Thursday, October 14, 2010

I Hate The War

The Iraqi refugee crisis gets little attention despite it setting records not seen globally since the 1940s for the number of refugees in the MidEast. The US doesn't want them -- rumors abound that the 2010 fiscal year statistics on Iraqis granted asylum are so 'fractured' and backed up due to the fact that the White House is in no hurry to release the numbers -- and admits very few while Europe is continually forcibly deporting them back to Iraq despite the United Nations repeatedly issuing statements that it is not safe for returns. The bulk of the refugees went to Jordan or Syria. In either country, they face many obstacles. They're seen more as guests. Guests who can't legally work. So they're there with their families and unable to get visible employment. That means a large number go underground. That means a large number are driven to acts for which they could be arrested.

And if they're arrested? One more reason to kick them out of the country and force them back to Iraq. Jordan and Syria are suffering, no question. Nouri al-Maliki, when the world was paying attention, made a grand show of promising that some of Iraq's oil billions would go to Syria and Jordan to assist with the cost of housing the refugees. That money never got delivered. With Syria, Nouri can claim that the two governments have only this week healed their year-long breach. He can hide behind that (though it really doesn't explain why, prior ot the breach, Nouri was sending funds to Syria). But what about Jordan? No such breach existed.

And refugees -- especially ones who are not permitted to visibly work -- do place a burden on host countries. So yes, Syria and Jordan have faced problems -- primarily economic -- and that's not fair. And it's also true that when the governments of US and England and Australia -- the three that led on the illegal war -- refused to admit their share of refugees, Syria and Jordan did allow the refugees to stay. But it's also true that the refugee crisis is a humanitarian crisis and everyone's supposed to pitch in to address such a crisis.

For many refugees with or part of families, the answer becomes for one of the women or girls to turn to prostitution -- or for a relative to force them into prostitution -- in order to provide for the families. Dominique Soguel (Women's eNews) reports:

Um Ali is scared. She says male relatives want to kill her and sell her daughters into marriages that are really sex-trafficking arrangements that put young women to work in brothels overseas.
She lives in hiding and relocates often. Her pulse accelerates every time an international text message pops into her cell phone.
"The world is small," wrote her brother in a recent threat.
Um Ali is one of over a million refugees who have sought shelter in Syria since U.S. troops entered Iraq in 2003. She left with her husband and children during a wave of militia violence against Iraqis working--"collaborating"--with Americans in 2006.
Some girls and women among these refugees face being sex trafficked by people within their own families. No statistics or studies are available on this specific problem, but there are plenty of stories of men in a pinch treating female relatives as young as 13 as commodities for sex and marriage markets.

The economics are made worse because Iraqis left Iraq for Syria or Jordan (or Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, etc.) thinking this would be a way-station. Some thought they'd stay there for a little while and then either return to Iraq or be granted asylum to a third country. Refugees in Syria especially -- in United Nations surveys -- have been clear that they are not returning to Iraq. And, again, with western countries refusing to do their part, for most refugees there is no third country to immigrate to even if they managed to jump through all the hoops. But in 2006 or 2007 or 2009 or 2009 (officially Syria's borders are closed today but Iraqi refugees continue to cross over), you and your family cross over. You've got all your money, you've sold your stuff, you think three to four months and then you'll move on (back to Iraq or a third country) but there is no moving on and those savings go so quickly -- especially when you're not permitted to visibly work. So your savings are tapped out and what are you going to do?

Spero News reports: "Chaldean Christian refugees from Iraq are turning to prostitution in order to survive in Syria. Fr Farid Botros, head of the Chaldean community in the Syrian capital, is concerned about the trend, which is growing to hitherto unknown levels." They quote Friar Farid Botros stating, "We have about 4,000 Chaldean families from Iraq, some fled with just the clothes on their back with a death threat hanging over them. Under Syrian law, they cannot work. Many do something underground; others, more and more, turn to prostitution." Deborah Amos covers that aspect of the refugee story and more in her book Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile and Upheaval in the Middle East.

And that's an interesting detail. That book. Think for a moment about all the lists being made about the must-read books of the Iraq War. Or zoom in just on former reporter Thomas E. Ricks. Deborah Amos is a correspondent for NPR. Even with Ricks going think-tanking, you'd think professional courtesy would result in something, a shout-out if nothing else. But Thomas E. Ricks has never written or even mentioned Deborah's book at Foreign Policy. Does it not fit with his jolly war porn? Is it just a little bit too real since it does put a face on the Iraqi suffering? Since it does go beyond this US official said that and another US official declared . . . Deborah Amos' book tells one of the human stories of the Iraq War, tells one of the consequences of the illegal war. Maybe even acknowledging the refugee crisis would shatter Thomas E. Ricks' pose of I-hate-this-war-but-now-that-it's-started-put-it-on-cruise-control-because-I-say-the-US-can't-leave.

A lot of people like to blame Bush, Blair and Howard [John Howard -- okay, okay, nobody remembers -- or even noticed in real time -- John Howard] and then we've got the back and forth. The Tony Blair's claiming that they'd do it all over again. Or Condi Rice doing a variation of 'history will tell.' (That's cute, by the way. What that means is, "Long after I'm dead, no one can blame me!" Condi always ran out the clock when she appeared before Congress. Now she hopes and prays the world will defer judgment until she's dead.) But if any of these liars -- Condi, Bush, Blair, Howard, all of them -- actually gave a damn, they would have advocated on behalf of the refugees. (In the US, the Bush administration did not want the refugees here. They felt refugees would hurt the spin they were spewing about 'success' -- spin the press largely ran with.) It's equally true that those who came after -- Barack, Rudd, Brown, et al -- and continued the Iraq War gave it their approval by continuing it and they haven't done a damn thing to help Iraqi refugees either. (Bush's last full fiscal year in office -- 2008 -- saw the US admit only 13,822 Iraqi refugees. However, Barack's responsible for all but three months of fiscaly year 2009 and the total there was 18,838 Iraqi refugees admitted. That's bascially 5,000 more. That's about how much Barack cares. A refugee crisis in the millions. 5,000 more he'll run with.)

Kim Schultz' new one-woman play entitled No Place Called Home is attempting to bring attention and awareness to the issue of Iraqi refugees. Charity Tooze reports on the play for Huffington Post this week.

It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

Last week, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4428. Tonight it remains [PDF format warning] 4428.

The e-mail address for this site is