Friday, February 29, 2008

"Staying to Help in Iraq": Op-ed by Angelina Jolie

The following is the full text of an article actress Angelina Jolie wrote for the Washington Post yesterday. Ms. Jolie is a goodwill ambassador for the UN. The links are from the original article.
In this handout file photo, Angelina Jolie talks to an Iraq child August 28, 2007 at the Al Waleed refugee camp, Iraq. Jolie, the UNHCR goodwill ambassador, visted the refugee camp where at least 1200 people are living. (Jolie-Pitt Foundation via Getty Images)The request is familiar to American ears: "Bring them home."

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.

In the six months since my previous visit to Iraq with the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, this humanitarian crisis has not improved. However, during the last week, the United States, UNHCR and the Iraqi government have begun to work together in new and important ways.

still don't know exactly how many Iraqis have fled their homes, where they've all gone, or how they're managing to survive. Here is what we do know: More than 2 million people are refugees inside their own country -- without homes, jobs and, to a terrible degree, without medicine, food or clean water. Ethnic cleansing and other acts of unspeakable violence have driven them into a vast and very dangerous no-man's land. Many of the survivors huddle in mosques, in abandoned buildings with no electricity, in tents or in one-room huts made of straw and mud. Fifty-eight percent of these internally displaced people are younger than 12 years old.

An additional 2.5 million Iraqis have sought refuge outside Iraq, mainly in
Syria and Jordan. But those host countries have reached their limits. Overwhelmed by the refugees they already have, these countries have essentially closed their borders until the international community provides support.

I'm not a security expert, but it doesn't take one to see that Syria and Jordan are carrying an unsustainable burden. They have been excellent hosts, but we can't expect them to care for millions of poor Iraqis indefinitely and without assistance from the U.S. or others. One-sixth of Jordan's population today is Iraqi refugees. The large burden is already causing tension internally.

The Iraqi families I've met on my trips to the region are proud and resilient. They don't want anything from us other than the chance to return to their homes -- or, where those homes have been bombed to the ground or occupied by squatters, to build new ones and get back to their lives. One thing is certain: It will be quite a while before Iraq is ready to absorb more than 4 million refugees and displaced people. But it is not too early to start working on solutions. And last week, there were signs of progress.

In Baghdad, I spoke with Army Gen. David Petraeus about UNHCR's need for security information and protection for its staff as they re-enter Iraq, and I am pleased that he has offered that support. General Petraeus also told me he would support new efforts to address the humanitarian crisis "to the maximum extent possible" -- which leaves me hopeful that more progress can be made.

UNHCR is certainly committed to that. Last week while in Iraq, High Commissioner
Antonio Guterres pledged to increase UNHCR's presence there and to work closely with the Iraqi government, both in assessing the conditions required for return and in providing humanitarian relief.

During my trip I also met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has announced the creation of a new committee to oversee issues related to internally displaced people, and a pledge of $40 million to support the effort.

My visit left me even more deeply convinced that we not only have a moral obligation to help displaced Iraqi families, but also a serious, long-term, national security interest in ending this crisis.

Today's humanitarian crisis in Iraq -- and the potential consequences for our national security -- are great. Can the United States afford to gamble that 4 million or more poor and displaced people, in the heart of Middle East, won't explode in violent desperation, sending the whole region into further disorder?

What we cannot afford, in my view, is to squander the progress that has been made. In fact, we should step up our financial and material assistance. UNHCR has appealed for $261 million this year to provide for refugees and internally displaced persons. That is not a small amount of money -- but it is less than the U.S. spends each day to fight the war in Iraq. I would like to call on each of the presidential candidates and congressional leaders to announce a comprehensive refugee plan with a specific timeline and budget as part of their Iraq strategy.

As for the question of whether the surge is working, I can only state what I witnessed: U.N. staff and those of non-governmental organizations seem to feel they have the right set of circumstances to attempt to scale up their programs. And when I asked the troops if they wanted to go home as soon as possible, they said that they miss home but feel invested in Iraq. They have lost many friends and want to be a part of the humanitarian progress they now feel is possible.

It seems to me that now is the moment to address the humanitarian side of this situation. Without the right support, we could miss an opportunity to do some of the good we always stated we intended to do.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Iraqi Refugees Find Legal Footing in Lebanon

Press Release from Refugees International

Refugees International praised the decision by the Lebanese government to legally recognize thousands of Iraqis seeking refuge there and release hundreds of Iraqis in detention. Last week, the Lebanese government announced the new program, which will allow Iraqis a three-month grace period to find an employer to sponsor them and legalize their status in the country through a work permit. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that the decision should help about two-thirds of the adult Iraqi refugee population.

