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Issue #1945      14th December, 2020

US “War on terror”

Part 3


Creating Refugees: Displacement Caused by the United States’ Post 9/11 Wars, was released on 21st September, 2020. Published by Brown University, it calculates that over the nineteen years of the US War on Terror, more than thirty-seven million people – probably more – have been displaced, and the wars on terrorism (so-called) have decimated the nations involved, causing 5.3 million Afghans; 3.7 million Pakistanis; 9.2 million Iraqis; 1.2 million Libyans; 7.1 million Syrians; 4.4 million Yemenis; 4.2 million Somalians; and 1.7 million from the Philippines to become refugees. And the colonisation of Palestine must be considered here even though it can’t officially be recognised as a war on terror.


Oil-rich Libya has been in chaos since the Arab spring movement and NATO’s bombing campaign that toppled Colonel Gaddafi in 2011. Attempts to build a democratic state have disintegrated into a new civil war between rival groups since 2014. Armed groups, including extremists such as Islamic State, have proliferated and the lawless country has also become a principal transit point for people from across Africa wanting to reach Europe.

As recently as the 12th November at least seventy-four African migrants died in a shipwreck, with forty-seven rescued which meant the boat was carrying more than 120 migrants, including children, when it capsized off the coast of Libya. At least eight other shipwrecks have occurred in the Central Mediterranean in the past six weeks. The International Organisation for Migrants (IOM) reported at least 900 migrants bound for Europe have drowned this year and some 11,000 others have been stopped at sea and returned to Libya, where migrants are frequently detained, abused, exploited and subjected to trafficking.

According to IOM, 181,436 migrants arrived in Italy by sea in 2016, an eighteen per cent increase compared to 2015 and a six per cent increase over 2014 totals. There is, however, a shift in the origin of migrants, with the largest portion leaving Libya being from Syria in 2014, reducing to 1,000 in 2016 due to a change of route via Greece and Turkey. The current migrants are Africans, chiefly from Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The largest numbers of displaced persons in Africa come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (3 million), Nigeria (3.3 million), North Sudan (2.4 million) and Somalia (1 million).

The distraction and chaos in Libya made it possible for many migrants from SSA to cross over to Europe using overcrowded rubber boats. Most of the migrants come from Senegal, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria as well as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Sudan and the Horn of Africa.

Looking at the situation practically this is not a case of Africans ‘invading’ Europe, as the overwhelming majority remain in their countries of origin. Stronger emphasis is needed to support the people in these countries by tackling the root causes of their migration. Besides economic, educational and governance projects, a stronger focus should be on the actual influence of US ‘deterrence’ which, instead of winning the war against terror, might well be the cause of terrorism in SSA.

An interesting, but pertinent aside, is to remember the thousands of people now living in exile, like the Chagossians, the original inhabitants of Diego Garcia, removed in 1966 when the UK leased the island to the US for use as a naval base. There is also the effect of a UN resolution that has seen thirty years of instability in the Horn of Africa. However, this history must be the subject of another article.

How can this war on terror be justified? And why are Americans and people around the world allowing this to continue? Why do Australians who are so proud of the ‘Fair Go’, allow their government to go in lockstep with the US government?

The war on terror has insidiously metamorphosed into inter-imperialist exploitation and competition of which the US is the most active participant. Its military hegemony has become a threat to humanity: no-one is taking into account the polluting carbon emissions that their warfare has added to the environment, and continues to add via ‘war games’ such as RIMPAC.

It is no longer a fight against Islamist groups but has become a global competition with Russia and China, Iran and others into which the whole of humanity is being drawn. The annual spending of the US military, which in 2012 was thought to be at least $170 billion, has to be redirected to rebuild a safer sustainable economy to prioritise human and social needs above corporate profits. The societies broken by the evil, inhumane and reckless policies of the US and its corporate ‘buddies’ must be rebuilt. The world needs to face the threat to humanity created by capitalism and its wars – with the risk of nuclear war – as well as climate change.

Next article – Peace for disability justice

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