The Washington Post reports: Its dusty streets lined with cars bearing Syrian license plates, this Lebanese mountain town has long felt as much Syrian as Lebanese. But as Bashar al-Assad’s army squeezes rebel-held towns just across the border, 20,000 new arrivals have left locals significantly outnumbered and forced Lebanon to open its first official transit camp for Syrian refugees.
Many arrive in the border town with little more than the clothes on their backs, packing into wedding halls and mosques or sleeping in cars while awaiting tents in the newly organized camp.
The influx comes as the Syrian army, backed by forces from the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah, moves to secure towns in the Qalamoun region across the border. It started as government forces took Qara, a highway town dotted with car mechanic shops on the road from Homs to the capital, Damascus, a fortnight ago. The town emptied, and a convoy of thousands left for Lebanon, the winding dirt road across the mountains backed up with cars and trucks. On Thursday, Deir Attiyeh, a few miles farther south on the highway, was retaken by government forces after being seized by rebels days earlier, while nearby Nabk remained surrounded. [Continue reading...]
The New York Times reports: Fifty miles off the southeastern coast of Sicily, the refugee boat first appeared as a gray spot on the horizon, rising up or dipping away with the churn of the Mediterranean. Then, as an Italian Coast Guard rescue ship drew closer, the small boat came fully into view, as did the dim figure of a man, standing on the bow, waving a white blanket.
Adrift at sea, the boat heaved with about 150 Syrians fleeing war. Mothers in head scarves clutched infants. A child wore a SpongeBob life jacket. Smugglers had left them alone with a satellite phone and an emergency number in Italy: Save us, they pleaded to the Italians before the phone went dead. We are lost.
Capt. Roberto Mangione shouted for everyone to stay calm as he positioned his Coast Guard ship alongside the listing trawler. The Syrians, pale and beleaguered, started clapping. They had been at sea for six days, drinking fetid water, enduring a terrifying storm. One man combed his hair, as if preparing to greet his new life. A woman named Abeer, dazed and exhausted, thought: salvation, at last.
“I had nothing left in Syria,” she explained after stepping onto the rescue boat. She had fled with her husband and three teenage children. “We came with nothing but ourselves to Europe.”
The Syrian exodus has become one of the gravest global refugee crises of recent decades. More than two million people have fled Syria’s civil war, most resettling in neighboring Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. But since this summer, refugees have also started pouring into Europe in what became for many weeks a humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean. Over five months, Italy’s Coast Guard rescued thousands of Syrians, even as hundreds of other migrants, including many Syrians, died in two major shipwrecks in October. [Continue reading...]
The New York Times reports: As the boom of shelling resounded along Turkey’s border with Syria here on a recent afternoon, Zakaria Deeb had nowhere left to run.
He had traveled 100 miles to Kilis with his family, chasing a false rumor that refugees would be allowed into a Turkish-run camp in the city, about 50 miles north of the Syrian city Aleppo. Instead, along with hundreds of other Syrians, the Deebs were now squatting in a gravel-strewn field across from the camp, sleeping under plastic sheets hanging from the branch of a cypress tree.
Nearly three years of bloody civil war in Syria have created what the United Nations, governments and international humanitarian organizations describe as the most challenging refugee crisis in a generation — bigger than the one unleashed by the Rwandan genocide and laden with the sectarianism of the Balkan wars. With no end in sight in the conflict and with large parts of Syria already destroyed, governments and organizations are quietly preparing for the refugee crisis to last years.
The Deebs fled their home a year ago because of fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces. Recent clashes between Kurdish fighters and the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, pushed them into Turkey. Now, just on the other side of the border here, ISIS fighters were battling yet another rebel group, the Northern Storm.
“We expected the revolution to be over quickly, like in Libya and Egypt, but it’s been nearly three years already, and God knows when this war will end,” Mr. Deeb, 31, said, peering at the plumes of white smoke rising inside Syria. Children shrieked as another large mortar shell exploded across the border.
A stray bullet from Syria had landed inside the camp in the morning, wounding a 5-year-old girl in the foot. “If this camp is full, we’re willing to go to any camp inside Turkey,” he said. “We don’t want to go back to Syria.”
