Bring them home first
by SevenStrings, Fri Aug 22, 2008 at 12:10:29 PM EDT
I am going to begin quoting a celebrity (of sorts):
The request is familiar to American ears: "Bring them home."
But this is no ordinary celebrity.. She goes on to say (you will have to click the link to find out who she is):
But in Iraq, where I've just met with American and Iraqi leaders, the phrase carries a different meaning. It does not refer to the departure of U.S. troops, but to the return of the millions of innocent Iraqis who have been driven out of their homes and, in many cases, out of the country.
And that is what I find troubling over Sen. Obama's plan to bring the troops home... and also the current plan to redeploy US troops by 2011.
According to the AP:
Negotiators have finalised a deal which will see the complete withdrawal of US troops from Iraq by 2011, ending an eight-year occupation, the top official in the Iraqi team told AFP on Friday
Under the 27-point deal all American combat troops will be withdrawn from Iraqi cities by next June, said negotiator Mohammed al-Haj Hammoud.
According to various reports, the troops redeployment/withdrawal plan is contingent on "conditions on the ground". I am appalled at this ~ the conditions on the ground are not right when Iraqis are internally and externally displaced.
Here is a summary of the situation from a non-partisan source
Jordan and the Syrian Arab Republic are the countries with the largest groups of Iraqi refugees and Palestinian refugees (under UNRWA's mandate) on their territories. The social infrastructure and economies of the two countries have been strained to breaking point as they cope with the massive displacement from Iraq without adequate help from the international community. As a
consequence, both Jordan and Syria have introduced visa restrictions for Iraqis.
By September 2007, the number of internally displaced Iraqis was estimated at more than 2.2 million, with over a million of the total having been displaced since February 2006. The current rate of displacement is some 40,000 to 60,000 persons per month. The humanitarian situation inside Iraq is dire and continues to deteriorate.
It is estimated that some two million Iraqis have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, mainly in Syria (1.2 -1.4 million) and Jordan (500,000 - 750,000), but also in Lebanon, Egypt and further afield. In addition, there are more than 41,000 non-Iraqi refugees inside Iraq who have been equally affected by the violence and the deteriorating humanitarian situation.
Palestinians, who comprise around 15,000 of the total refugee population in Iraq, have been particularly hard hit. In neighbouring Jordan, 100 Palestinians, who fled Iraq and had lived in Ruweyshid camp for more than four years, were resettled at the end of October 2007. Another 1,700 Palestinians remain stranded at the Iraq-Syrian border in extremely difficult conditions.
The massive influx of Iraqis into Jordanian and Syrian urban centres has overwhelmed infrastructure and social services. This is particularly the case in the education, housing and health sectors, with rising prices affecting nationals and refugees alike.
The perilous operating conditions inside Iraq impose unprecedented constraints on UN agencies, including UNHCR, and NGO partners. Thus, addressing the needs of the Iraqi population both inside and outside Iraq is a massive undertaking which will require substantial financial, human and material resources.
The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) estimates that 15 million people in Iraq are extremely vulnerable to violations of their human rights. They include IDPs, refugees, widows, the disabled, the wounded and others suffering from food shortages. It is estimated by WFP and UNAMI that the food security of more than eight million people would be compromised if the public
distribution system were to fail. The chronic child malnutrition rate in the southern areas of Iraq stands at 23 per cent, of which 17 per cent suffer from acute malnutrition, according to a report based on UNDP's Iraq Living Conditions Survey.
In Syria, government sources indicate that food prices have increased by some 35 per cent, electricity by 27 per cent, water by 21 per cent and real estate by up to 300 per cent. Both refugees and nationals are affected by this phenomenon.
In Jordan, the Government reports that only 150,000 of the estimated 500,000-750,000 Iraqis in the country have renewable residence permits, with many believed to be living illegally in the country. Although the Government commissioned a survey of the Iraqi population in 2007, the results have yet to be released.
In the absence of accurate statistical data, UNHCR estimates that 20-30 per cent of the Iraqis in Jordan are vulnerable.
So, a 30 second summary of the refugee situation is that
(a) there are about 4 million Iraqis who are now refugees (out of a total of about 27 million)
(b) there are about 15 million Iraqis (out of a total of 27 million) who are vulnerable to having their human rights violated.
(c) this is a problem created almost entirely by the US... this is the "conditions on the ground" that must change before a withdrawal is morally justified.
So what is going on here ?
My speculation is that the administration is trying to give an assist to Sen. McCain. Sen. Obama's signature issue is that he will bring them home (where he is referring to the troops, not the refugees). Sen. McCain counters that he will do the same, except he will "win it first"
Presumably, he must mean winning it in time for the November elections, and without sticking around to bring them (the Iraqi refugees) home!!
I suppose I should not be surprised...but I am disappointed.