The Criminals, and the Criminal System Behind the Deaths of Refugees in Austria

August 31, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


The world—that is, that section of it capable of human feeling—is sickened and horrified by the picture emerging from Austria, where the bodies of 71 refugees were recovered from an abandoned truck found on a highway. Among the dead, four children, ages eight to 10, and an infant of around 18 months. The horrific images evoke the ghosts of other atrocities—past and recent—of marginalized, victimized people left to die in train cars and trucks around the world, including in the USA.

European officials wring their hands and absolve themselves of blame. They denounce the small-time criminals who smuggled these desperate refugees and left them to die horrible deaths. But those smugglers were only the final, and smallest, link in a series of events, the source of which can be tracked to a global system of exploitation and oppression.

* * *

The first clues as to the guilty parties in the deaths of these 71 people were the Syrian travel documents found on the victims. Based on that and other evidence, authorities seem to have concluded the victims came from Syria. But that’s where they dropped the trail.

Syrian refugees as they wait to cross the border from Greece to Macedonia.  Aug. 26, 2015.

Syrian refugees as they wait to cross the border from Greece to Macedonia. Aug. 26, 2015. Photo: AP

The question to be asked is: Why do people flee from Syria to Europe? As we reported last week in covering police attacks on refugees at the border of Greece and Macedonia, the U.S. and its West European allies essentially launched a war in Syria to knock back rivals, like Russia and Iran, who have close ties with the reactionary Assad regime. To do that, the U.S. and its allies sponsored or set loose a slew of reactionary armed forces—most of them Islamic fundamentalists who the U.S. currently finds in its interests to promote. ISIS itself has been able to take advantage of the chaos unleashed by U.S. moves against Assad to seize power in large sections of Syria—forcing millions to flee. Syria has been turned into a living hell in a multi-sided and ongoing civil war—11.5 million people there were driven from their homes by the end of 2014.

According to human rights agencies, both sides in the conflict, including the forces backed by the U.S., are seeking to cohere and shape a new regime, and have carried out kidnapping, torture, and summary assassinations of their opponents and civilians. Tens of thousands in Syria have died, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced, with many living in desperate conditions in refugee camps or worse. (See “What Drives Millions of Migrants into Living Hell?“)

A U.S.-Orchestrated Bloodbath

As a matter of fact, there are many indications that the rulers of the U.S. not only instigated but, as a matter of policy, are prolonging the hellish situation in Syria. Edward N. Luttwak, a prominent advisor and consultant to U.S. ruling class on matters of foreign policy, wrote in the New York Times (August 24, 2013): “A victory by either side would be equally undesirable for the United States,” and that a victory by the Assad regime “would be disastrous” and would pose “a direct threat to both Sunni Arab states and to Israel.... But a rebel victory would also be extremely dangerous for the United States and for many of its allies in Europe and the Middle East.”

In other words: the rulers of the U.S. are fine with having thousands die and millions be driven from their homes in a generalized reign of terror as long as it serves their interests. Those human beings don’t count for anything in capitalist-imperialist logic.

Seeking survival, millions of Syrians have sought refuge from madness and death. Only a tiny percent of them make it to Europe. And those who do are condemned as “illegals,” “freeloaders,” and “criminals” by the same system that drove them from their homes. Or, they are left to suffocate in the back of a truck.

New U.S. Moves Making Matters Even Worse

Recent machinations and power moves of the U.S. empire and its rivals are making the situation in Syria worse. In late July, the U.S. and Turkey made an agreement where Turkey, a reactionary regional power, would join the U.S. war against the Islamic State (ISIS, or ISIL, or Daesh) more-or-less in exchange for a U.S. okay for Turkey to bomb Kurdish forces in Syria and Turkey.

Refugees from places where the insane workings of imperialism have made life impossible do not, overwhelmingly, make it to Europe. Instead they end up trying to survive in camps in other poor countries. Above: Syrian Kurdish refugees at a refugee camp in Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border. Photo: AP

The Kurds are an oppressed people whose nation was carved up into parts of Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. Immediately after the agreement, Turkey launched a few strikes against ISIS targets in Syria, and then quickly unleashed a much larger bombing campaign (reportedly over 100 strikes) as well as military attacks and political roundups directed at another target: Kurdish opposition forces (particularly the Kurdistan Workers’ Party—PKK).

Some of these Kurdish forces had been fighting ISIS in Syria basically in alliance with the U.S., but the rulers of the U.S., at this point at least, see more to gain by enlisting Turkey more closely into their wars in the region. A State Department official tweeted: “We have strongly condemned the #PKK‘s terrorist attacks in #Turkey and we fully respect our ally Turkey’s right to self-defense,” basically endorsing attacks on the PKK, which is on the U.S. “terrorist” list.

So this new deal the U.S. made with Turkey will unleash more terror on the people in the region, including in Syria, and is bound to drive even more people to attempt the desperate, dangerous journey from Syria to Europe.

What Kind of a System...

Syrian refugees waiting to cross the border into Turkey, June 15, 2014.
Syrian refugees waiting to cross the border into Turkey, June 15, 2015. Photo: AP

As we wrote last week: “Refugees from places where the insane workings of imperialism have made life impossible do not, overwhelmingly, make it to Europe. Instead they end up trying to survive in camps in other poor countries—like Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan. For all the demagogic xenophobic ranting by European fascists complaining about why should they sacrifice for immigrants, consider this: Ethiopia and Kenya—poor countries in Africa—take in more refugees than France and the UK.”

In 2014, 60 million people sought refuge from war, poverty, and oppression linked to—directly or indirectly—the insane workings of capitalism. The largest group of all is from Syria. The 71 people who died a horrible death in a truck in Austria, and the millions of others who are part of the most massive wave of displaced people in human history, are victims of the workings, and the wars, of global capitalism-imperialism. And the rulers of the United States hold down the fort as top-dog within that dog-eat-dog world.



Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.

REVOLUTION AND RELIGION The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion, A Dialogue Between Cornel West & Bob Avakian
BA Speaks: Revolution Nothing Less! Bob Avakian Live
BAsics from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian
Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)
WHAT HUMANITY NEEDS Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism
You Don't Know What You Think You 'Know' About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation Its History and Our Future Interview with Raymond Lotta
The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need