refugee crises: self-determination and independence. The ruling class has historically viewed the self-determination of oppressed nations as one of the most frightening and loathsome developments in human history, second only to socialist revolution. Therefore, it has spent much of its time and energy demonizing Syria and convincing people in the US and Europe to despise the Syrian government. If an expanded war were to break out, the empire needs as many loyal foot soldiers as it can get.

“Finance capital rules and seeks to engulf the world in the flames of war to ensure that wealth concentration remains unchallenged.”

Syria’s long, hard march to victory has pushed US imperialism’s back against the wall and thrown the imperial powers into a state of desperation. Framing Assad as a cruel agent of chemical warfare has failed time and time again. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) released a report earlier in July that found no evidence of nerve agents at the site of the last alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma. The Syrian government continues to take back territory and its Russian and Iranian allies have repeatedly affirmed that they will not cease their assistance to the Syrian government until the threat of regime change has been vanquished. To make matters worse for imperialism, the US and its allies are currently bickering among themselves. Trump’s rhetorical gestures toward scaling back US participation in NATO have once again struck fear in the eyes of the European ruling classes.

The unraveling of US imperialism and its allies presents an opportunity that is in danger of being completely wasted if the aim of any so-called “movement” remains an irrelevant fight for a gentler, kinder form of imperialism under anyone but Trump.  Anti-Trumpism is a variant of dead-end liberalism. It presumes to care about refugees but fails to recognize the historical facts on the ground. US imperialism creates refugees, then punishes them. It has always done this and won’t change unless overthrown and replaced. Our focus should be on stopping the wars that create refugees, including the fascistic war on the Black poor that is fueled by the austerity and policing regimes beholden to the same war profiteers wreaking havoc and destruction in every corner of the planet.


Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the forthcoming book entitled “American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: The Fake News of US Empire” (Skyhorse Publishing).  He can be reached at wakeupriseup1990(at)gmail.com

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