Syrians have been pouring out of their country in recent months, fleeing an increasingly violent and murky conflict that is pitting scores of armed groups against one another as much as against the government. Numbering just 300,000 one year ago, the refugees now total 2.1 million, and the United Nations predicts their numbers could swell to 3.5 million by the end of the year. [Continue reading...]
Reuters reports: After escaping shelling in Damascus and terrifying bloodshed at sea, 14 month-old Palestinian twin girls are now among hundreds of people living in limbo in grimy Egyptian police stations, with no end in sight to their plight.
Of the 2 million people who fled Syria’s civil war, none may have it worse than Palestinians, who have known no other home than Syria but do not have Syrian citizenship and have therefore been denied even the basic rights secured for other refugees.
The United Nations says the Egyptian government has refused it permission to register Palestinians from Syria as refugees and give them the yellow card that allows them to settle. As a result, hundreds of Palestinians civilians have ended up detained in police stations, with no place else to go.
The twins’ family fled Syria after their house was nearly hit by shelling. But when they arrived in Egypt they were denied permission to work or to receive refugee benefits. After five months, with no other way of obtaining a living, they attempted to leave Egypt for Italy.
They were captured at sea on September 17 by the Egyptian navy, which fired on the overloaded rickety craft, the mother of the twins said. She held her daughters tight as bullets flew by. At least one person was hit and the boat was filled with blood and flying shrapnel.
“The children were traumatised,” she said. “I was holding my daughter hunched down. The bullets were coming…. There was so much screaming… There was so much blood….”
If the family were Syrian citizens, once detained they would most likely have been permitted to leave Egypt for refugee camps in other countries in the region, says Human Rights Watch.
But because they are Palestinians they have been given no other option but to camp out in a police station indefinitely, or somehow make their way back to the war zone in Syria.
Turkey and Jordan will not accept Palestinians from Syria and Lebanon will only allow them to pass through for 48 hours. [Continue reading...]
Reuters reports: The United Nations estimates that around 9.3 million people in Syria or about 40 percent of the population need humanitarian assistance due to the country’s 2-1/2-year, the U.N. humanitarian office said on Monday.
“The humanitarian situation in Syria continues to deteriorate rapidly and inexorably,” U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told the U.N. Security Council behind closed doors, according to her spokeswoman Amanda Pitt.
“The number of people we estimate to be in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria has now risen to some 9.3 million,” Pitt said, summarizing Amos’ remarks to the 15-nation council. “Of them, 6.5 million people are displaced from their homes, within the country.” [Continue reading...]
Kenneth Roth writes: Close to seven million Syrians in the country now depend on humanitarian assistance for basic necessities.
The Assad government has acted with callous disregard for them, placing bureaucratic obstacles in the way of desperately needed relief. It has refused to register all but a handful of the most capable and experienced international aid agencies. It has held up urgently needed assistance in customs, and required multiple official sign-offs that doom aid shipments to extreme delays. Most harmful, it has insisted that aid be sent from government-held territory. The most direct route to many of those in need would be across the borders of neighboring Turkey, Jordan, or Lebanon, but Damascus insists on circuitous routes that require aid workers to travel up to ten times farther through dozens of checkpoints. As a result, only a trickle of aid reaches civilians in rebel-held territory. The proliferation of rebel groups, some hostile to foreign assistance, has also impeded aid delivery.
Some governments, including the United States, have begun quietly funding private humanitarian groups to provide cross-border assistance. But the quantities required are too great, and the threats of violence too grave, for private groups to meet these demands on their own. A major UN-led operation is needed.
The United Nations will ordinarily not undertake such operations without the consent of the government whose population requires assistance. The Syrian government has been loath to permit such cross-border humanitarian aid because that would undermine its efforts to make life miserable in rebel-held areas. The UN Security Council could order Syria to allow cross-border assistance, but through the end of September, Russia would have none of it. Nyet prevailed.
The chemical weapons accord provided an opportunity to address these humanitarian needs. Just five days after the Security Council resolution affirming the deal, on September 27, Russia accepted a Security Council presidential statement urging Syria to “take immediate steps to facilitate the expansion of humanitarian relief operations,” including, “where appropriate, across borders from neighboring countries.” A presidential statement is less authoritative than a formal resolution, but that should not obscure the fact that Russia, Syria’s most important ally, has now effectively ordered it to allow such aid. The Security Council asked the UN secretary-general to report back on how the statement was being implemented, opening the way for additional steps by the council should blockages persist.
