Wednesday, July 04, 2007

the refugee problem

There is a simple explanation for why we’ve not admitted more Iraqi refugees to the U.S., but it hadn’t even occurred to me until Jim Henley pointed it out. Letting in Iraqi refugees would seem to be a no-brainer—we liberated them from Saddam so some must be nominally pro-American, we want to win hearts and minds in Iraq, and there’s a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Iraq for which we are largely responsible. Letting in large numbers of refugees is tantamount to admitting we’ve failed to stabilize Iraq, and so I see why the U.S. government has resisted it. Otherwise, though, this seems to be an issue both left and right could agree on, much like Darfur.

But as much as the pro-war crowd likes to draw distinctions between “good” Middle Eastern Muslims (non-Hezbollah Lebanese, Iraqi Shi’ites and Kurds, Iranian protesters, sometimes Abbas) and “bad” ones (everyone else), the fact is, they’re still Middle Eastern Muslims and for that reason not fully trusted by most Americans. Not only that, but we are collectively responsible for turning their country into a charnel house. What if some small fraction of the thousands of Iraqi refugees we allow in later become the next 9/11 hijackers? It’s a risk our government isn’t willing to take. So instead we’ll let the staunch Ameri-philes in Syria and Iran welcome with open arms Iraqi refugees with a serious grudge against the U.S. I’m sure that will work out splendidly.

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