Judy and I have been following the Iraq refugee “crisis” for months and months and have posted 147 times on the topic. In not one of those articles critical of the United States (until Judy found a brief mention the other day) were we told that the regime of Saddam Hussein had actually displaced one million people PRIOR to our arrival in Iraq in 2003. Every article we have read on the subject lays the complete blame for the “crisis” at the feet of President Bush.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not happy with the Bush Administration, but if a solution is to be found (short of bringing a million or more Iraqis to America) then people involved in finding a resolution need to be honest with the public. And, we need to lay some blame on other institutions including the United Nations for the mess in Iraq today.
Here are some lengthy excerpts from the Brookings Institution in November 2002 (4 months before the war in Iraq began)!
A recent study published by the Brookings-SAIS Project on Internal Displacement (John Fawcett and Victor Tanner, “The Internally Displaced People of Iraq,” Occasional Paper, Brookings-SAIS Project on Internal Displacement, October 2002) recommends a series of steps to manage the problem. First, acknowledge that the expulsion of people from their homes on ethnic grounds constitutes a crime and that those expelled have a right to restitution. Second, set up an official body with representative ethnic and religious makeup and international oversight to enable persons to regain land and property lost as a result of displacement. Third, establish a special task force to coordinate returns and adjudicate disputes, thereby preempting a rush on Kirkuk and other cities. Fourth, apportion oil revenues to compensate those expelled from the Kirkuk area and arbitrarily dismissed from their positions in the oil fields.
Helping Iraq to solve the problem of its internally displaced persons will also require changes in the UN response, which has so far proven inadequate. The United Nations is the main provider of humanitarian assistance to Iraq but has given insufficient attention to assisting or protecting the displaced to date. The Oil-for-Food Program generates as much as $6 billion a year for Iraqi civilian spending, more than enough to fund programs for the displaced. Yet according to a UN survey in 2000, more than 400,000 displaced persons in the north live in collective towns, many in an advanced state of decay. A further 57,000 live in barracks, including more than 6,000 still in tents. More than 50,000 in the north are without access to health centers. In the center/south, governmental obstruction has been reported when the displaced register for food rations and little is known about their numbers or conditions.
According to the Brookings-SAIS study, this state of affairs is mainly attributable to Iraqi government intimidation combined with a self-imposed “code of silence” practiced by UN officials. Fearing violence, expulsion or other retaliation from Iraq and lack of backup from UN headquarters, UN officials in most cases have refrained from demanding access to the displaced or protesting their treatment, especially in the center/south.
It is not too early to begin to address problems of internal displacement in Iraq. In a country of 23 million, Iraq’s more than one million internally displaced persons constitute too large a group to be ignored, and the linkage between their plight and Iraq’s deeper political, economic, ethnic, and social problems suggests that to try to ignore them could undermine any reconstruction effort in fundamental ways.
REMEMBER, THE ABOVE IS FROM 2002!
Here is a New York Times article that says the seeds of the refugee crisis in Iraq were planted by Saddam Hussein.
As for those Iraqis who have left Iraq, surely many have been displaced by the war and the sectarian violence but many had left Iraq before we even arrived. Last fall I posted on another study from the Brookings Institution that mentions that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees in Syria have been there for more than 20 years. See those posts here and here.
So, to all of you pushing for resettlement of Iraqis to the west, you owe it to the public and our knee-jerk legislators to tell the whole truth about the Iraqi displaced persons problem.