The United Nations should seize this opportunity, make concrete demands for access by specific deadlines, and report any further resistance promptly to the Security Council. Unfortunately, Valerie Amos, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, has remained vague in public about the main obstacles to distributing humanitarian aid. Apparently fearful that blaming the Syrian government would jeopardize UN access to government-controlled areas, Amos has too often resorted to anodyne statements about the problem. One can only hope that, with the Security Council now behind it, the UN will find a more assertive voice.
Yet even if the disastrous humanitarian situation begins to improve, no serious effort is underway to stop the killing of civilians by conventional weapons. As front lines have hardened, the ratio of civilian to combatant deaths has dropped, but some two thousand of the recent average monthly death toll of five thousand have been civilians. What can be done to stop this slaughter?
The Obama administration’s primary answer has been peace talks. Kerry has revived efforts to convene “Geneva II” negotiations — a follow-up to the accord negotiated in June 2012 under UN and Arab League auspices that called on the warring parties to agree to a cease-fire and begin a political transition. Yet prospects for Geneva II are not encouraging. The rebel groups are not unified and say they won’t negotiate with Assad. Assad, in turn, says he won’t negotiate with most of the rebel groups.
A negotiated peace may well be the best way to avoid a complete collapse of the Syrian state. Mindful of the disastrous precedent of Iraq, even many die-hard Assad opponents hope the basic structure of the state will remain intact, though without Assad and his senior lieutenants. A negotiated peace also would provide a chance of ensuring the security of all Syrians, without regard to the sectarian animosities now dividing the country.
But few believe a negotiated peace is anywhere near. Civilian deaths continue, making it urgent to find some way to curtail the slaughter in the interim. Most paths for doing so go through Moscow. The chemical weapons deal shows that when Russian President Vladimir Putin tells Assad to do something, he does it. In view of the rapidity of Lavrov’s acceptance of Kerry’s outline of a chemical deal, there seems to have been little if any negotiation with Damascus. Moscow simply set the terms. But if Moscow has the power to stop the killing by chemical weapons, why not also stop the slaughter of civilians by conventional means? Why not insist on a new “red line” against the deliberate and indiscriminate killing of civilians? Even if the fighting continues, why not force Assad to concentrate on limiting civilian casualties — to attack only the fish and leave the sea alone?
Russia has not given a remotely adequate answer. Conversations on the subject tend to turn to atrocities committed by the rebels and to the growing numbers of extreme Islamist groups in rebel ranks. These are serious concerns, particularly in light of Russian fears that Syria has become a magnet for disgruntled young men from the former Soviet Union who might eventually attack their home governments. But they cannot justify Syrian government atrocities. [Continue reading...]
The New York Times reports: Rana Obaid began her life less than two years ago in a comfortable house draped with roses, the daughter of a grocer locally famous for his rich homemade yogurt. But war and siege brought hunger so quickly to their town near Damascus that when she died in September, at 19 months, her arms and legs were as thin as broomsticks.
In a nearby town, a woman with a son suffering from kidney failure makes her children take turns eating on alternate days. In a village outside Aleppo in northern Syria, people say they are living mainly on wild greens.
Aid workers say that Syrian refugee children are arriving in northern Lebanon thin and stunted, and that suspected malnutrition cases are surfacing from rebel-held areas in northern Syria to government-held suburbs south of Damascus.
Across Syria, a country that long prided itself on providing affordable food to its people, international and domestic efforts to ensure basic sustenance amid the chaos of war appear to be failing. Millions are going hungry to varying degrees, and there is growing evidence that acute malnutrition is contributing to relatively small but increasing numbers of deaths, especially among small children, the wounded and the sick, aid workers and nutrition experts say. The experts warn that if the crisis continues into the winter, deaths from hunger and illness could begin to dwarf deaths from violence, which has already killed well over 100,000 people, and if the deprivation lasts longer, a generation of Syrians risks stunted development.
“I didn’t expect to see that in Syria,” said Dr. Annie Sparrow, an assistant professor and pediatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, who examined Syrian refugee children in Lebanon and was shocked to find many underweight for their height and age.
“It’s not accurate to say this is Somalia, but this is a critical situation,” she said. “We have a middle-income country that is transforming itself into something a lot more like Somalia.”
