The ‘Regime Change Refugees’


refugeesJulien Mercille hi res

From top: Refugees cross the border from Serbia into Hungary yesterday; Dr Julien Mercille

The refugees crossing Europe should be welcomed as they are fleeing chaos of the west’s creation.

Dr Julien Mercille writes:

We have heard a lot about the hundreds of thousands of refugees flocking to Europe, but much less about Europe’s responsibility for this state of affairs. Indeed, most refugees are fleeing countries in the Middle East that have recently been invaded or attacked by Western forces or seriously affected by the consequences. In short, this is “blowback” from Europe’s own militaristic actions.

It is a no-brainer that a rich continent should help people leaving poor countries out of desperation. And because Europe also bears a direct responsibility for the chaos, it has an even larger moral obligation to do everything possible to fix the problem.

However, media coverage has highlighted personal tragedies and stories such as that of the little boy (Aylan Kurdi) drowned on a beach. Those stories show the human costs of the crisis. However, Europeans could look at thousands of images of drowned children without ever knowing that their governments played a large role in creating the problem through war.

Military interventions for regime change in the wake of 9-11 in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have involved the United States, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Spain. The no-fly zone to remove Muammar Gaddafi from Libya was led by the UK and France, with assistance from Norway, Denmark, Belgium and Canada, among others.

The large majority of refugees come from exactly those places, like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Ireland played an important role as well by allowing US military flights through Shannon airport on the way to and back from those wars. This is still going on, as the group Shannon Watch reported last week:

“Right now, armed US troops and military planes move through Shannon Airport on a daily basis. We contribute to the NATO-led operations in Afhganistan, a country that has been brought to its knees by the US/NATO invasion, and we supported the equally devastating NATO invasion of Libya. And we provide tax breaks and other supports to companies that develop and manufacture components used in the lethal weapons systems that kill innocent people throughout the Middle East”.

In Syria, the atrocities were triggered partially by the spillovers of the Iraq war. Groups like ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front which are terrorising large areas of the Middle East emerged out of the invasion of Iraq, evolving from al-Qaeda’s activities there.

This is well described by the journalist Patrick Cockburn in his book The Jihadis Return. For example, many of the leaders of the Islamic State movement were incarcerated in an American prison in Iraq called Camp Bucca for a few years during the occupation.

As the Washington Post reported, “Camp Bucca provided a unique setting for both prisoner radicalization and inmate collaboration—and was formative in the development of today’s most potent jihadist force”, ISIS. The radicals’ time in prison “deepened their extremism and gave them opportunities to broaden their following” so that “the prisons became virtual terrorist universities”.

Therefore, as James A. Paul, the former executive director of the Global Policy Forum (based on New York), said, to use the term “regime change refugees” would go a long way to change the media discourse and popular understanding of the situation.

Also, while Europe is procrastinating and dragging its feet to welcome hundreds of thousands of refugees, countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have already received 3.5 million of them from Syria, and they haven’t invaded Iraq or Afghanistan.

A Sunday Business Post investigation revealed Ireland’s shameful record. During 2008-2014, the total number of people given refugee status in Ireland was only a third of the average across the EU’s 28 member states (relative to population size of European countries). Whereas Ireland accepted only 46 asylum seekers per 100,000 population, the EU average was 148. Ireland has thus the second-highest rejection rate of asylum seekers in the EU, after Greece. Those figures completely undermine our government’s recent claims that it has provided a “very large response” to the crisis.

But hope has come, once again, from ordinary people. There have been numerous actions across Europe supporting the refugees. We will have to pressurise our governments if any sense of morality is to influence the response to the ongoing tragedy.

Julien Mercille is a lecturer at UCD. He is the author of Cruel Harvest: US Intervention in the Afghan Drug Trade (Pluto). Twitter: @JulienMercille

62 thoughts on “The ‘Regime Change Refugees’

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      So some school thinks Muslim boys can’t control themselves and this means the entire German nation has made a mistake letting in refugees? That’s definitely a rational and logical thought process you’ve got going on there.

