The following is a transcript of an interview by Utrice Leid from The Progressive Radio Network with Gilbert Mercier.
Utrice Leid: The refugee crisis, says our guest, is rooted deeply in imperialism…. The European Union, he says, is nearing to being unable to contain this refugee crisis. He is political analyst, journalist and filmmaker, Gilbert Mercier. He is also the co-founder and editor in chief of News Junkie Post. He is looking today at Europe’s refugee crisis as the predictable result, he says, of Western imperialism and its aggressive implementation of failed-policies in the war-torn countries from which the vast majorities of these refugees are now fleeing. Thanks Gilbert for being with us today.
Gilbert Mercier: Thank you very much Utrice for having me, it’s always a pleasure to discuss things on your show. What I would like to say in regard to what you very nicely said in your introduction is that what is percolating in the Western media, especially European media, and from the politicians, is that… they’re talking about the effects of the crisis, which is this flow of refugees from war-torn countries. They are not talking, however, about the causes of that flow of refugees, and the causes are very simple. They go back, well, in the recent history of neocolonialism and imperialism in Africa and Northern Africa to, of course, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by the Bush administration and the Tony Blair administration. That created a slew of refugees. They were absorbed in countries nearby including Syria, Jordan, Kurdistan, etc. People are not really informed. I don’t think people understand the scope of the situation in Syria…. Syria used to be roughly a country of between 18 and 20 million people: among those, 250,000 have been killed since 2011, 4 million Syrians have already left Syria, and there are in Syria 6.5 million internal refugees. Syria is completely destroyed and, you know, we need to do a little bit of historical background here. Syria is actually a very old country. Syria was rightly called the cradle of civilization, and it has been around for 11,000 years. The miscalculations and misdeeds of the West, which is now collecting the fruits of its mistakes, have caused this country to become complete rubble. It is an incredible shame in terms of preserving humanity’s heritage. And humanity’s heritage, of course, it’s mainly people, but it’s also the past! And between the Bush administration, the Obama administration, the Sarkozy administration, and also Merkel, well, tabula rasa was done with Iraq, then Libya…. I really think that ultimately this is the policy. The policy is to implement regime change, in the case of both Gaddafi and Saddam, and in the case of Assad, through bogus revolutions.
UL: We last talked about the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris,… France basically began a strided move towards the right and even the ultra right.
GM: I guarantee you Utrice that it is not only going to be used by the French far right of the Front National of the lovely Marine Le Pen, but it is also going to be used in Greece by the Golden Dawn party, which is neo-fascist. With this immigration flow, the far-right Front National will get more votes in France. I’ll give you the example of a statement made to the French Press: the mayor of Roanne stated that “the refugees are welcome if they are Christians.” So, Mr Yves Nicolin is only willing to accept refugees under the condition that they are Christians and persecuted by ISIS. It is amazing that they are actually putting those requirements. Poland is doing that as a country! Poland is stating that it will only welcome Christian refugees. So, of course, it’s going to shore up the far right; of course it’s going to increase tensions between populations that are socio-economically oppressed, which are the Arabs in France, the Turks in Germany, and the Pakistanis in the UK.
UL: Do you feel that Europeans as a whole have a consciousness of the link between the actions of their governments and what is presented as a crisis today?
GM: Of course I do! I think that a lot of people are aware of this. And I actually think that the move to tackle those refugees is a wonderful thing made under the lead of Angela Merkel, not of Francois Hollande and France. France has a long history of taking on refugees. France absorbed close to one million Armenians after the Turkish genocide in 1915. So, I think it’s actually great that Germany is forcing everyone else, and there is going to be quotas; they are going to agree on what has to be done. There won’t be internment camps…. Now, setting up this news story as a new crisis?… It´s been a crisis for years! One of our colleagues, Ruben Rosenberg Colorni, wrote about it on News Junkie Post. He was one of the first ones talking about refugee boats coming from Libya. Gaddafi had a deal with the Italian government and he would control this influx of refugees. Without Gaddafi, the flow of refugee became wide open. There you have it… the Italian problem of people coming from Africa. So, it is again a lack of understanding from the political class, and I’m talking specifically about the US political class, of course, because the EU have set themselves up as vassals of the US in all affairs. The question is: how come the US is not taking, well, a million Syrians and Iraqis? After all, the US government was behind all this!
UL: The US so far has accepted 0.01 percent of the refugees. Is it widely recognized that the European Union is not dealing with this well, even under the leadership of Angela Merkel, who said that Germany will accept 100,000 refugees…
GM: I’m sorry Utrice, the complete EU will take 160,000 refugees; Germany will take about 30,000, and France will take about 24,000 in two years. There is already quotas.
UL: Since the refugees are heading towards Europe, one would have imagined that this is not something that just cropped up. They had to have anticipated that this was going to be a huge problem. What does it say about the state of the European Union now, under the leadership of Merkel?
