Thursday, March 20, 2008


President Bush ordered the Iraq invasion in 2003 amid a cloud of misinformation, misjudgments and misleading rhetoric.
So five years later, perhaps no one should be surprised to hear Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney talking about the bungled war effort in Iraq as though it were some sort of historic victory.
Still, their statements reflect an amazing amount of chutzpah.
U.S. troops quickly flattened Saddam Hussein’s regime. But five years later, the United States remains bogged down in the midst of an ethnic conflict in a region long known for violence, religious fanaticism and resentment of the West.
U.S. forces are stretched thin, nearly 4,000 Americans have lost their lives, many more have been injured and the costs to American taxpayers are soaring.

The above is from Kansas City Star's editorial "U.S. still mired in Iraq's ethnic discord." One of the biggest problems of the Iraq War is not a talking point for what John Stauber has rightly called "corporate peace groups" and that's Iraqis themselves. The biggest global refugee crisis is Iraq. Over four million Iraqis have been effected with 2.1 million displaced internally inside Iraq and many others forced to leave the country. The international community has not stepped up. Countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Syria have done more than the US or the European countries. This is from Eric Young's "France to Receive Nearly 500 Iraqi Christian Refugees" (Christian Post Reporter)

Nearly 500 Iraqi Christians may soon be taking refuge in France, according to reports Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner confirmed the plans in a joint television and radio interview, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. He said he hoped the Iraqis, particularly from the Chaldean Catholic church, will be in France within weeks.
"No one" is taking in Iraqi Christians, Kouchner said, according to AP. The foreign minister noted that Paris has a community of Chaldeans.
In a speech he delivered late last year, Kouchner claimed that the tragedy of the Middle East Christians is "one of the most poorly understood."
"I went to Iraq, a short while ago, and saw for myself the fate of the Chaldeans," he said at a November 2007 symposium themed "What future for Middle East Christians?"
Kouchner, who was born to a Jewish father and Protestant mother, noted the drastic drop in the Iraqi Christian population – from about 1.1 million to about half a million.

Meanwhile the US? Suhail Hussein's "Iraqi Aides Hope for New Life in America" (AP) notes:

In January, President Bush signed the Defense Authorization Bill, allowing up to 5,000 Iraqis to receive special immigrant visas each year for the next five years. It requires applicants to have worked for the U.S. government or American organizations, including aid groups and security firms, in Iraq for at least a year and be under threat or fear persecution. The program would also include families of the interpreters and contractors.
Even though the new bill is a tenfold increase to the 500 figure for 2006 and 2007 -- based on the special immigration program for translators approved by Congress in 2005 -- it still faces obstacles. The State Department and Homeland Security have said they are establishing regulations and procedures for the new legislation that have yet to be implemented.

Let's drop back to the Feb. 5th snapshot when the US State Department tried to happy talk their way through the refugee crisis:

