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What do we owe Iraqi refugees?

Posted by Judy K. Warner on April 23, 2008

An op-ed piece in the Washington Times yesterday, A moral imperative, reports on an “Iraq Action Days” conference at George Washington University.

People representing nearly two dozen non-governmental-organizations detailed what is happening to 2.2 million refugees outside Iraq and 2.77 million displaced persons inside the country. These people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, and Congress must approve funding for key humanitarian assistance programs in the fiscal year 2008 supplemental budget.


… the lack of moral clarity has become a major issue threatening American national security interests. Let’s make no mistake — the refugees and their suffering will be used by both their government and regional powers to stoke anti-Americanism. That’s why the United States — if determined to succeed in the region — needs to be far more aggressive on how it uses its soft power.

But what does “soft power” mean? I would say that it should mean helping to take care of the refugees and ease their terrible conditions where they are, and trying to resettle them back in Iraq as fast as this can be done without creating more chaos, including helping settle property disputes and building new houses. But there’s another agenda. The article ends:

Finally, as it often does, some historical perspective sheds a little light on the situation. “As of March 31, 2008, 2,627 Iraqis have arrived in FY 2008,” the State Department reported last week. Since 2003, the United States has taken in roughly 6,000 Iraqis. In contrast, more than 131,000 Vietnamese had settled in the United States from May to December 1975, according to International Rescue Committee reports. We may not yet be at that threshold but the next president should get ready for accepting larger amounts of Iraqis for permanent settlement in the United States.

Our friend Chris Coen wrote a response, which the Washington Times published today, with which I agree:

Reconsider refugee resettlement

With 1.5 million refugees displaced from Iraq, it would be impossible to resettle any significant number in the United States. It also would be cost-prohibitive. Far more Iraqi refugees could be helped if we assisted them in the countries to which they already have been displaced, mainly Jordan, Syria and Lebanon (“A moral imperative,” Op-Ed, yesterday).

The nongovernmental organizations know this but keep lobbying for the admission of ever greater numbers of refugees into the United States because it is lucrative for them, not because it is in the best interests of the refugees.

Our group has found extensive neglect of refugees resettled to the United States by the NGOs. Rather than spending so much time and effort attempting to bring larger numbers of refugees to the United States, they should concentrate on taking care of those refugees they already are bringing to this country.



Friends of Refugees


6 Responses to “What do we owe Iraqi refugees?”

  1. judyw said

    Eddie, thanks for your reply. I don’t see whey mentioning religion is racist. The main problems in Iraq after Saddam was removed came from Sunnis and Shias fighting each other; it was called a civil war and sectarian violence . That is when most of the refugees left their homes, because they were under attack from those of a different sect. As I understand it, this fighting was greatly provoked by Iran.

    We made many mistakes in Iraq. But oil had nothing to do with it. Did we seize the oil fields? No, we made sure they were a resource the government could use for revenue. In giving out contracts and leases, American companies have hardly any. It is such a convenient phrase, “No blood for oil,” but it has nothing to do with reality.

    Your figure of 20,000 killed by Saddam Hussein is way off. Here’s a Wikipedia article with many sources about the subject. (I point out the large number of sources because someone is disputing the article.) One quote from it:

    According to The New York Times, “he [Saddam] murdered as many as a million of his people, many with poison gas. He tortured, maimed and imprisoned countless more. His unprovoked invasion of Iran is estimated to have left another million people dead. His seizure of Kuwait threw the Middle East into crisis. More insidious, arguably, was the psychological damage he inflicted on his own land. Hussein created a nation of informants — friends on friends, circles within circles — making an entire population complicit in his rule”.[7] Estimates for the number of dead in the Iran-Iraq war vary from 500,000[8] to 1.5 million.[9] Others have estimated 800,000 deaths caused by Saddam not counting the Iran-Iraq war.[10]

    I think our main unpaid debt is to those Iraqis who helped us and whom we did not help when they were in need. But we are not obligated to take in every Iraqi who is displaced. Let me again make the comparison to Germany. Many Germans suffered after WWII, including those who did not take part in the war, and did not support Hitler. But we did not owe them a home in the United States. In fact, it was highly unusual for the victors in a war to be as generous as we were toward Germany. There were those here who advocated destroying Germany’s infrastructure and taking it down to a primitive agricultural country. That is more the norm in war.