While the war has prevented a precise accounting of the number of people affected, evidence of hunger abounds. The government is using siege and starvation as a tactic of war in many areas, according to numerous aid workers and residents, who say that soldiers at checkpoints confiscate food supplies as small as grocery bags, treating the feeding of people in strategic rebel-held areas as a crime. Rebel groups, too, are blockading some government-held areas and harassing food convoys. [Continue reading...]
Daniel Blatman writes:
Sebastian Haffner was a young lawyer in Germany in 1932. As a non-Jew, Haffner could have continued to further his career in the civil service. In describing the atmosphere in his country before the takeover by the Nazi dictatorship, he wrote that “the game dragged on tedious and gloomy, without high spots, without drama, without obvious decisive moments … what was no longer to be found was pleasure in life, amiability, fun, understanding goodwill, generosity and a sense of humor …. The air in Germany had rapidly become suffocating.”
Haffner chose to leave Germany. If he were to visit the neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv, Bnei Brak, Safed, Jerusalem or Bat Yam in late 2010, he would certainly recall those hard days in his homeland. He would find rabbis who sign racist manifestos against an ethnic minority and call for a policy of apartheid, fiery demonstrations against refugees from Africa, gangs of teens attacking Arabs, legislation promoting separatism and discrimination in racist and ethnic contexts, an oppressive public atmosphere, as well as violence and a lack of compassion toward people who are different and foreign.
Haffner would mainly warn against the anemic response of political institutions whose weakness and fears in 1933 led to a political reversal that could have been avoided. Of course, most Israelis do not see themselves as racist. The fact that half of Israel’s Jewish population would not want to live next to Arabs is given various excuses, as is the popular and sweeping support of initiatives designed to keep Arabs or Africans from living alongside Jews. But only a few people who give those excuses would be willing to openly state that they support ethnic and racial separation.
The wild propagandists of the right like MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union ) do not hesitate to use imagery and explanations taken from the anti-Semitic lexicon of Europe: Foreigners spread disease and take Jewish women; black refugees are violent criminals who endanger public safety.
This horrific propaganda is terrifying poor population groups who are already living with an infinite number of problems of survival. And the people who espouse this propaganda are persuading themselves that keeping foreigners out and racial separation produce hope for a solution to their problems. The historian Saul Friedlander defined this mood in Germany of the 1930s as “redemptive anti-Semitism.” A society in existential confusion lacking a political direction that gave it hope was swept up by an apocalyptic idea at whose heart was the need to keep Jews out; if not, the nation’s existence would come to an end.
Millions of people in Germany who would not have defined themselves as anti-Semites and certainly not as Nazis were swept up in the messianic and pseudo-religious public atmosphere. Israel today is becoming slowly and increasingly swept up in “redemptive xenophobia.” [Continue reading.]
Haitians are fleeing their quake-ravaged capital by the hundreds of thousands, aid officials said Friday, as their government promised to help nearly a half-million more move from squalid camps on curbsides and vacant lots into safer, cleaner tent cities.
Aid officials said some 200,000 people have crammed into buses, nearly swamped ferries and set out even on foot to escape the ruined capital. For those who stay, foreign engineers have started leveling land on the fringes of the city for tent cities, supposedly temporary, that are meant to house 400,000 people. [continued...]
Editor’s Comment — As the US is in the process of sending 20,000 troops to Haiti, one has to wonder how their mission has been conceived. Is this first and foremost what it purports to be, a humanitarian endeavor? Or is the highest priority in the minds of US government planners to prevent a massive exodus? Is this all about helping the Haitians over there so that we don’t have to help them here? Is the Obama administration afraid of being accused of being soft on refugees?
Before there were even any American marines’ boots on the ground, the message from the skies was unambiguous: “Listen, don’t rush on boats to leave the country,” said Raymond Joseph, Haiti’s ambassador in Washington, in a broadcast to homeless and destitute Haitians repeated for hours on end. “If you do that, we’ll all have even worse problems. Because, I’ll be honest with you: If you think you will reach the U.S. and all the doors will be wide open to you, that’s not at all the case. And they will intercept you right on the water and send you back home where you came from.”
