It has been at least six months since the January 6 Capitol Hill riot, incited and carried out by white supremacist and QAnon conspiracist groups. It was a jarring assault on the democratic process.
Alongside these white supremacists were a motley collection of ultrarightist multiethnic refugee groupings – South Vietnamese Saigon loyalists, pre-Revolution era Cuban Batista cultists, Tibetan independence flag-wavers, Iranian-American Shah loyalists, and xenophobically-resentful Hong Kongers agitating for US intervention. While this assortment of multicultural footsoldiers for imperialism may seem strange, actually it is not.
Cultivating a multiethnic flavour of imperialism is a cynical and perverse tactic of the United States to portray itself as a bastion of freedom. Those refugees who reflect the imperatives and ideological underpinnings of American empire receive a favourable welcome and a media platform to disseminate their views.
The Australian government imprisons refugees in offshore detention centres, marginalising their presence. However, there are refugees who acquire the status of ‘heroic dissidents’ because of their functional utility in the service of US imperial power.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Dutch-Somali refugee, has received preferential treatment, been given a multimedia platform to advocate her views, and has had books published as a self-proclaimed ‘expert’ on radical Islam. Her personal story, that of a courageous formerly Muslim woman, escaping the clutches of patriarchal and tyrannical Islam to find sanctuary in the enlightened liberal West touches the heart strings. Fleeing war and religious persecution, Hirsi Ali has leveraged her personal journey into a remarkable story of tenacity and hope. That is all well and good, except for one consequential detail – none of it is true.
Provided a comfortable life and education in a UN-funded school in Kenya, she never actually witnessed the war-torn conditions of Somalia. In a 2006 interview, she admitted fabricating huge portions of her personal story, and she was never in danger of being forced into an arranged marriage, or subject to the threat of an honour killing. Playing up the stereotypes of the misogynistic Muslim family, she found favour with the anti-immigrant and far righting Dutch government of former PM Rita Verdonk.
Ali, elected to the Dutch parliament in 2003, did her best to advocate Islamophobic politics, pushing anti-immigrant xenophobia and denying refugees from sub-Saharan Africa a legitimate status. After her bogus claims were exposed in the Netherlands, the Verdonk government fell, and Ali fled to the homeland of the foreign-born bigot, the United States.
Taking up a position as an ‘intellectual’ at the neoconservative swamp masquerading as a think tank – the American Enterprise Institute, she has continued to outdo Donald Trump in promoting Trumpist state violence against the Muslim-majority nations. Her statements, bordering on incitement to homicidal violence, make her the perfect spokesperson for the imperialist project – an African woman demanding the genocidal intervention of the US military.
Interestingly, there is another Somali refugee woman, Representative Ilhan Omar, who has escaped war and violence in her homeland, respected the US political system, and risen through the ranks to become an advocate for the oppressed and marginalised in the US. She is the first woman of colour to represent Minnesota.
While Ali’s star has waned over the years, newer ultranationalist refugees have risen to become repurposed as ‘heroic dissidents.’ Both Alexei Navalny and Roman Protasevich, from Russia and Belarus respectively, have achieved celebrity dissident status in our corporate media. Each claims to be fighting domestic tyranny – Putin in Russia and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko pigeonholed into the respective role of ‘dictator’ – but each has a political track record which indicates white nationalist racism and subservience to American imperial power.
Navalny, rebranded as a liberal defender of democracy in the West, has a long history of racist and anti-immigrant views. Denouncing the peoples of the Caucasus and Central Asia as ‘cockroaches’, he has advocated for the creation of an ethnically pure Russia, in line with white supremacist thinking. A far rightist businessman, Navalny has fallen foul of the Russian business community, and has spent his energies condemning the Putin administration as a reincarnation of Soviet Communism – a demonstrably ludicrous proposition.
At the same time that Navalny was having health problems, allegedly at the hands of devious Kremlin agents, Roman Protasevich was fighting alongside neo-Nazi militias in the Ukraine, using that as a springboard for his regime-change activities in his native Belarus. Arrested by Belarusian authorities after his plane was forced down in May this year, his detention prompted a wave of hypocritical denunciations in the West. It is no secret that the United States, in an act of air piracy, forced the landing of former Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane in 2013.
Protasevich, initially denying his neofascist connections, has lost his initial lustrous appeal once his unsavoury activities came to light. His reputation, virtually unsalvageable, has not stopped the corporate media campaign to cast him as a principled democratic crusader.
The refugees arriving in Australia are victims of wars and economic/ecological devastation wrought by the policies of the United States and its allies. Do not weaponise their stories into a toxic narrative of US ‘emancipatory’ liberation. The politics of Hirsi Ali, Navalny and Protasevich found expression in concentrated form on January 6 this year at Capitol Hill. We would do well to stop implementing destructive policies which create outflows of refugees in the first place.