Blood on their hands: Libya’s boat refugees and “humanitarian” imperialism

By Johannes Stern and Bill Van Auken
April 21, 2015
World Socialist Web Site


The horrific death toll of African and Middle Eastern refugees and migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe is a damning indictment of all the major imperialist powers, and most particularly the United States.

The American president, Barack Obama, and his former secretary of state, Hillary “We came, we saw, he died” Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, have blood up to their elbows. They set the present catastrophe in motion through brutal wars for regime change waged under the hypocritical and discredited banner of “human rights.”

At least three more boats packed with refugees from North Africa and the Middle East were reported to be in distress in the Mediterranean on Monday, with a minimum of 23 more people said to have drowned.

This adds to the many hundreds of people, perhaps 1,400, who have lost their lives over the past week in a desperate bid to escape military violence by the US and its European allies, civil wars stoked by Washington and the European Union, and pervasive poverty exacerbated by the machinations of imperialism in the region.

On Monday, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said distress calls had been received from an inflatable life raft carrying 100 to 150 migrants and a second boat with some 300 people aboard. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said a caller reported that 20 people died when one of the vessels sank in international waters.

In a separate incident, at least three migrants, including a child, died when a boat, apparently coming from Turkey, ran aground off the Greek island of Rhodes. Video footage showed the wooden boat, with people crowded on the deck, heaving in the Aegean Sea just off the island. Eyewitnesses told the local radio station that there were many Syrians, but also people from Eritrea and Somalia.

The latest drownings follow the deaths of close to 950 people on Sunday in the sinking of a refugee boat off of Libya. According to the Italian Coast Guard, the completely overloaded boat capsized about 130 miles off the Libyan coast.

“We were 950 people on board, including 40 to 50 children and 200 women,” a survivor from Bangladesh told the Italian news agency ANSA. Many people were trapped in the hold of the ship and drowned under horrible circumstances. “The smugglers had closed the doors and stopped them leaving,” said the man.

Over 500 more people died the previous week in two separate sinkings of boats attempting to reach Europe across the Mediterranean.

Since the beginning of the year, at least 1,700 people attempting to immigrate to Europe have died in transit, 50 times the number for the same period last year. According to the IOM, the number of people dying in the attempt to reach the shores of Europe rose by more than 500 percent between 2011 and 2014.

Of course, 2011 was the year that the US and its NATO allies, principally France and Britain, launched their war for regime change in Libya, under the fabricated pretext that they were intervening to prevent a massacre by the government of Muammar Gaddafi in the eastern city of Benghazi.

This “humanitarian” mission initiated a six-month US-NATO bombing campaign that killed at least 10 times the number who died in the scattered fighting between government troops and armed rebels that had preceded it. This imperialist intervention, which utilized Islamist militias with ties to Al Qaeda as its proxy ground forces, left Libya descending rapidly into chaos and destruction.

Nearly two million Libyan refugees—more than a quarter of the population—have been forced to flee to Tunisia to escape an unending civil war between rival Islamist militias and two competing governments, one based in Tripoli and the other in the eastern city of Tobruk. According to the web site Libya Body Count, some 3,500 people have been killed just since the beginning of 2014—three years after the US-NATO intervention.

The escalating barbarism in Libya has included mass executions. The latest, made public in a video released Sunday by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), was of some 30 Ethiopian migrants. This follows by less than two months the similar mass beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians at the hands of ISIS, which has seized Libya’s eastern port city of Derna as well as parts of the city of Sirte.

There were no such mass sectarian murders in Libya before the US-NATO war for regime change, nor for that matter did Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militias exist as any more than a marginal force. These elements were promoted, armed and backed by massive airpower after the major imperialist powers decided to topple and murder Gaddafi and carry out a new rape of Libya.

The disastrous consequences of this predatory neocolonial intervention are now undeniable. It is only one in a growing number of imperialist wars and interventions in the oil-rich Middle East and North Africa that have destroyed entire societies and turned millions into refugees. These include the wars in Iraq, Syria and now Yemen, as well as interventions by the imperialist powers or their regional proxies in Mali, Somalia and Sudan.

According to Amnesty International, the escalating conflicts in Africa and the Middle East have “led to the largest refugee disaster since the Second World War.” Amnesty estimates that 57 million people have been forced to flee worldwide in the last year, 6 million more than in 2012.

The American press, led by the New York Times, writes of refugees fleeing poverty and violence in the Middle East and North Africa without so much as mentioning the actions of the United States and its European allies that have caused the humanitarian catastrophe. What is unfolding in the Mediterranean is not a tragedy; it is an imperialist war crime.


14 thoughts on “Blood on their hands: Libya’s boat refugees and “humanitarian” imperialism

  1. sojourner

    I’ve already begun a post on this. I have no words at the moment to describe my disgust for what is causing all of this misery and tragedy and in the world!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. sojourner

        Absolutely! But the media, in the US, is owned by the powers that be as well.

        When I was in college, in the seventies, there were 60 INDEPENDENT news companies in the US. Today, there are only six CORPORATE news companies, and all of them are part of corporate conglomerates, which are owned and operated by vermin like Rupert Murdoch!

        So truthfully, the news sources are part of the system/order and cannot tell the truth about anything. Everything is rigged!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. migarium

    There is no doubt that migration is a complex issue. But now, judicial and criminal investigation as well make more sense, not sociological or economic analysis of immigration. Because as a systematic, it had committed a premeditated murder. There’s a mechanism covering the crimes brazenly in front of people’s eyes and dragged 1,500 people to death last 3 months.

