SWP activist Michael Wallace investigates the connections between the West, war profiteering and the refugee crisis.
The horrors inflicted on the Syrian people have been raised to barbaric new levels. Air strikes on a hospital in Aleppo slaughtered three doctors, 11 nurses and 30 patients. This massacre was carried out by Assad’s forces. An estimated 400,000 people have been killed, millions made homeless and four million made refugees since the war began six years ago. Stuck between Assad’s bloody regime, Western air strikes and ISIS terror, those who escape this nightmare run straight into the borders of ‘Fortress Europe’, die at sea or face forced deportation as a result of the EU’s shameful deal with Turkey.
Imperialist interests and rivalries are fuelling Western-inspired conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen and creating future wars, barbarity and millions more refugees. As US and EU leaders wallow in their own hypocrisy over the refugee crisis, they continue flooding Syria and the wider Middle East with weapons sold to authoritarian regimes while taking in a trickle of refugees. The eight countries that have sent the most weapons to Syria since 2011 have also accepted the fewest number of refugees.
Since the beginning of the civil war, $16 billion in ‘military aid’ has entered the country, providing support for the various warring sides within Syria. The US has sold $7.7 billion in weapons to Syria yet has accepted just 1,400 Syrian refugees while countries such as the UK, Belgium, France and the Netherlands has sold $880 million in weapons and taken in a meagre 16,000 refugees.
For capitalism, war is a good business opportunity – great news for the profiteers who peddle destruction and death as a commodity. An estimated $18 billion is expected to be spent on weapons there this year, up from $12 billion last year. The five top arms purchasers are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Egypt and Iraq and the purchases include jet fighters, missiles, armoured vehicles, drones and helicopters. The world’s biggest arms exporters are the US, Russia, China, France and Germany.
US foreign military sales rose to a record high of $46 billion in 2015 and State Department figures show that the US sold $33 billion worth of weapons to its Gulf allies alone since May last year. The US also announced a new $1.9 billion weapons deal with Israel that includes Hellfire missiles, glide bombs and ‘super penetrator’ bombs. All this is wonderful news for precision bomb-makers like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon who stand to profit massively from ongoing bombing campaigns in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The chief executive of Lockheed Martin couldn’t contain his delight that “a lot of volatility, a lot of instability, a lot of things are happening” in the Middle East and that it’s become a “growth area” for his company.
Its rich pickings for the UK, France, Germany and Russia too. In 2015, Russian arms exports hit a record $14.5 billion with the Syrian war helping boost its status as a major arms exporter while the Assad regime also helps to showcase Russia’s latest weapons in what’s left of cities like Aleppo. As a key pillar of Fortress Europe, Germany increased its weapons exports to the Middle East and North Africa by 50% last year to reach €3.3 billion.
They’ve also continued to export sophisticated weaponry to Israel, selling a 5th high-tech submarine to the Zionist state that is capable of carrying cruise missiles tipped with nuclear warheads. While Saudi Arabia is also the US biggest arms market, France is the EU’s biggest weapons exporter to the brutal autocracy. UK companies have also sold an estimated £5.6 billion to the Saudis since 2010 and Cameron’s Tory government have approved more than 100 new weapons export licences in the last year. British fighter aircraft sold to the Saudis are currently bombing civilian targets in the tiny Middle Eastern country of Yemen, where nearly 3,000 civilians have been slaughtered and a million displaced by Saudi Arabia’s aerial bombardment backed by the US and Britain.
Tearing down Fortress Europe
War may be profitable for a handful of ultra-rich capitalists but it brings terrible suffering for masses of people and has created 60 million refugees and internally displaced people around the world today. Many are fleeing conflicts driven by US and EU weapons sales and heading to Europe only to be confronted by barbed wire, riot police, detention camps and forced deportation. The response from an EU that wears a phoney mask of humanitarian concern while engaging in war profiteering is to build walls and sophisticated security systems to keep refugees out.
This is the cruel and inherently racist ‘Fortress Europe,’ a throwback to the infamous Berlin Wall of old. In 15 years, the EU has spent €11 billion on coordinated deportations and €1.6 billion in developing barriers to prevent the entry of those fleeing war and poverty during which time over 22,000 people have died trying to reach Europe and safety. Four large multinational companies, Airbus, Thales, BAE and Finmeccanica, have benefited most from Fortress Europe contracts and all are among the world’s ten largest arms manufacturers.
The brutality of the capitalist system and its war machines can be confronted by the international solidarity of working class people. And it’s that solidarity that can tear down the monstrous ‘Fortress Europe’ and help human beings escaping slaughter and misery to find sanctuary and be made welcome here.
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