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The U.S. has responsibility for Syrian refugees because we started destructive wars

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This post appeared more than a week ago on Roland Nikles’s blog. Events have superseded some of his facts, but the sentiments in this post seemed important to convey. –Editor.

This lorry left Budapest for Austria early Wednesday morning, August 26, 2015, with a cargo of 59 men, eight women, three children, and one baby girl. They were from places yet unknown. They reached the border at 9:00 a.m., where the lorry held up. The truck slipped into Austria at nightfall.

Who were these refugees, what was their suffering? What were their stories?  Who was this driver? What is his story?  Who were the hard hearted men who collected the money and provided the truck? How much money did they collect to smuggle these 71 people into Europe?

The cargo bed lacked adequate ventilation. Sometime during the night the driver parked the truck on the side of the A4 motorway near picturesque Neusiedel am See…. and escaped, back to Hungary.

The 71 migrants were dead by then. Did they pound on the cab? Did they plead for light and air? How could they be refused?

Thirty years ago I read Russell Banks’s Continental Drift, about the tragic intersection in the life arc of Haitian refugees and a working man-come-human-smuggler down on his luck.  It sent me into a depressive funk for a month.  Is it the story of this driver? He’s in custody of the Hungarian police. Perhaps we’ll learn more. Almost certainly there is a criminal syndicate with blood on its hands.

On Thursday morning, an employee mowing the grass noticed a putrid liquid dripping from the back of the truck. The stench of death was thick in the air. He called the police.  The bodies were so badly decomposed the body-count was grossly underestimated at first. Syrian travel papers were discovered in the heap of rotting flesh, guts, and intestines of men, women and children.

They say half of the Syrian population is displaced, trying to stay out of the way of the war between ISIS, various Al-Qaeda offshoots, militias, and the the regime of Bashar al-Assad. It was a vibrant country of 17 million with infrastructure in 2003. But today the country is destroyed by the civil war that broke out following the United States war on Iraq (2003-2010), the United States war on Afghanistan (2003-present), revolution in Egypt, and Europe’s armed intervention in Libya and the toppling of Gaddafi. More than 250,000 are dead as a result of this war. More than 3.5 million refugees have fled the country. Where can they go? What do they find? What sufferings and uncertainties do they experience?

What is the alternate history where Al Gore is elected President in 2000? What is the alternate history where the United States does not launch two destructive 10 year wars in the Middle East in 2003? How much of the current refugee problem in the Middle East and North Africa is traceable to our actions in these wars?

Hundreds of thousands of refugees are on the road in a continuous stream heading for Europe. Through the Balkans they head for Austria and Germany; across the Mediterranean they head for Italy and Germany.  Approximately 300,000 refugees have made their way across the Mediterranean this year. Nearly 3,000 have drowned or were murdered along the way.

What is our collective responsibility towards these people?

Germany has agreed to resettle 30,000 Syrian refugees in this crisis so far, and this week Germany suspended the European conventions designed to limit refugee immigration with respect to Syrian refugees.  With its move, Germany (for now) will no longer send Syrian refugees back to their first point of contact, and will instead permit them to apply for asylum in Germany. That is good news. In the meantime, Britain has closed its doors and accepted just 90 refugees; Denmark just 140; and Spain just 130.  See RT News. The U.S. has not done its part.  We have accepted 350 Syrian refugees this year, although this will be increased to nearly 10,000/year. France has accepted 5,000 (as of June 2014).

It’s time to do more.

Roland Nikles

Roland Nikles is a Bay Area writer and attorney. He blogs here: And you can follow him on twitter @RolandNikles

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11 Responses

  1. Atlantaiconoclast on September 8, 2015, 2:02 pm

    And I hope everyone here realizes that the Israel Lobby has been a major advocate for intervention against both the Iraqi and Syrian regimes. Oded Yinon planned the destabilization that we see today in the Middle East. If you don’t know who he is, here is a little background: and

    This needs to be known by every American. If people begin to realize that Israel has been behind much of this chaos in the Middle East, things just might change for the Palestinians.

    • italian ex-pat on September 8, 2015, 5:51 pm

      @ Atlantaiconoclast

      Somewhat related: Many of these Syrian refugees are Palestinians, descendents of families who’ve been living in refugee camps in Syria since they were expelled from their villages by Israel in 1948.
      Just yesterday I was reading that Hannah Ashrawi (of the Palestinian Authority) had made a request at the UN that these Palestinian refugees, forced now to move again because of the Syrian war, be allowed to be granted asylum in the Palestinian West Bank, rather than embarking on a long and dangerous journey trying to reach Europe. Fat chance! Netanyahu has already stated unequivocally that Israel is ‘too small’ to take in any refugees, and ‘will not be overwhelmed by a flow of ‘terrorists’. Even though, legally, the WB is not Israel. And his political opponent, Herzog, has expressed support for such humanitarian move.
      Apparently, as far as Bibi is concerned, there is plenty of space and housing for all the Jews of France and the rest of the world, including the ultra Orthodox extremists from the US, who are certainly not living in refugee camps nor bombed out of their homes, but who, by virtue of simply being Jewish, possess the only necessary requirement to be welcomed into the country. And who then move into the WB illegal settlements with the sole divine mandate, it seems, of harassing the indigenous inhabitants and take over more of their land – when not downright killing them.

      • b.grand on September 9, 2015, 12:48 am

        Actually, Bibi said that Israel is too racist to take any refugees.

  2. b.grand on September 9, 2015, 12:54 am

    Brits got 100K, so can the U.S. Please sign!