The sound of Haiti’s suffering is deafening now but behind it one can hear already a familiar music begin to play. Haiti must be made new. This kind of suffering so close to American shores cannot be countenanced. The other evening I watched a television correspondent shake his head over what he movingly described as a “stupid death” — a death that, but for the right medical care, could have been prevented. “It doesn’t have to happen,” he told viewers. “People died today who did not need to die.” He did not say what any Haitian could have told him: that the day before, and the day before that, Haiti had seen hundreds of such “stupid deaths,” and, over the centuries, thousands more. What has changed, once again, and only for a time, is the light shone on them, and the volume of the voices demanding that a “new Haiti” must now be built so they never happen again.
Whether they can read or not, Haiti’s people walk in history, and live in politics. They are independent, proud, fiercely aware of their own singularity. What distinguishes them is a tradition of heroism and a conviction that they are and will remain something distinct, apart — something you can hear in the Creole spoken in the countryside, or the voodoo practiced there, traces of the Africa that the first generation of revolutionaries brought with them on the middle passage.
Haitians have grown up in a certain kind of struggle for individuality and for power, and the country has proved itself able to absorb the ardent attentions of outsiders who, as often as not, remain blissfully unaware of their own contributions to what Haiti is. Like the ruined bridges strewn across the countryside — one of the few traces of the Marines and their occupation nearly a century ago — these attentions tend to begin in evangelical zeal and to leave little lasting behind.
What might, then? America could start by throwing open its markets to Haitian agricultural produce and manufactured goods, broadening and making permanent the provisions of a promising trade bill negotiated in 2008. Such a step would not be glamorous; it would not “remake Haiti.” But it would require a lasting commitment by American farmers and manufacturers and, as the country heals, it would actually bring permanent jobs, investment and income to Haiti.
Second, the United States and other donors could make a formal undertaking to ensure that the vast amounts that will soon pour into the country for reconstruction go not to foreigners but to Haitians — and not only to Haitian contractors and builders but to Haitian workers, at reasonable wages. This would put real money in the hands of many Haitians, not just a few, and begin to shift power away from both the rapacious government and the well-meaning and too often ineffectual charities that seek to circumvent it. The world’s greatest gift would be to make it possible, and necessary, for Haitians — all Haitians — to rebuild Haiti. [continued...]
Editor’s Comment — The good news coming out of Iraq is that most Iraqis see an end to the U.S. occupation as being the key to national reconciliation. The bad news is that the damage done to Iraq’s social frabric over the last five years is going to be extremely difficult to repair. The problem is starkly depicted in these two maps of Baghdad. In the space of eighteen months, the city has transformed from being predominently made up of mixed neighborhoods (depicted in yellow), to being sharply divided between Shia and Sunni sectors. Now, colliding with this division are returning refugees:
A small fraction of the millions of refugees who fled Iraq have come back. While the government trumpeted their return as proof of newfound security, migration experts said most of them were forced back by expired visas and depleted savings…
The American military has expressed deep concerns about the Iraqi government’s ability to feed and house its returnees, or manage people who wish to reclaim their homes. It is widely feared that property disputes or efforts to return to newly homogenized neighborhoods could set off fresh waves of sectarian attacks.
For most Iraqi refugees, the trip home is just the beginning of their troubles. Many return to find their homes destroyed or filled with squatters, most of them displaced people themselves. But the government committee that decides property disputes is charged with hearing only cases that predate the invasion of 2003.
[A] USA TODAY investigation shows that the strategy now used to defeat the bombmaking networks and stabilize Iraq was ignored or rejected for years by key decision-makers. As early as 2004, when roadside bombs already were killing scores of troops, a top military consultant invited to address two dozen generals offered a “strategic alternative” for beating the insurgency and IEDs.
That plan and others mirroring the counterinsurgency blueprint that the Pentagon now hails as a success were pitched repeatedly in memos and presentations during the following two years, at meetings that included then-Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby.
The core of the strategy: Clear insurgents from key areas and provide security to win over Iraqis, who would respond by helping U.S. forces break IED networks and defeat the insurgency.
Bush administration officials, however, remained wedded to the idea that training the Iraqi army and leaving the country would suffice. Officials, including Cheney, insisted the insurgency was dying. Those pronouncements delayed the Pentagon from embracing new plans to stop IEDs and investing in better armored vehicles that allow troops to patrol more freely, documents and interviews show.
Even after the Pentagon began committing substantial resources to combat IEDs, USA TODAY found, its spending focused mostly on high-tech devices with limited utility. Some silver-bullet solutions, such as microwave beams designed to destroy IEDs before they blew up, never worked.