    That’s because when a country makes war on another country, the war-making country as a whole is involved, whether or not individual people are guilty. If the Germans had removed Hitler themselves before he went to war, there wouldn’t have been a war. And if the Iraqi people had removed Saddam Hussein before he declared war on the U.S., we would never have gone there.


  2. judyw said

    Are you an Iraqi, Eddie? If so, what was your situation under Saddam Hussein? Did we destroy your good life under him? If so, I’m not sorry, because we made a better life possible for millions of others, and saved many from torture and death.

    Or are you a Sunni Muslim who lost his privileged position? If so, I’m sorry for your loss but I’m not sorry that Sunnis can’t be a privileged class. Learn to live with your neighbors.

    Or are you someone who got tragically displaced, inside or outside Iraq? In that case, I am sorry for you, but not in a guilty way. I feel bad for you. But we don’t owe you “everything,” any more than Britain and the U.S. owed the German displaced persons “everything” after WWII. We helped them to the best of our ability, and helped set up a new society on the ashes of the old that was infinitely better and gave hope and opportunity to generations of Germans. I hope we can do the same for Iraq. Your dictator was our declared enemy and we defeated him. If you had roused yourselves to get rid of him yourselves, we never would have had to go near Iraq.

    What we certainly don’t owe you is a guaranteed good life in the United States. Perhaps instead we should be asking, do you owe us something?


    • Eddie said

      Thanks judyw for your comments, Yes I am an Iraqi, an Iraqi who used to live away from Saddam Hussien all the time, I’m only 27 so I didn’t have that much to do with him that time, nor my family because we’re kindda Agnostic and we’re not religious, which is shame that you speak from a religion perspective, its kindda racist… but for example I couldn’t finish my degree because of the war, I lost 2 of my cousins who died under “Unknown Armed People”, and I got kidnapped twice because I worked with an International company, it’s so messed up judyw, I really wish you guys see the whole picture, it obviously seems that you’ve never been there after the war, people die everyday, I used to hate the Ex-Government, but if Saddam killed 20,000; Today 1 million Iraqis are either killed or fled. Do you know how the education system used to be in Iraq, I bet it was better than the UK itself. our professors and doctors are all now killed, infrastructure is zero and don’t let me start on education. so do you really believe that the US government occupied Iraq only because of Saddam? I’m sorry but that would be considered as Ignorant. Saddam was ZERO threat to the US. but on the other hand you know Iraq is the third biggest oil resource on the planet! that is what Ironic, because simply Iraqi are spreading now around Middle east with no food, no jobs, no countries to give them Visas even for WORK! and Iraq is the third biggest oil resource. I don’t need your sorry, your sorry won’t bring me back my two cousins, nor my education, nor 1 million Iraqis lives and nor my family who has been destroyed. on the other hand, I feel sorry for you guys, because you don’t know what’s going on, and the media is for sure not speaking and still you say we owe you nothing, who voted for war then!? I surely didn’t.


  3. Eddie said

    Americans Owe us everything… our Lives, our freedom, our economy, our dead friends and family. The least thing to do is the resettlement program, I believe larger things happened in Japan and Vietnam scenarios.

    You come to a world and destroy it, and then say: What we owe them!?



  4. […] What do we owe Iraqi refugees? […]


  5. Josh said

    Keep up the good work and keep spreading the word. We cannot be saviors to the entire third world.

    It’s funny, people here complain about the economy and then they say we should allow open borders which will only make the economy worse.


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