    Go to to sign petition— And please share

    “we petition the obama administration to:

    Netanyahu is to hold talks in New York this month. Under international law he should be arrested for war crimes.

    Benjamin Netanyahu to be arrested for war crimes when he arrives in New york

    Benjamin Netanyahu is to hold talks in New york this September. Under international law he should be arrested for war crimes upon arrival in the U.S for the massacre of over 2000 civilians in 2014”

  3. Froggy on September 9, 2015, 8:25 am

    PM David Cameron has confirmed that the UK will take up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years.

    French prime minister rejects ‘Christians only’ call
    Manuel Valls has criticised two mayors who said they would only take in Christian refugees, insisting: “You don’t sort [refugees] on the basis of religion. The right to asylum is a universal right.”

    President François Hollande announced on Monday that France would take in 24,000 people over two years, with the first 200 arriving from Germany on Wednesday.

    What about the US?

  4. K Renner on September 9, 2015, 7:03 pm

    I’m surprised to find myself really “defending” America in a specific context, but the USA didn’t start the Syrian Civil war.

    It is wholeheartedly responsible for the Iraq tragedy, although the element who absolve Saddam for whatever reason ought to take note that I say the US was responsible for him and had an obligation to the Iraqi people because of that.

    What they ended up doing just was a historic blunder of epic proportions.

    Going back to Syria– the USA has an obligation to assist Syrian refugees, and give them shelter, because that’s the basic humanitarian thing to do. That’s the end of it– you help people like that, who’re in dire straits, when you’re an affluent and very powerful country especially, or you’re morally bankrupt in the face of the crisis.

    Which is a stain that doesn’t wash away. Ever.

    • Keith on September 9, 2015, 8:24 pm

      K RENNER- “…but the USA didn’t start the Syrian Civil war.”

      Of course the empire is behind the destabilization of Syria, as is Israel, Saudi Arabia, et al. Back in 2001, Syria was one of seven countries targeted for regime change by the neocons, according to General Wesley Clark. There is enough information on the internet from reliable sources that this shouldn’t be a surprise.

      • K Renner on September 10, 2015, 5:02 pm

        ” Of course the empire is behind the destabilization of Syria, as is Israel, Saudi Arabia, et al.”

        Right, blame everyone in full except for Bashar Al-Assad.

        Good for you, you’re a textbook example of an extreme left winger and a good reason for my not associating with the left in full.

        I see Palestine and being pro-Palestinian as a common-sense issue, not a leftist issue.

        ” Syria was one of seven countries targeted for regime change by the neocons, according to General Wesley Clark. There is enough information on the internet from reliable sources that this shouldn’t be a surprise.”

        Doesn’t change the fact that Hafez and Bashar were and are the worst, barring Saddam and the legitimate Wahhabis.

        Saying as much isn’t an endorsement of the USA as “a force for good” or any such thing like that.

        But I remember you. You’re an apologist for the genocidal Serbs in the Bosnian wars, and for Russia in Afghanistan and Chechnya.

        No better then the worst, most twisted Palestinian-haters in the pro-Israel camp, as far as I’m concerned.

        Shame on you.

      • Keith on September 10, 2015, 8:56 pm

        K BRENNER- “No better then the worst, most twisted Palestinian-haters in the pro-Israel camp, as far as I’m concerned.”

        Credit where credit is due, you combine ignorance and arrogance in extraordinary proportions, along with an uncivil tongue. Perhaps you feel that the imperial powers that be will reward you for your faithful service? Surely you can’t believe what you say, which is wildly over the top. The empire is on a rampage and you are cheering wildly. Hardly someone I will respond to in the future.

    • Atlantaiconoclast on September 10, 2015, 9:00 pm

      Ok, let’s review some things. We now have clear info from official government documents, that the US and the West supported the rise of ISIS in Eastern Syria, as a counterweight to Assad. See Judicial Watch got the documents from the DOD declassified. I suggest you read the quotes to see for yourself.

      Secondly, do you really think the West has supported the rebels out of concern for human rights? Assad may be a dictator, but compared to the Saudi rulers, he is a benign dictator. Unlike the House of Saud however, his nation is under relentless attack from Islamic extremists to his north, east, west and South. Abraham Lincoln ALSO killed a lot of people in his quelling of violent rebellion in the US, but for some reason, you and others overlook that, and deify Lincoln. Lincoln’s forces destroyed the South, including the burning of Atlanta, and the almost complete destruction of the University of Alabama. So try being consistent in your condemnation of rulers using force to put down violent rebellions.

      By the way, I have yet to see anyone provide objective evidence that Assad has gassed his own people. We are supposed to believe that Assad would have gassed his own people the very week that he had invited UN investigators to the very region where the gassing took place. The evidence actually shows that the rebels got the gas from Libya, and used it against Syrians. See Seymour Hersh’s work on this.

      Finally, I am not left winger. I abhore neocon AND Leftist policies. Assad probably made mistakes sure, but you and others want to pretend that he is unique in putting down a violent extremist rebellion with ruthless force.

  5. ziusudra on September 10, 2015, 3:55 am

    Sweden is taking ca. 600 pro 1 mn. swedes.
    Germany is taking ca. 400 pr 1 mn Germans.
    Italy 90,
    France 70,
    UK total 20K , one time once,
    Hungary, Check & Slow., Lettland, None!
    EU anyone? Yes, but just for de dole.
    Denmark just cut off Train Service to & fro Germany,
    also its Highways stopping further migrancy to Sweden.

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