Wednesday :: Jun 27, 2007

What Do We Owe the Iraqis?

by soccerdad

The title comes from a column by Andrew J. Bacevich. I have written about Bacevich before here and here. He is a former military man currently on the faculty at Boston University. He recently lost his son in Iraq. He is someone who's opinions should be given serious consideration.

He makes an important distinction between Iraq the country and the Iraqi people. His major point is that since Iraq is not a functioning country per se, we don't owe Iraq anything. However, we do have an important moral obligation to the Iraqi people as well as our troops.

While a few bear the burden of the nation's horrific moral obligation, the many carry on as if the Iraq war did not exist. Day by day, as the fighting drags on, "we" are accruing an ever-increasing moral debt not only to the Iraqis whose lives we have upended but also to the soldiers acting as our agents in this enterprise.

Well, how do we start paying on our moral debt?

In contrast, we owe the Iraqis whose lives we have blighted quite a lot. We should repay that debt much as we (partially at least) repaid our debt to the people of South Vietnam after 1975: by offering them sanctuary. In the decade after the fall of Saigon, some half-million Vietnamese refugees settled in the United States. Here, they found what they were unable to find in their own country: safety, liberty, and the opportunity for a decent life. It was the least we could do.

The least we can do for Iraqis today is to extend a similar invitation.

At various times, the Bush administration has described US strategy in Iraq this way: As they stand up, we will stand down. At present, a more apt formulation is this one: As we depart, they can come along. To Iraqis seeking to escape the brutality and chaos that we have helped create, the "golden door" into the New World should open. Call it Operation Iraqi Freedom II.


Getting out of Iraq with clean hands is not in the cards. Yet getting out has become an imperative. By tending seriously to the moral issues involved, we may yet end this disastrous war while salvaging some semblance of honor.

I think what Prof. Bacevich proposes would be a crucial piece of an intellignet approach to extracting ourselves from the moral sewer that Bush has taken us down. But, I think the possibility of the US allowing such a large increase in immigration from Iraq is exactly zero. First, of all this administration has fewer moral principles than a rabid dog. Secondly, the adminstration and the neocon propaganda machine has spent a great deal of effort, ink, and hot air demonizing all the people of the Middle East. And third, the right wing has made immigration a major political issue. So even if this administration wanted to follow his advice the political cost would be too great.

One can see how this idea would play out by looking at this article from the Christian Science Monitor First big wave of Iraqi refugees heads for the US. Well how big is this wave? 7000 before the end of the year. That's not even a ripple. They do get around to adding a little perspective

In February, the US agreed to accept 7,000 Iraqi refugees this year, a large jump over the fewer than 700 Iraqis accepted by the US in the first three years of the war but a drop in the ocean when measured against the estimated 2 million Iraqis who have fled the country since the war began.

Julia Taft who was director of the Interagency Task Force for Indochinese Refugee Resettlement in the Ford administration noted in this WaPo article that
Between May 1 and Dec. 20, 1975, we evacuated and resettled more than 131,000 Vietnamese who were at risk of persecution.

For some historical perspective its important to remember that the US would not accept Jews trying to escape the Nazis. You can read about that disgrace here. The reasons were a combination of anti-semitism and fear that they would take jobs away from Americans. FDR although he personally liked Jews and had many in his administration did nothing.

"President Roosevelt was first of all a politician, and a shrewd and ruthless one at that. He was not going to imperil his fragile coalition for moral or humanitarian reasons. He was not ready to put it to a test over an issue that he knew, was loaded with emotion among supporters as well as opponents and which was in summary not popular at all. He was at that time preparing to run for an unprecedented third term of the presidency, and any rocking of the boat was out of the question.... Yet, it was necessary to keep up the image of a great liberal and humanitarian."

The voyage of the St Louis where the US would not let the ship dock and would not accept the Jewish refugees typifies that era.

So once again it turns out that the 60's and 70's, my formative years, were really an aberation in the history of this country. Any of the moral evolution as a country and a people that occurred during that period is now gone. Is it at all possible to reverse this terrible trend?

soccerdad :: 6:30 PM :: Comments (15) :: Digg It!