      1. chicken

        what complete BS. Germany has been accommodating immigrants for a long time already. For someone who actually lives here there are many people from the Middle East and Turkey amongst others. One of my good friends actually came with here family during the 70s from Afghanistan. Germany just makes it easier for those people to integrate than some other places. Offering integration courses and other language courses.
        The only issue now is the actual en masse volume of arrivals & that there is a lack of space in some areas to accommodate the sheer number of people.
        However, people are offering all that they can clothes, books, toys etc. to the shelters and so on. And the council and private developers are developing building projects to accommodate them.
        The reason many are so attracted to come here is that there are already many people from their own countries already here. (and naturally people go to the places where they know they can have a community around them)
        As for Jonotti ‘s comment – If you saw what some of these teenagers were wearing to school, I would probably agree with the headmaster myself, never mind who the neighbours were.

        1. Dόn Pídgéόní

          I was being sarcastic.

          I think the courses and support that Germany give are great and really key to integration. It would be nice for other countries to see what they do and actually learn something from it.

    2. martco

      we facilitated them

      did you not read the posting properly?
      do you choose not to believe Shannon is used on a daily basis as a service stop for military aircraft?

      it must be one of the above because otherwise your statement as usual is utter pants

      I particularly enjoyed the way you singularised the term Germany, is it a he or a she? it says a lot to me about your view of life Janotty

  1. Jones

    You’re right Jules. Iraq should have been left alone with Saddam in charge. And sure Bin Laden was just misunderstood. Same with Gaddafi.

    1. Sido

      And it would want to be $$$, after all this time they must be looking for some return on all the billions they’ve spent.

  2. B Hewson

    We need to step up flights of undocumented migrants into Europe. 50 flights per day from the top 5 war zones filled with some women and children, but mainly undocumented battle hardened young men of we know nothing about.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      Yes, because the rational, non racist assumption to make is that “young men” from the middle east are likely to be terrorists.

      1. B Hewson

        They are coming from war zones. Never said I think all are terrorists. But likely hey have been handling and using weapons and have a lot of extreme trauma issues. What do you think they have been doing for 4 years of civil war. Who are these men? We have absolutely no idea about their backgrounds.

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          So you never said they were terrorists but you think they’re probably experienced in using weapons. So instead of apologising for your stupid racism, you decide to double down on it. That’s a winning strategy right there.

          1. B Hewson

            They are undocumented young men and coming from the most brutal violent civil war in recent memory. Nobody can categorically state that no Isis people are hidden within these groups of young men. That is my point. It’s a security threat to Europe to let whoever wants to come in do as they wish. Nobody knows who these people are as they keep getting waved on to where-ever they choose to go.

  3. 15 cents

    i have massive empathy for the refugees fleeing that horrible situation they had, and I support the idea of everyone chipping in and doing what they can.. however .. for people fleeing such horror, they can be quite a picky bunch. when they were on that train and being taken to shelter and they refused to go coz they wanted to go to germany.. and they had a sit in on the train and wouldnt eat or drink.. that seems .. a bit rich like. you’re in dire straits, and youre being offered safe shelter, but ya kick up a fuss coz ya want better? seems mad, like at least take it for a bit, then go to germany or wherever like a month later. then i saw a load of them on the news walkin along in austria i think it was, and they were all chanting that they want a bus. they seem to be kickin up with a lot of demands, you;d think theyd just be happy to be outta there and receiving support. all the people singing and welcoming them in frankfurt was amazing, and then you see some of them walkin by the welcome party like they werent there, messin on phones n’all. one lad on his phone, smokin a fag, didnt even look up.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      You have massive “empathy” for them but they’re ungrateful, picky and rude? Ok then. And you’re able to judge their behaviour given your own experiences fleeing to a foreign country where you don’t speak the language with nothing but the bag on your back.

      1. 15 cents

        i think if i fled in similar fashion, id be taking what i was given and be thankful, and yea, id be far more grateful.

          1. 15 cents

            .. look, ur missing the point completely and not making any sense constantly referring to me not knowing what its like. i dont. of course i dont. what im sayin is i reckon the refugees have faced unimaginable misery and suffereing in Syria, living in constant fear .. so coming from such an awful scenario .. wouldn’t the idea of shelter in hungary be something you’d jump at? so im asking why did they kick up such a fuss when they were being brought there, and demanded better help? which has nothing to do with if ive experienced fleeing a war torn country.

