“No Refuge Here: Iraqis Flee, but Where?” by Joseph Huff-Hannon. Dissent. Summer 2007.

An Annotation:

Following closely the last installment of the Roundtable, this month we detail another aspect of the human side of the Iraq war: the mass displacement of Iraqis who have fled their country as it crumbles around them. The traumatic process of flight from one’s home cannot be understated and is increasingly entering mainstream dialogue about the war. While these stories are often framed as human-interest pieces, they are underwritten by very real, very serious implications. Unpacking the potential repercussions of another massive refugee population sprawled throughout the Middle East, and to a far lesser extent the West, requires addressing not only particular geopolitical considerations, but also the impact on these people and their communities.

“In much the same way that media images of the flag-draped coffins of U.S. soldiers killed in combat have been kept from the public eye, Iraqis fleeing their war-torn homeland have also been effectively kept out of sight and out of mind by current U.S. refugee and immigration policy.”

If it were the case that Iraqi refugees were allowed to resettle en masse in American cities and towns, the human consequences of this war would be driven home all the more forcefully. In such a scenario, how would Americans respond to the Bush administration’s war policy? Coming face-to-face with those affected so dramatically would possibly have the effect of changing many attitudes toward compassion, away from militancy. Distance has a way of allowing for a detached naïveté in decision-making—the type of ignorance that even good journalism cannot remedy.

“Though historically the world’s largest resettlement destination, the United States has linked refugee policy to foreign policy, making a consistent distinction between ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ refugees.”

The old adage of “Give me your tired, your poor…” is sadly accompanied by political fine print. The maxim that has defined America as the universal recipient—the arms unconditionally open to the oppressed and downtrodden—was amended after September 11, 2001, placing enormous burdens on refugees, asylum seekers and all immigrants generally to demonstrate their plight and prove their credibility. While one option available to the U.S. is to exhibit care and concern for the well-being of Iraqis fleeing terror, it seems at every turn policies are enacted that further erodes the moral standing of the superpower.

“With or without a U.S. withdrawal, the current exodus continues and demands an immediate solution.”

As domestic debate rages about the future of the U.S. presence in Iraq, the discussion must address all possible consequences of withdrawal: those that impact Americans, as well as those that impact Iraqis. This month’s Roundtable highlights the fact that the effects of this war and occupation are far-reaching, beyond the battlefield and into the homes of innocent Iraqis. Therefore, an American exit will also have broad ramifications on the landscape in the Middle East—its countries, its politics, and its people.

These issues and many more are addressed in this month’s installment of Human Rights & Human Welfare’s Roundtable.

~ The Editors

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