Commentary. Italy is poised to sign off on a new ‘humanitarian’ war in Africa. The decision will hardly stir a debate, unlike the citizenship reform and Western Europe’s endless refusal to welcome refugees.

Into another ‘humanitarian’ war

From one “humanitarian” war to another, the trail of destruction shows no signs of stopping. Not even on Christmas, not even for the holidays. Thus we see Italian Prime Minister Gentiloni, an ex-pacifist, together with the other ex-pacifist, Minister of Defense Pinotti, standing on the deck of a warship and announcing yet another military intervention masquerading as humanitarian relief. Where will it be this time?

Since we have already defeated the ISIS jihadists in Mosul, we will now move our troops to sub-Saharan Africa, to stop “the migrant flows and terrorism.” In Mosul, Italian sharpshooters were openly tasked with protecting the Mosul dam and the investments made there by the Italian companies of the Trevi Group (famous for its recent woes on the stock market). Meanwhile, after the battle of Mosul, jihadist extremism, whose origin lies in the destruction of the Iraqi state by the effects of three wars caused by the West (which themselves caused a type of terror that everyone prefers to keep silent about), leaves behind a ruined Iraq, with an internal conflict that has not been extinguished.

The frontier of the southern Sahara is more than 5,000 kilometers long, absolutely impossible to control, and all the more permeable for desperate peoples’ attempts to escape, from Africa in general and the Sahel in particular. They are running from an Africa where 35 wars are currently ongoing, and where our model of plunder is being used to steal the local resources and ply the corrupt local leaders (from Nigeria to Niger, from Mali to Chad to Burkina Faso, etc.).

And in these very circumstances, our government, about to finish its mandate as the term of the legislature is ending, announces that hundreds of Italian soldiers will be sent to Africa, even floating the possibility—the most shameful of all—that this mission, about which nobody knows either the cost or who will pay it, might receive an immediate vote. In short, a “no” for ius soli, but a “yes” to a new African military adventure.

It is all as if the 2011 Libyan mission hadn’t proven to be both a bankrupt enterprise and one that caused the disaster that followed from it, and whose consequences we see every day, with the dead at sea and the never-ending wars in the Middle East. But the generals, who have their weapons and rationalizations at the ready, say we shouldn’t worry: It will be a “non-combat” mission. But what can be the point of the rules of engagement bandied about on television, presenting the Italian military as “trainers,” when in Niger there is already heavy fighting going on and has been for a long time? Proof of this is the recent killing of four marines of the U.S. Special Forces, with all the scandal that followed between the families of the victims and a contemptuous Donald Trump.

Of course, “training,” if we think in the terms of Macron’s French neocolonialism that is at home in Niger, means “helping them get home”—that is, help to reignite the war that is fueling the vicious cycle of massacres, attempts to escape and migration of refugees. Now, concerning the latter, there is a further twist: a sort of concordat on the issue of migration.

These days, the other champion of our government, the colonial Minniti, was the one who welcomed, with the blessing of Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, the arrival of 162 migrants rescued through a “legal” humanitarian path from the detention centers in Libya. He said that the total number of migrants who could arrive in Europe by regular channels from the Libyan camps and prisons might be 10,000, with a guarantee from UNHCR, which will establish in Libya who is entitled to refugee status and who is not, and by the Italian Bishops’ Conference. Otherwise, according to the stated objectives of the International Organization for Migration, 30,000 migrants will likely be classified as having no right to asylum, and they will have to go back home through “voluntary” repatriation.

To be honest, we are very happy for the first arrivals, the 162 people freed from the conditions of detention in Libya, and also very happy for the announcement of the 10,000 to come in 2018. We are much less happy about the 30,000 that have been already written off and will be “driven back home.” But in the meantime, why has the Italian government contributed to closing the route across the Mediterranean, trapping between 700,000 and 1,000,000 people in Libya, according to the U.N.’s estimates?

Why have we reacted to an era-defining exodus by criminalized the NGOs who are helping migrants off the coast of Libya? Why have we handed them over to the so-called Libyan authorities, the same ones that should have guaranteed Minniti’s famous Christmas deal, but which are not in actual control of anything, in a country at war and in the hands of hundreds of militias, sometimes calling themselves “government army” or “coast guard,” each of which has been managing detention and torture centers to this day, on our behalf?

It is all done on behalf of our Italy, which has become the ringleader of the E.U. on the question of migrants with its Minniti Code, while the western European countries debate endlessly and the eastern ones close themselves off with walls and with a threatening and racist attitude, refusing even the paltry allocations of refugees instead of a welcome that should be as era-defining as the event we are witnessing. At the time of the writing of this article, a boat carrying 250 migrants had just been rescued during the night, but there was concern about the fate of two other makeshift crafts that were still dangerously adrift between Libya and the Sicily Channel.

To top it all, the announcement by the trio Gentiloni-Minniti-Pinotti is narrow-minded and ill-conceived even from a strictly electoral point of view. Therefore, we have to be satisfied with the only principle that is making any headway today, and even helps those who are lucky enough: the principle of the lottery. Just like in the case of the 100,000th migrant who landed in Lampedusa in the spring, and who, thanks to the miraculous birth of little Miracle, now has a birth certificate for her daughter, and perhaps the chance of being granted asylum rights as a result.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your weekly briefing of progressive news.

You have Successfully Subscribed!