          2. 15 cents

            your mind is as erratic as your usage of inverted commas. i painted it out clear as day, and then you launch into a psychoanalysis of me, and how i want to be better than refugees. how u got that from me asking why are they being picky with which help they get, ive no idea.., hope your life isn’t too frustrating for all the people around you who have to put up with not having a clue what anyones talking about. so once again from the top, WHAT I’M ASKING: WHY ARE THEY BEING PICKY WITH HELP WHEN THEY ARE FLEEING A WAR ZONE .. now try answer that without making insane accusations about me wanting to look down my nose at refugees, because you know nothing about me, and nothing in what i said would suggest that i do. coz if you want to make wild guesses about each other, ill chuck my bit in too.

          3. Dόn Pídgéόní

            @15, there are quite a few articles that have been written on why people are seeking to travel through Turkey or Hungary that are easy to find.

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            I didn’t miss the point. The point is you want to judge these people so you can feel better than them because, I’m guessing, not much else in your life makes you feel good about who you are. You complain about me pointing out you’ve no idea what it’s like to be a refugee by acknowledging that fact and then…..telling me what you’d do if you were a refugee. FFS. At least *try* and make this difficult for me.

          2. 15 cents

            MoyestWithExcitement , you replied under the wrong comment, my response to your blitherings is above where we were

          3. MoyestWithExcitement

            Yes, I read your crazy, incoherent rant, 15c. You were answered. I don’t care that you don’t like the answer. My point remains, you have no right to judge what refugees do unless you’ve been one yourself.

          4. 15 cents

            MoyestWithExcitement .. conversing with you is like you dont read my comments and just take guesses, and respond with no idea what iv said. i knew you were like that from the start, so its my own fault for replying back to you, you have no sense of logic whatsoever, I’m done here. you are blindingly thick. at least your hearts in the right place, so at least that’s something, other than that, you have no idea of anything being said, you’re responses are so far off being anything related to whats being said.. i’ll pray for the people who have to put up with you daily.. ok well i would if god was real. ill just keep them in my thoughts instead. gluck

  4. Owen C

    “Indeed, most refugees are fleeing countries in the Middle East that have recently been invaded or attacked by Western forces or seriously affected by the consequences. In short, this is “blowback” from Europe’s own militaristic actions.”

    1. Was there recently a Western attack on Serbia, Eritrea, Kosovo, Pakistan, Nigeria, Albania, Somalia, Russia, Bangladesh, Iran, Gambia, Mali, Bosnia or Macedonia? Cos all of these countries are in the top 20 countries of origin for non-EU asylum seekers to the EU in 2014.
    2. Western attacks on Syria began in late 2014. Syrian refugees began heading to EU in large numbers in 2012 and 2013.

      1. Dόn Pídgéόní

        Except the leaders of IS were imprisoned in Iraq. You can’t ignore that that maybe had something to do with increasing or facilitating extremism and helping to create IS.

          1. Dόn Pídgéόní

            But you can’t treat them as separate things, they feed into each other. You imprison people in Iraq and do god knows what to them then they are released into an area that is becoming or has become increasingly unstable. IS, or the groups that eventually became IS, have been around for quite a while, so you can’t even really say that IS is X years old.

          2. Owen C

            ISIS and the anti-Assad factions are largely different people, and one (the anti-Assad) was firmly in place well before ISIS became a significant issue. So its a stretch to say that ISIS helped to start the Syrian civil war, albeit they are clearly a major factor in the current atrocities. ISIS have been allowed to grow in the chaos of Iraq and the vacuum of power/instability created by the Syrian civil war, but they are not the cause of the Syrian civil war.

          3. Dόn Pídgéόní

            Again, they aren’t separate issues – both groups have contributed to the war in Syria. Though neither you or I are experts in Middle Eastern geopolitics.

          4. Owen C

            I don’t need to be an expert to find the idea that “Western military interventions caused the Syrian civil war and subsequent refugee crisis” somewhat lacking in evidence or logical common sense. Saying “it’s complicated” doesn’t in any way add credence to the Merceille’s suggestion.

          5. Dόn Pídgéόní

            Oh, now I see. Your summary misrepresents what he actually said, which is what actually happened.

            “In Syria, the atrocities were triggered partially by the spillovers of the Iraq war. Groups like ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front which are terrorising large areas of the Middle East emerged out of the invasion of Iraq, evolving from al-Qaeda’s activities there.”

          6. Owen C

            Oh i see, you didn’t actually reference back to what I actually quote Merceille on:

            “Indeed, most refugees are fleeing countries in the Middle East that have recently been invaded or attacked by Western forces or seriously affected by the consequences. In short, this is “blowback” from Europe’s own militaristic actions.”

