A new report by Brown University’s Cost of War Project puts a spotlight on the refugee crisis they claim has been birthed from the U.S. “war on terror.” The report says that it “conservatively estimates ” that nearly two decades of war starting from the September 11, 2001 attacks have served to displace roughly 37 million people globally.
The project maps the impact in terms of displaced persons from the wars “U.S. forces have been most significantly involved.”
Specifically, the report states,
“We focus on wars where the U.S. government bears a clear responsibility for initiating armed combat (the overlapping Afghanistan/Pakistan war and the post-2003 war in Iraq); for escalating armed conflict (U.S. and European intervention in the Libyan uprising against Muammar Gaddafi and Libya’s ongoing civil war and U.S. involvement in Syria); or for being a significant participant in combat through drone strikes, battlefield advising, logistical support, arms sales, and other means (U.S. forces’ involvement in wars in Yemen, Somalia,
and the Philippines).
The report states it is that it is “not suggesting the U.S. government or the United States as a country is solely responsible for the displacement.” it notes:
“Causation is never so simple. Causation always involves a multiplicity of combatants and other powerful actors, centuries of history, and large-scale political, economic, and social forces. Even in the simplest of cases, conditions of pre-existing poverty, environmental change, prior wars, and other forms of violence shape who is
displaced and who is not.
However, its “major findings” include the following statements:
- “The U.S. post-9/11 wars have forcibly displaced at least 37 million people in and from
Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya, and Syria. This
exceeds those displaced by every war since 1900, except World War II.”
- “Millions more have been displaced by other post-9/11 conflicts involving U.S. troops
in smaller combat operations, including in: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African
Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Niger, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia.”
- “37 million is a very conservative estimate. The total displaced by the U.S. post-9/11
wars could be closer to 48–59 million.”
Jeffrey Imm, veteran civil rights activist and founder of R.E.A.L, calls for holding a vigilant perspective while reading the Brown University report.
“I have looked at the Brown report, which unfortunately is designed to tell a one-sided story. It is a shame, because a balanced report other than ‘USA is to blame for everything’ would give opportunity for constructive discussion.
“The portion of the Brown report on Somalia alone is breathless about the 15 civilians inadvertently killed by U.S. military acts, but completely silent on the thousands and thousands deliberately killed by Al-Shabaab speaks volumes. Probably 99% of their victims are fellow Muslims.
“There is the same style of dialogue that blames the Chicago police for all of the violence in Chicago and completely ignores all of the killings by criminals, as children, elderly, vulnerable are deliberately murdered every weekend to the shrug of those who claim they want peace and end to abuse.
“The one-way discussion on such topics is just not constructive.”
As the Trump Administration recently moved to push critical race theory out of federal spaces, including the military, Imm’s comments raise the question of whether there are other spaces where perhaps a “one-sided” analysis is reaching.
For example, one of the authors of the Cost of War Project, Dr. David Vine, is also a speaker at the United States Air Force where U.S. cybersecurity is essential.
The problem of selective critique is also rife in academic communities, as Imm points out:
“The many many thousands killed by Al-Shabaab being ignored is indicative of a problem within the academic community. Too many use conflict victims for political debates and positioning. They have stopped thinking of victims as human beings. Like this poor child murdered by Al-Shabaab in a Somalia stadium, and the endless thousands in addition to her.”
The “poor child” Imm mentions was 13-year-old Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow who was raped. Duhulow was stoned to death in Somalia by the extremist group Al-Shabaab for the “crime” of adultery.
One aspect of the Brown report that deserves attention is the fact that 19 years after 9/11, these wars have stretched into multigenerational crises.
The report estimates that of those tens of millions displaced, roughly 25 million people have returned home.
There are no definitive end points nor any easy answers to these questions. However, besides the situations above, we can ask:
- What “home” are these people returning to?
- What is the mental and emotional state of the children of war who have endured trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder?
- What role do youth play in the future world, especially as they return to unstable nation-states?
- What safety nets are there for the next generation of displaced human beings?
- What state of displacement are the other minimum 12 million people worldwide facing?
- How does displacement impact radicalization at home and abroad?
Speaking on anonymity, a veteran special forces soldier addresses yet more problems facing the next generation,
“There is no way to truly determine the figures for Syria where entire families were exterminated. By abandoning the Kurdish-led YPG in Syria and ceding northern Syria to the Islamist (Turkish-backed) Free Syrian Army, the United States has provided life support to Daesh [ISIS] for another generation so the killing will continue as the U.S. clears the way for Daesh in the Levant [as well as] the Taliban to once again become the sole source of governance in Afghanistan.”
Clarion Project’s Preventing Violent Extremism Training Program works with communities to help cultivate awareness for communities to help ensure that no one, whether they’re displaced from home overseas or suffer from alienation at home, has to fall through the cracks.
In 2019, Clarion Project also launched KIDS Chasing Paradise, a documentary of child radicalization abroad and how those same patterns mirror in communities elsewhere.
To understand more about the crisis of displacement, filmmaker Ai Weiwei examines this staggering problem in his documentary Human Flow.