It turns out America is much better at creating refugees than taking care of them. While thousands of Iraqis flee their homeland every day, the U.S. had planned to accept only 500 this year.
The State Department has blamed the United Nations referral system it currently uses, calling it cumbersome and underfunded. But there is no requirement to go through the U.N. in the first place. Consider America’s mass evacuation of Vietnam at the end of that war, or even past operations in Iraq. That’s like hiring a piano tuner to write a symphony and then claiming it can’t be done!
Beyond a lack of will, funding is a major problem. The State Department spent $35 million on refugees in the region during all of 2006, while the U.S. is estimated to support its war machine in Iraq with $8 billion every month.
New York Times:
Until recently the Bush administration had planned to resettle just 500 Iraqis this year, a mere fraction of the tens of thousands of Iraqis who are now believed to be fleeing their country each month. State Department officials say they are open to admitting larger numbers, but are limited by a cumbersome and poorly financed United Nations referral system.
“We’re not even meeting our basic obligation to the Iraqis who’ve been imperiled because they worked for the U.S. government,” said Kirk W. Johnson, who worked for the United States Agency for International Development in Falluja in 2005. “We could not have functioned without their hard work, and it’s shameful that we’ve nothing to offer them in their bleakest hour.”
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat who is taking over the immigration, border security and refugee subcommittee, plans hearings this month on America’s responsibility to help vulnerable Iraqis. An estimated 1.8 million Iraqis are living outside Iraq. The pace of the exodus has quickened significantly in the past nine months.
Some critics say the Bush administration has been reluctant to create a significant refugee program because to do so would be tantamount to conceding failure in Iraq. They say a major change in policy could happen only as part of a broader White House shift on Iraq.
“I don’t know of anyone inside the administration who sees this as a priority area,” said Lavinia Limn, president of the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, a nongovernmental refugee resettlement agency based in Washington. “If you think you’re winning, you think they’re going to go back soon.”
Iraqis pack their belongings aboard a bus probably headed toward Syria or Jordan.