Ireland, refugees, and the white world’s wars

The inglorious history of the white world – Europe and its North American and Antipodean offshoots – continues to play out before our eyes with the current refugee crisis. It is portrayed as a crisis for Europe, or more specifically for the EU. In reality it is the manifestation of a series of crises for the refugees themselves, a consequence of their absolute desperation. And those crises – in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Libya, Somalia and other non-white states and regions – must be laid at the door of the white world.

The refugees are being divided into worthy refugees and unworthy migrants.

Worthy refugees come from war-ravaged Syria and, more grudgingly, from war-ravaged Iraq. They flee, seeking refuge from the fear of imminent death by bombing or shooting.

Unworthy migrants come from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, North Africa and other war-ravaged areas. They flee, seeking refuge from imminent death from foreign intervention and resulting civil war, or from death by starvation and disease created by those wars.

Seventy years ago, Palestine was a thriving stable modern state in which women as well as men had a stake, and in which Muslim, Christian and Jew lived in harmony. The US and Europe contrived to destroy that through mass plantation of foreigners and the imposition of an invented state, Israel, which would act as a proxy for the US and Europe in destroying that Palestinian state, using military and other oppressive means.

Fifty years ago, Afghanistan was a thriving stable modern state in which women as well as men had a stake. The US, Russia and Europe have since bombed it back to the dark ages.

Twenty years ago, Iraq was a thriving stable modern state with good standards of education, health, employment and housing, with few signs of street-level sectarianism and with women as well as men having a stake. But Saddam Hussein was a despot, the white world told us. The US and Europe have bombed it back to the dark ages.

Ten years ago, Libya was a thriving stable modern state with excellent standards of housing, education, health, employment and trade. But Gadaffi was a despot, the white world told us. The US and Europe, specifically in the case of Libya, Britain and France but with EU support, absolutely destroyed Libya, rendering it a completely unviable and very dangerous, destabilised, entity, bombed back to the dark ages.

Five years ago, Syria was a thriving stable modern state with good standards of housing, education, health and employment in which women as well as men had a stake, and in which sectarianism played little part on the streets. But Assad was a despot, the white world told us. The US and its allies in the area – Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the EU with Britain and France once more taking the lead, seized on internal unrest to destroy Syria. They, and their proxies, bombed it back to the dark ages.

The list of countries destroyed goes on. The list of bad despots is being reduced. The list of good despots remains intact.

And what of the response of Europe to the flow of refugees arising from all of that destruction?

Germany is being lauded for its generosity in taking in excess of 800,000 refugees, mainly from Syria. The German people are a generous people, as most people are, and they should be praised for their individual and collective acts of generosity in the face of such suffering.

But it is not to quibble to point out that the inflow of refugees is of great benefit to the German state and its economy. Very low birth-rates make both the state and economy potentially unviable. The arrival of a large body of well-educated and enterprising workers, well capable of supporting themselves and contributing to the German economy is a lifeline to Germany, where providing for example for future pension demands is a very serious problem without an expanding, younger, productive workforce.

The same is true across many countries of the EU, but some are complicated by a rise in xenophobia and racism whipped up by far-right parties. In the case of Britain, the ruling Conservative Party, responding to the rise of UKIP but a prisoner of its own imperialist past and present, can be lumped in with the far-right. France, led by a pseudo-socialist president, is busy re-establishing its colonial domination of swathes of Africa while the fascist-racist Front National rises closer to power.

And Ireland?

The response of the majority of Irish people has been humane and empathic. Generosity of spirit and offers of help including opening our borders to refugees flow from that.

In contrast with that the reaction, or lack of reaction, from the government is shameful. Addicted to neoliberalism, this government has studiously avoided tackling various national crises, including burgeoning homelessness, continued emigration of our young, the collapse of essential public services, the widening gap between the impoverished 20% and the wealthy, and so on.

Its reponse is to send a warship to provide humanitarian assistance, far from our shores. And that, effectively, is it.

Caught in the headlights of an election juggernaut over which the government parties have little control, and unable to read public opinion from inside the Leinster House bubble, our half-witted ministers flounder around trying to cobble a response, to no effect other than to embarrass the people of Ireland.

Public opinion needs to be expressed in louder terms. This government, representing as it does the desires and wants of the political class and its lower-order hanger-ons over the demands and needs of the mass of people, must be forced to act on behalf of the majority in this instance – the decent and empathic people of Ireland.

Open the borders. Give haven to refugees, and welcome them. Set the numerical bar high and not low – we can accommodate thousands of them. Some will eventually move home, or to other destinations. Hopefully many will stay and be part of us. They will be no burden, but a welcome addition.

And make reparation for allowing Shannon Airport to be used by US warplanes en route to bombing Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and en route to resupplying the Israeli murder machine.

That is the blackest stain on our national character. A proper response to the present crisis will go some way to removing it.

Refusing to ever again take part in the white world’s war on other nations and regions will help with that.

Our own history tells us that is the proper course of action.

We were refugees.


About Tom Stokes

Tom Stokes is a writer and journalist, and has taught media and journalism at foundation and under-grad levels. He holds a BA in Communications and Cultural Studies and an MA in Journalism from Dublin City University. He is a grandson of John Stokes, a striking tram driver in the 1913 Lockout and a Volunteer in Boland’s Mill in the 1916 revolution. He is an organiser of the Citizens’ Initiative to establish a new national day in Ireland on April 24th, to be known as Republic Day, and is co-organiser with Marie Mulholland of the campaign to have Ireland's new children's hospital dedicated to the memory of Dr Kathleen Lynn, to be named The Kathleen Lynn National Children's Hospital. View all posts by Tom Stokes

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