            How is this “blowback” from Europe’s militaristic actions, if those actions in Syria only began in late 2014, 1-2 years after the influx of refugees began, and if my contention is that the Syrian civil war was not caused by ISIS or the Iraq war?

          7. Dόn Pídgéόní

            Owen, you’re cherry-picking bits out to prove your point. If you don’t like him fair enough, but that isn’t actually what he says. He says most, not all. That’s what you think he says, which he doesn’t because he latter clarifies the Syrian situation.

          8. Owen C

            Merceille is seeking to use the abhorrent behaviour of ISIS, and its related existence to the Iraq war, to give a nice “it was our own fault” rational to the whole Syrian refugee crisis. This is a wholly inaccurate description of the causes of the Syrian civil war and its accompanying refugee crisis. This isn’t cherry picking, this is the central theme of his posting.

            Here is an excellent article from Project Syndicate which involves much deeper thinking into finding a solution to the current crisis rather than simply seeking to (incorrectly) apportion blame.


          9. Dόn Pídgéόní

            You may read it that way. I don’t. Its more nuanced than simply the West caused it but it did have a role in destablising the area. That is clear.

            I’m not sure what you want me to read from that link. Yes, there is a moral argument for taking refugees but that doesn’t have to happen along with ignoring the fact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had an effect too.

      2. 15 cents

        wasnt the civil war in Syria an uprising against Al-Assads oppressive regime? and not really anything to do with Iraq? when the civil war started, other groups such as ISIS basically saw opportunity to divide and conquer. and recruit. if only stark industries was real.

    1. Gers

      For Syria its even more complicated than that. To claim asylum status you must be coming from a country where you are oppressed by the government. That is not the case in Syria where ISIS is oppressing people, not Bachar’s government.

  5. shitferbrains

    This simplistic twaddle ignores the internal opposition to the various despots , most of whom were minority players ruling majority sects. Saddam was a Sunni in a Shia majority and Assad the opposite.

  6. maisoui

    Friday night in the pub provided a more interesting debate on Iraq/Syria/refugee crisis than this lesson in “copy and paste” from the doctor. Once again he fails to administer any sort of medicine .

  7. Bonzor

    It’s remarkable that Mr Mercille managed to write his column without even referring to Russia. Between blocking every diplomatic effort to resolve the crisis, or continuing to fund, train and arm the Syrian Arab Army, Russia has played a key role in facilitating the butchering of the Syrian people. But I suppose that fact doesn’t align with his agenda, does it?

    1. Neilo

      Been saying this for years, Russia gets away with ‘moidah’. Separatists in eastern Ukraine who are reguarly aided by Russian ‘advisers’ shoot a plane out of the sky, Russia skates. EU national from NATO country accused of espionage and locked up with no prospect of parole, Russia skates. Lakes freeze over, Russia skates. It’s good to the king!

  8. Declan

    “The West” is responsible for Iraq and Afganistan but to say they’re responsible for Syria is daft.

    It’s fairer to say we did too little during the Arab Spring and I personally blame the 10 year odd quagmire of Iraq from that

  9. roight

    Is this post for real . Is the good Dr. suggesting that Assad bears no responsibility or is he just being a bit naive? Can we track down Julia or should I just say Village mag and hear her take on this . Give us all a laugh on a Monday.

  10. Truth in the News

    We are reaping the whilwind that is a direct consequence of American and
    European policies and actions, why are such large numbers fleeing their
    countries, its the result actions both military and economic inflicted on them
    by the West, how come with all the US presence in the Mediterranean that, they
    are not picking up the displaced and dischevelled on the high seas and taking
    them to United States using Shannon, in effect what are we doing there with our Navy there in the first place when we dump the rescued in Italy and let them pile up there, if they had to be taken them back to Ireland, how long would the rescue intervention last,Threre is quite a bit hyprocisy, with leading members of society demanding that we accecpt all and sundry, how many will they accept into their palatial residences, What about the Vice Regal Lodge, Farmleigh and all the spare property that NAMA controls, even (John Perry TD has spare acomodation in Ballymote) lot of this is asking us to accept and pay for they themselves won’t tolerate themselves, and it will open up a minefield in time ….wait till the Right Wing gets going in Germany, We will then see how long the hospitality lasts.

  11. Demon

    What European companies are making a fortune by selling arms, explosives, vehicles and chemicals to ISIS?

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