GM: Well, there’s no leadership. You cannot talk about the EU leadership. She’s taking the leadership on this refugee issue, and Germany is the biggest economy of the EU. That’s one of the reasons why she now has more say…. When the EU was first conceived by De Gaulle, it was meant to be political. It was not meant to be just some kind of free market a la US for goods and services. They like the goods and services part, but the flow of population, they don’t like, you see. The problem is, and I’ve said it many times, it’s a systemic failure of a system that is based on wrong principles. Look what is going on: the EU is cracking at the seams. Greece, well, they sort of want to get out. There’s all kind of problems cooking and, of course, this immigration flow. I suspect there might be some interesting dealings between Turkey and Germany to say “well, we want this…” or “if we don’t get this we are going to make it very easy for the 2 million Syrians that we have in Turkey to leave.” That could be one of the elements but, again, this could be very bad for the EU, because it is going to provoke a political vote going to far right parties that want to shut down borders.
UL: Do you get a sense of the us-against-them kind of attitude that prevailed prior to WWII? The kind of attitude that said “it’s OK for us to invade other countries, but we don’t want those people here!” A reverse of the old system, where money used to stay put and the people moved around; now they want the people to stay put but the money to move around.
GM: Utrice, this is the poetic justice of it all. It’s only fair. All those people – namely France and England – invaded half of the world for hundreds of years and now, well, those very same people they had invaded are coming back to the invaders a few centuries or decades later. Will they learn their lesson? Well, maybe some will, but the large majority will not. They will feel like they are invaded, which is pretty comical.
UL: The influx of refugees will change the demographics of many of these nations. Within those nations, they are not prepared for that. They don’t want that. Even though… the statistics are showing that, in many European nations, the populations are dwindling and they are actually encouraging people to have babies….
UL: What do you expect will happen?
GM: Let’s go back here to the fact that the type of refugee, as my colleague Dady Chery from News Junkie Post mentioned to me yesterday, it is the Syrian middle class that is leaving. Once it is done, the middle class that could potentially help rebuild the country will be gone! Now, that being said, European countries, well, they are interested in Syrian or Iraqi engineers: people with qualifications. It also has a socio-economic impact. These are the people they want to welcome. France is welcoming Syrians, Iraqis and Eritreans. They will never welcome Afghans. I don’t think Afghans would be welcome really anywhere, because they’re Afghans.
UL: Are we likely to see a backlash that may even be more exaggerated, more violent, and more open against refugees and then the follow up of that being a deeper entrenchment of this notion of nationalism and nationalistic attitudes.
GM: Of course, Utrice. It’s, of course, going to be like that. In his speech, the mayor of Roanne mentioned the term Christian. It is a very specific term. Now what people forget in the US – they probably never knew that in the US, but they certainly knew that in France and the UK because they know a little bit more about history – is that the west should have supported Bashar al-Assad, because Assad is secular. He’s not an Islamist. They just wanted him out for geopolitical reasons. We need to put the blame where the blame belongs: what is going on in Syria and Libya is specifically the fault of the US and its European military allies in NATO, and also the fault of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. I will explain again: the people who did the fighting against Assad turn out to be jihadists. Those were the ones doing the fighting with the financial help and logistic help from Saudi Arabia and the CIA. And this is official. They will never be able to say “well, we really screwed up on this one.” They don’t say that, but they did screw up! And they keep doing it…. They did that in Ukraine again. There will be a flow of refugees coming from western Ukraine to Poland and Germany within a year or two. It will happen!
UL: So, what are we to see right now as the EU scrambles to fashion something of a policy, and something of a way to manage this inflow of refugees, and at the same time maintain political balance within their respective countries, the indigenous peoples and the citizens of their respective countries.
GM: They’re trying to do the right thing, and you have to tip your hat to Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande following through. However, in the UK David Cameron doesn’t want to play along. What he wants to do: he will welcome refugees, but he has to pick them himself from Syria directly. He doesn’t like the other refugees. So, there’s dissension, and of course Italy and Greece – because all those people coming from Syria via Turkey, are ending up in Greece, which already has enormous problems as it is. And so does Italy. So you see, there needs to be a coordinated policy, and apparently there is going to be one. Will this be a wake up call for people to dismiss the racist neo-fascist EU far-right? I certainly hope so. But unfortunately it might, at least for a short time, reinforce local nationalism, which is not good. It is better to have some kind of coordinated policy.
UL: But in the meantime you see this, as you said earlier, you see this as a form of poetic justice that the European Union and its member nations have to deal with.
GM: Yeah, it’s like we say in France “l’arroseur arrose.” It’s basically the person watering that gets water splashed all over his face. It’s kind of like that. If it wasn’t tragic for millions of people, there would be some kind of comedic element to it. People have to keep in mind that this is the biggest refugee crisis worldwide since the end of World War II. That’s a lot of people. People need to imagine those millions sitting in camps in Turkey with little food supply, with little access to water, living like people were living in the Warsaw ghetto, living like the people are living in Gaza. That is not humanity. That is not humanity at all!
UL: Thanks Gilbert for this personal view…. We will return to each other soon my friend.
GM: If I may add something else, Utrice. This is not a personal view… this is just a rational projection. Very soon, within about 10 to 20 years, the world will have to deal with the climate-change-event refugees, and we are not talking about a few millions. We are talking about 600 million people worldwide, and nobody is talking about it.