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent states, "In 2008, Iraq is the ICRC's biggest humanitarian operation worldwide, with increased emergency assistance for the civilian population affected by the conflict."
And yet the US State Department's not overly concerned about not meeting their announced goals -- announced when not only were Jordan and Syria embarrassing the US by taking in refugees but so were European countries who were seen as part of some-sort war 'coalition' at one point. Yesterday the State Dept held a press briefing in DC with Homeland Security's Senior Advisor to the Secretary on Iraqi Refugee Issues Lori Scialabba, The State Dept's Deputy Assistant for Consular Affairs Tony Edson, and the Senior Coordinator on Iraqi Refugee Issues Ambassador James Folely. Scialabba vouched for Homeland Security by maintaining, "DHS is committed to working closely with State Department and we have worked closely with State Department to meet the goal of 12,000 admissions. Our role in the process, as Jim described, is to interview and adjudicate the cases, perform certain security checks, not all of them but certain ones, and make sure that the cases get finally approved once all the necessary steps have been completed. We've been doing this on a timely basis in coordination with the other program partners and we'll continue to do so." As Scialabba insisted any hold up or slow-down wasn't the fault of Homeland Security, there was also the issue of numbers which, Scialabba claimed, were 7,700 individuals interviewed by the department out of 17,000 referred. The briefing was a pass-the-buck joke. Bloomberg New's Janine Zacharia attempted to pin down the speakers on general numbers and practices and the best that can said is that the US has set the total number of refugees which is 70,000. The total number of Iraqi refugees the US is stating it will admit is 12,000. The 12,000 is not in addition to the 70,000 (all refugees admitted) but coming out of the 70,000. Scialabba gave this as the qualifications required, "You have to have a well-founded fear of persecution based on one of the five grounds: race, nationality, membership in a particular social group, religion, political opinion. Any number of stories can fit that definition. I mean, if you lost your house because of your political opinion and you can't find anyplace else to live, you don't have anywhere else youc an go, you could be a refugge based on that." Rusch added, quickly, that the refugees are mainly "referred by UNHCR" and "They determine when, in their dealings with individual cases, who are most in need of this particular durable solution, resettlement in a third country." CNN's Elise Labott pressed the State Dept on their previous promise to settle 7,000 last year and Foley stated it didn't happen. Labott pointed out that, yes, it did ("Ellen Sauerbrey stood up -- stood in front of all of us and said the U.S. hopes to resettle 7,000 this year.") while Foley then hid behind "I came on board in September". That's the kind of press briefing it was -- reporters asking for accountability and a lot of refusal to answer questions by the designated spokespeople. But Foley says he can be held to 12,000 for this year.
This is not a new problem. In January of 2007, Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) was reporting on a Senate hearing on this issue and the reality is nothing's been accomplished since that hearing and the Senate needs to demand a hearing to determine what's going on in the State Dept. AP notes that the US needs to "accept 10,568 Iraqi refugees in the next eight months if it is to reach 12,00 the number the administration has pledged to resettle in the current budget year, which began in October 2007 and runs until Sept. 30." While Congress is figuring out the State Dept's problem with refugees, they might also try to figure out why the Pentagon needs, according to the White House, $515.4 billion for fiscal year 2009 as Josh White (Washington Post) reported today.

Nothing has been done in the US still. At Babylon & Beyond (the Los Angeles Times' blog), some Iraqis opinions are noted:

Samir Sami, 28, an unemployed Baghdad resident:
"It's true we now enjoy freedom and some of the manifestations of civilization, like mobile phones, satellite channels, the Internet and to some extent the right to express our thoughts without restraint.... However, we are now ruled by foreigners and surrounded by neighbors holding grudges.... We have lost so many relatives and friends.... Maybe it can change after another five years; however, this remains in the realm of mere wishes."

Falah Muhsin Sadiq, 47, an Iraqi recently returned to Najaf from the United States:
"We used to live under the shadow of a regime that we never dreamed we’d see the end of, and under it we tasted all kinds of agony and suffering. Now, five years after the removal of that regime, I returned to my mother country hoping to settle down, especially after hearing about the improved security. But what I found intensely shocked me. The faces have changed, but the regime has not. The laws are still Saddam’s laws. Patronage is still the first and last thing to rule, and corruption has infested every article of life.... I'll carry my suitcases and return to my country, America, which embraced me when Iraq did not."

Adil Hassan Hammadi, 48, an iron and steel worker in Basra:
"I think what is coming will be worse, especially in Basra. It's a delicious bait for those in power. The ongoing struggle between the parties is scary and suspicious, and we have an ambiguous future. Where are the British forces and American forces? They got rid of Saddam only and left the people to be victims of a struggle of political aspirations. These are five dry years really.... I can't say more [without] fearing for my life."

This is going up late, my apologies. Isaiah's latest comic and Flickr did not want to get along this morning. It will hopefully be up shortly but I've been uploading and uploading to Flickr all morning in attempts to get his comic to post.

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