As I made my rounds in the House and Senate office buildings last week, visiting with various Congressional staffers about Iraqis displaced by violence, one of my most effective points turned out to be that the U.S. looks really bad internationally when we fail to protect those Iraqis who supported the invasion and worked for/with us to try to rebuild their country. These people put their lives on the line every day, and many endured humiliating treatment, because they believed in us and what we were trying to do. And we've been leaving them high-and-dry when they most need us.
I don't mean to be unpatriotic during 4th of July week, but reading their stories in EPIC's latest Ground Truth Interview with Kirk Johnson made me feel ashamed of my country. Our failure to fulfill even our own low quotas for resettling refugees is morally reprehensible and just plain wrong.
Apparently, I'm not the only one who feels this way. According to polls conducted by the Pew Research Center and released on June 27th, the U.S. image in the eyes of the rest of the world is steadily declining. Only 25 of the 47 countries surveyed reported positive views of the U.S., and all by margins much lower than in previous surveys. Meanwhile, 37 of 47 countries reported little or no trust in President Bush to do the right thing in world affairs (as you can see in the graph, left, Putin also got low scores).
I find this incredibly disturbing, but not surprising. Abandoning the refugees is just one important example of recent foreign policy bungles by the U.S. government. The fact is, we have proven time and time again that we're only out for #1, and the rest of the world has noticed.
The good news is, by "we" I mean the U.S. government, and not the American people at large. The Pew study also asked participants about their attitudes towards Americans, and the findings were far less dismal. Although margins have still fallen since 2002, nearly every country rates our people higher than our government. I find that encouraging.
But clearly, the U.S. government needs to do more to earn back the respect of the world, and can start by passing the Responsibility to Iraqi Refugees Act (H.R. 2265) in the House and the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act (S. 1651) in the Senate. And if you haven't done so already, you can still join over 2,000 Americans in writing to your Members of Congress to request their support for these bills.
While I may not be proud of my government right now, I'm hopeful that, with the help of good American people, we can still turn this around. And I'm still proud to be an American.