West turning Mediterranean into mass grave

John Wight
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
The Italian coastguard ship 'Bruno Gregoretti', carrying dead immigrants on board, arrives in Senglea, in Valletta's Grand, Harbour, April 20, 2015. (Reuters / Darrin Zammit Lupi)
The drowning of hundreds of refugees in the Mediterranean is a crime against humanity, the ultimate responsibility lies with Western governments that have proved themselves the enemy of everything good in the world and a friend to everything bad.

Not only does the West destroy countries, such as Libya, it allows those trying to flee the destruction it has wrought to perish in the most cruel and unforgivable manner, turning the Med into a mass grave to rank with those that have stained human history throughout the 20th century.

This tragedy comes as the culmination of the campaign of demonization that has been conducted against migrants across Western Europe over the past few years. It is a campaign driven by a resurgent right and ultra nationalist political parties and forces, and has achieved mainstream acceptance, serving to dehumanize the victims of the West’s foreign policy.

Migrants are human beings. They are not the ‘untermenschen’ commonly depicted, and their plight shames every citizen ruled by governments who speak of democracy while practicing ‘democratization’, the new imperialism that differs from the old only in the way it is sold and packaged.

Consider Libya. NATO’s air war against the country in 2011 was unleashed on the back of a UN Security Council Resolution pledging to ‘protect civilians’ with a no-fly zone. It was then used to effect regime change with the consequence, four years on, that Libya has descended into an abyss of extremism, chaos, and terrorism. It has become, in effect, the shop window of Western foreign policy, sitting alongside Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria in this regard.

Italian coastguard personnel in protective clothing carry the body of a dead immigrant on their ship Bruno Gregoretti in Senglea, in Valletta's Grand Harbour, April 20, 2015. (Reuters / Darrin Zammit Lupi)

Last year's scaling down of the number of rescue ship operating in the Med, voted on by countries across the EU, was based on the ludicrous assertion that rescuing migrants when they ended up in the water was a ‘pull’ factor responsible for encouraging them to make the attempt to reach European soil.

It was a decision tantamount to murder, and those responsible should be held to account.

In 2014 the total number of deaths of migrants in the Mediterranean was 3,600. So far, this year, the death toll is 1,600, with the near certainty that it will climb exponentially in the coming months unless a drastic and comprehensive humanitarian response is put in place to prevent it.

Based on the European Commission’s ten-point action plan on migrants, announced after a hastily organized joint meeting of foreign and interior EU ministers in Luxembourg to discuss the crisis, such a humanitarian response will not be forthcoming anytime soon. What is being proposed instead is a military and police response – in other words the criminalization of migrants whose only crime is attempting to flee the catastrophic consequences of Western military and political intervention in their countries.

On one level it is so utterly absurd it is Kafkaesque. On another it reeks of barbarism.

The West has perfected the art of presenting itself as the champion of human rights around the world, while in truth working to subvert them. The fact it can and continues to do so without betraying even the slightest evidence of embarrassment is a phenomenon to behold. When Orwell wrote, “War is peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength,” in his iconic novel 1984, he could have been describing the mantra of the EU and NATO.

Those drowning migrants reflect the drowning moral authority of those who claim the mantle of progress while standing on the bones of the countless millions who’ve perished and/or seen their lives reduced to unremitting despair over the past decade, victims of those in the West who regard the world as a chessboard in which entire peoples and societies are pushed around and destroyed as they see fit.

Compounding the horror of this mass tragedy in the Med has been the public description in the UK of fleeing refugees and migrants as “cockroaches” by a woman – Katie Hopkins - whose celebrity over the past few years has been based on nothing more than the airing of views and opinions that have no place in a civilized society.

The word “cockroaches” employed to describe human beings calls to mind Hitler’s dehumanization of Jews and Slavs prior to their mass extermination in the Holocaust. It also calls to mind the dehumanization of the Tutsis by their Hutu murderers during the Rwandan genocide. It is not free speech, it is hate speech, and the fact that this woman is able to enjoy a mainstream platform as a newspaper columnist and radio presenter is an indictment of British society and immorality of a reactionary media that is swimming in sewage.

But before lapsing into the mistake of treating Katie Hopkins as a lone voice, she is a product of a worldview that is more common than many would like to think among opinion formers in the UK. Consider the emergence of Nigel Farage and his anti-immigration party UKIP. The influence which he and his party has had in shaping the political discourse when it comes to immigration has combined with the British Tory government’s policy of austerity to create ideal conditions for the politics of fear, division, and xenophobia to gain traction.

The whipping up of a moral panic over immigration – not only in the UK but also throughout Europe – has resulted in the most reactionary and regressive period the continent has experienced since the 1930s, with the emergence of fascism.

Here the words of the German playwright Bertolt Brecht, writing at the end of the Second World War, spring to mind: “The womb from which this monster emerged remains fertile.”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.