    According to data from the organization responsible for Europe’s borders “security” Frontex, most illegal immigrants proceed from Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Of course, the European gentlemen and ladies are waving fingers immediately, especially those in Libya and Syria, toward the human traffickers.
    Listen to British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond’s interview:
    “We should have target the human traffickers, who are cause to death of so many people, and we need to prevent of that these innocent people are deceived.”

    Perhaps you may have not seen, a kind of game was made the at BBC website in early April, “escape from Syria,” a type called “game”. Scenarios might encounter over possible endings faced by a family trying to escape from Syria. You take the place of a immigration working families. But somehow you are cheated by all of the traffickers, gangs of or “from rogue regimes”. The happy ending is to escape unharmed…Here’s a game that enables empathy with people who live in tragedy… The source of tragedy is obvious: war, human traffickers, cruel regimes. Such you might say…

    Due to the crisis of the Italian state cut off search and rescue operations called Mare Nostrum last year, this work was handed over to EU …
    Justification may not be crisis, you can say that the EU bureaucracy. In any case, no doubt, Italian state welcomed this decision; reduced their costs.

    Because, monthly costs of Mare Nostrum, which has the capacity to search and rescue operation in 30 thousand square miles area, was 9 million Euros. Instead of it, EU brought Triton which is cost 3 million Euro. Mare Nostrum was providing oversight to the Libyan coast from Italy. If Triton can only reach up to 30 sea mile from Italy.

    All of these are quotes from:

    Article was very long, but I could try to pick some important points. Actually, it contains very important information.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. newsfortherevolution Post author

      “We should have target the human traffickers, who are cause to death of so many people, and we need to prevent of that these innocent people are deceived.”

      Perhaps they should stop turning countries into lawless, failed states where living conditions are so bad people are forced to risk their lives to find a safe place for themselves and their families.

      All of these countries have been destroyed by western imperialism, and so many people here are angry about “immigrants” and “refugees” coming to our countries. It’s so common to hear people saying that these “immigrants” should go back to where they came from. People have no idea that our governments have reduced those countries to rubble

      Liked by 1 person

      1. migarium

        Everything depends on the cost. The cost of this people is not equal the search and rescue ship in their eyes! But they did not think cost when they bombed to their country. On the other hand you’re right, in here, the people angry to immigrants too. The situation is a little different in here, there are approximately between 1.5 million and 2 million immigrants here. The reason of anger of the people, the state gave a salary to them. And I do not know you belive me, but their salary is more than a worker minimum wage. Which is in Turkey, 7 millon people live with minimum wage salary. So they are making money without working more than Turkish workers. Certainly not all of them. But it 3/5 of them takes.
        Here is an event which I’ve experinced. I had spoken with an immigrant family under a bridge one day. Actually there were only son and father. Son was a maximum 4-5 years old. It was cold and the raining, they were living under a bridge. The man said me he was a teacher at his country. After for a while, I’ve described the places that he could get help, and I left from there. There are many like him, doctor, teacher. And they have been forced to leave the country. But not all the same. Some came because it just contradicts political reasons. This is frustrating even for an extraterrestrial.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. newsfortherevolution Post author

        If the government can afford to give them more than minimum wage, I would think they could afford to raise minimum wage for the people of Turkey. If minimum wage there, is like it is here, then it is probably very difficult to live on and support a family.

        It is very sad that people, especially children, are forced to live in such conditions. I can’t imagine what it must be like the be living under a bridge

        Liked by 1 person

      3. migarium

        In Turkey minimum wage is 3 $ hourly. And I have to say, Turkey is not cheap country. And this salary is even not enough just one week. Approximately 27 million people live on hunger limit. Almost every union raises its voice and makes public meeting. But government doesn’t hear. And after the last internal security laws, now, almost everyone who steps out the street almost is being taken custody.
        The govt that has dragged the Turkey dept, is spending money like water to itself and its partisans. Almost entire world heard R.T.Erdogan built himself residential place called Aksaray, which is cost about $ 560,000. Plus, every single day the people in here heard the new costs. This is only cost of structure of building. For example, the cost of the carpets at there 400,000 Euro. Only one glass price is same number with monthly minimum wage of a worker. And goes on. Ottoman Empire at its last period, it scattered money around. Ottoman never thought the public it didn’t matter they ethnics, Turks, Kurds and the others, Ottoman exploited all. History repeats itself. There are the same conditions with before the WWI. At the outside there are those who want to land from Anatolia. Inside there are those who want to sell the country. People are hungry and poor. The people of Turkey are very patient. But “when the blade sticks to bone”* it will be different. I think that we’ll all see in next two years.
        *It is a phrase means like “it’s not bearable any more”

        Liked by 1 person

      4. newsfortherevolution Post author

        There are similarities here. We don’t have the open corruption, but it is there. Our rights are being taken away, and our quality of life is eroding. Pay is declining and cost of living is increasing. The prospects for the young are particularly bleak.

        I think the economic crash is coming soon and it’s hard to say how bad it will be for most people after that

        Liked by 1 person

  3. sojourner

    I agree completely!

    And the only way to do this, in the US at least, is to tear down the entire system/order. I see no other way, because the insane few hands own and control everything that is the system/order.

    It is maddening, I know. This is why some nights I lay in bed thinking, What the hell is the use of writing, when everything here is rigged. But then I get up and continue, because just maybe, there is someone or someones who will have the answer to all of this hell.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: The Disastrous and Genocidal Cost of Democracy & Capitalism Being Forced on the World! | An Outsider's Sojourn II

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