By the time the Pentagon moved to a counterinsurgency strategy at the end of last year, the bombs had been the top killer of U.S. troops for three years, claiming more than 1,160 lives. To date, they are responsible for more than 60% of combat deaths. [complete article]
Long the only welcoming country in the region for Iraqi refugees, Syria has closed its borders to all but a small group of Iraqis and imposed new visa rules that will legally require the 1.5 million Iraqis currently in Syria to return to Iraq.
The change quietly went into effect on Oct. 1. Syrian officials have often threatened to stem the flow of refugees over the past eight months, but until now have backed down after pleas from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
For more than a year, 2,000 to 4,000 Iraqis have fled into Syria every day, according to United Nations officials. On the last four days that the border remained open, the officials said, 25,000 Iraqis crossed into Syria.
“The door is now closed to Iraqis in every direction,” said Sybella Wilkes, a spokeswoman here for the United Nations refugee agency. [complete article]
An increasing number of Iraqi provinces are refusing entry to refugees fleeing violence in other parts of the country, the UN refugee agency has warned.
The head of the UNHCR Iraq Support Unit told the BBC up to 11 governors were restricting access because they lacked resources to look after the refugees.
Andrew Harper warned that, with no imminent end to the displacement, Iraq was becoming a “pressure cooker”. [complete article]
The opening of the mammoth new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has been delayed indefinitely while its Kuwaiti contractor fixes a punch list of problems, the State Department said on Tuesday.
The sprawling complex, whose cost is edging toward $750 million, was set to open last month but U.S. lawmakers say shoddy work by the contractor and poor oversight by the State Department have delayed it.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack rejected claims of inadequate oversight and said there was no indication how long it would be before the new embassy opened. [complete article]
In January, Sweden admitted 1,500 Iraqis, compared to 15 that entered the United States. In April, the respective numbers were 1,421 and 1; in May, 1,367 and 1; and in August 1,469 and 529.
True, the Iraqis in Sweden are asylum-seekers, whereas those reaching these shores have refugee status conferred by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. But the numbers — representing the bulk of the Iraqis getting into a country of nine million and another of 300 million — are no less of an indictment for that.
When Tobias Billstrom, the migration minister, says, “Yes, of course the United States should do more,” you can feel his indignation about to erupt like milk boiling over. He notes that given the huge population difference, Sweden’s intake of Iraqis “is the equivalent of the U.S. taking in about 500,000 refugees.”
Of all the Iraq war scandals, America’s failure to do more for refugees, including thousands who put their lives at risk for the U.S., stands out for its moral bankruptcy. Last time I checked, Sweden did not invade Iraq. Its generosity shames President Bush’s fear-infused nation. [complete article]
The international response to the refugee crisis was extremely weak until recently, and it’s not at all clear that it is sufficient now. In June the International Organization for Migration, one of the main American NGOs, issued an appeal for $85 million over two years, but it has not received even half of that amount. The UN, for its part, has significantly expanded its presence in the region. Since 2006 United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) increased its budget from $23 million to $123 million. UNHCR has also issued a common appeal with UNICEF to raise $129 million to fund education for refugees. Other UN agencies have become more active, including the World Food Program. The United States traditionally funds approximately 25 percent of UNHCR appeals across the world. In Iraq it is doing the same, responding to this crisis the way it would to any other. But this is not any other crisis. It is an American-made humanitarian catastrophe. And the presence or absence of U.S. troops committed to a military mission for however many months or years is irrelevant to that problem.
One explanation for why the international community has been slow to act is that is has been waiting for U.S. leadership. But for the U.S. to acknowledge the size and seriousness of the humanitarian disaster in Iraq would be to admit that the recent troop “surge” is not working. According to a senior UN official, “the U.S. government doesn’t want to admit there is a refugee problem because it is a sign of failure.” It would also mean acknowledging that a massive process of ethnic cleansing has taken place under the watch of the U.S.-backed government—indeed, that it has been perpetrated by the Iraqi government’s own security forces. Iraq’s Christian and Sabean minorities were decimated and have left for good. Baghdad, now cleansed and controlled by Shias, is irrevocably a Shia city, and its former Sunni-majority neighborhoods are ghost towns. [complete article]