Saturday, September 5, 2015


There is no stronger indictment of war than the refugee catastrophe that, finally, is shocking the conscience of the world.

While Europe flounders, compelled at last to begin seeking short term measures of humane response, our shameless war hawks hide from blame: it’s Assad’s doing, Obama’s “weakness” in failing to bomb Syria and intervene militarily early on.

There is blame aplenty historically for the Middle East tragedy that is spilling over into Europe and for other refugee crises affecting all continents. Anti-immigrant racists rant, build walls, and terrorize millions of parents and children desperate for survival. But the major culprit is WAR.

The refugee disaster is the legacy of the war makers, those who authored the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and the military misadventure in Libya. It is a living legacy of policies aimed at forcing “regime change”, a preference for superpower might and war over negotiations and diplomacy based on adherence to United Nations' principles. The enormous damage that has been done is a legacy that our hawks share with both designated foes and presumed allies: there is the rise of ISIL and its horrors, the “unintended consequence” of our failed wars; remember also the Congressional cheers for Netanyahu as he unleashed the massive destruction of war on Gaza.

Why talk about blame when the moment cries out for emergency refugee relief? Because the human tragedy has given no pause to the architects of disaster.

They are doing everything in their power to derail the negotiated agreement between Iran and the USA, Russia, Britain, France, China and Germany, which is the first real signal that a turn toward international cooperation for peace is possible.  They are still addicted to war, another war after twelve years of war without end.

Human decency requires emergency cooperation by the United States, Europe, all governments and their people, to relieve the misery and hopelessness of millions seeking asylum. It further demands a basic shift away from the politics and economics of war. No more than temporary remedies are possible without big changes in priorities and investment. If refugees’ lives matter, there has to be a huge shift in public funding from making war to meeting vital social needs.

When you think about it, every problem we confront at home and abroad becomes a matter of human decency. Either we care about each other, about the human condition and human dignity, or the monsters turn us all into bystanders or brutes. Then again, it’s a matter of human survival, of peace not war.


  1. Dr. Wofsy, your comments are profound and true. Would that politicians the world over might read your essay and be touched enough to act for humane reasons and simply not to protect their positions of power. Someone once said that"when the power of love overcomes the love of power, then we will have peace." Agree with you that common decency for our afflicted, for our suffering, especially the children, must be our first priority as human beings. Thank you for your powerful words.

  2. Good job. I'd add that human decency has been on the losing side versus the decaying, but powerful capitalist system. This is only one facet of a larger picture, where climate change and nuclear war are real threats to all of humanity.

  3. Thank you, Leon, for reminding us that we, as individuals and societies, have choices. The some government and many of its people chose to welcome the refugees humanely -- "I feel as if I am being treated as a human being for the first time," said one migrant aboard a train in Austria on his way to Germany. The Czech Republic's and Hungarian governments have chosen to cast the migrants as potential terrorists or disruptive "non-Christians." Hopefully the reward of choosing love over fear will become clear in what follows, in terms of the affirmation of the open societies over the closed ones. Likewise,as you point out, the leaders of Europe and the US have choices about whether to spend more money on caring for the refugees or bombing Syria, in whether to privilege negotiation or military power.