#RefugeeCrisis: Shifting the blame for Europe's migration chaos

From the squalid migrant campgrounds in Hungary to the offices of Europe's elected officials, many have seen the swell of migrants crossing borders as evidence of a failed US foreign policy. Even as President Barack Obama declared that the country would extend asylum to 10,000 Syrians, many blamed the US for the migration crisis that has walloped Europe. 

Iraqi refugee Rzgar Abdul lives in a spare, barracks-style refugee camp in Hungary, placing much of the blame for his squalid existence on the US. After all, the Islamic State proliferated when U.S. forces pulled out of an unstable country. And that proliferation forced him to leave his home, said Abdul, 28, who is from the Iraqi city of Kirkuk. 

"Iraq's problem is America's problem," said Abdul, who said he was a translator for the United States during the Iraq war, making him a target. "This crisis is America's problem. In Iraq, Syria, all over, the US did not do enough." In Germany, it is rare that the distant reaches of the political left and right agree on anything. 

But they now agree the US is to blame for the refugee disaster. Sahra Wagenknecht and Dietmar Bartsch, deputy chairpersons of the Left Party in the German Parliament, have savaged US policy in the Middle East. 

"Killer gangs, such as the Islamic State, were indirectly supported and without hindrance supplied with money and weapons from countries including those allied with Germany," the two alleged in a policy paper, apparently referring to early efforts to back rebels fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. 

Others have argued the US did not do enough to back the rebels and remove Assad. US officials call the criticism overblown. The CIA spent US$1 billion ($1.4 billion) to fund early efforts to unseat Assad. 

Others have argued that no one could have foreseen the magnitude of the war in Syria. "It's too easy to blame the US for these waves of refugees and asylum seekers," said Stephan Mayer, spokesman for the Christian Social Union, a part of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition. 

"This isn't caused by the US." In Britain, the crisis has renewed old arguments about the country's commitment to the Middle East. In 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron suffered a major blow when the House of Commons voted against British military action in Syria. 

The vote helped to deter US intervention in Syria over allegations that Assad's forces were using chemical weapons. Despite both countries' strong language against the Islamic State and Assad's government, US and British commentators have criticised their nations' policies as wishy-washy. 

"I think the tone here is, above all, you start something and you fail to pick up the pieces - that's the story of Iraq," said Iain Begg, a professor at the London School of Economics who specialises in the political economy of the European Union. "And in Libya, it was, you push out [Moammar] Gadhafi, and then what?" 

by Robert Samuels

Comments