Last year, Refugees International highlighted the systematic arrest and detainment of Iraqi refugees in Lebanon for their illegal status in the country. The organization has repeatedly urged the government of Lebanon to offer asylum to the 50,000 Iraqis who have fled since the onset of the war. One Iraqi told Refugees International, “I would sooner go to Darfur before going back to Iraq.”

“Refugees International commends this decision of the Lebanese government to protect and assist Iraqi refugees seeking sanctuary from the violence in their country. Iraqis who already work illegally or can find employers to vouch for them have achieved a great victory,” said Kristele Younes, Senior Advocate with Refugees International. “However, it is vital for the Lebanese government to support those who are unable to obtain work permits after the three month grace period ends. The government must not forget to help those Iraqis who will be left out of this process.”

A Refugees International policy brief released in November 2007 drew attention to hundreds of Iraqi refugees detained in Lebanon. “The majority of Iraqis living in Lebanon do not have valid residency papers and many had to pay smugglers to enter Lebanon illegally,” Ms. Younes wrote in the brief. “Refugees International visited the Roumieh prison in Beirut, where over 400 Iraqis are currently detained. Of those interviewed, all had been arrested for illegal entry or an expired visa. None of them wanted to return to Iraq.”

Press Release from Refugees International

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Headlines 2/26/08

Iraqi refugees stuck in financial limbo in Syria
Maktoob Business News (Arab World)
February 25, 2008
Four months after he fled the violence of Iraq for safety in Syria and nearly five years after the US-led invasion, Ibrim is mired in financial problems and dreaming of a new life in the United States.

Kurdish Soldiers in Iraq Caught Between Competing Allegiances
Washington Post
February 24, 2008
The Iraqi Kurdish soldiers stood at the edge of the collapsed steel bridge and looked down into the teal waters rushing below. The last sign of the Iraqi government, a small border checkpoint, was far behind them down in the river valley.

Iraq militia on truce not target: U.S. general
February 23, 2008
A senior U.S. commander promised on Saturday that U.S. and Iraqi forces would not attack Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army if it stuck to a ceasefire, after militia members expressed fears it was being exploited to target them.

Ominous Signs Remain in City Run by Iraqis
New York Times
February 23, 2008
This southern port city has been, in effect, on its own since September, when British forces here moved to the outskirts, yielding authority to local leaders. British and American officials say Basra’s experiment in self-rule could serve as a model for Iraq’s future, but if so — many locals and outside advisers say — that future remains dark.

Some progress in Iraq's powder keg a year after 'surge'
February 22, 2008
A year after President Bush ordered nearly 30,000 additional U.S. troops into Iraq, American and Iraqi officials said there has been a drop in violence and some baby steps toward political reconciliation, but they see no cause for celebration.

UNHCR hails Lebanon move to legalise Iraqi refugees
February 21, 2008
Lebanon has moved to regularise the status of Iraqi refugees residing illegally in the country, a decision the top U.N. refugee agency says will benefit thousands of Iraqis and help release hundreds in detention.

Iraqi family copes with new life as refugees in Illinois
Medill Reports (Northwestern University)
February 21, 2008
One day, kidnappers waited for Mustafa at his dental clinic in Baghdad. He wasn't there, so they took his brother instead. When the kidnappers demanded a ransom, Mustafa and his wife, Reem, gave most of the money they had to try to get him released.

Exiled Iraqi clowns cheer refugees
BBC News
February 21, 2008
Rahman, Ali and Safi are members of Happy Family Clowns group, established in 2004 to put smiles on the faces of Iraqi children. A few months ago the group started receiving death threats warning them against continuing their show, entitled A Child is as Scared as a Country.

Sweden Home to More Iraqi Refugees Than Other European Countries
Voice of America News
February 20, 2008
Since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, more than four million Iraqis have fled their homes. About half of them left the country, altogether. Most of these refugees remain in neighboring countries, in particular Syria and Jordan, but others have sought sanctuary farther afield. Sweden has long been a haven for Iraqis and is home to more than 80,000 of them, including some 9,000 who have sought refuge since the war began. Mandy Clark reports from the Swedish city, Sodertalje, which has taken in more Iraqi refugees than the entire United States.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Iraqi Refugees Strain Already Scarce Water Resources in Jordan

map of JordanJordan is a nation of 5.9 million people, about 40-50% of whom are formerly Palestinian refugees, and an increasing number of whom are Iraqis fleeing violence. This week, I am in Amman to meet with Jordanian and U.S. government officials, NGO representatives and analysts on a fact-finding mission regarding the effects of the Iraqi humanitarian crisis on the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

This is my first trip to the Middle East, and the first thing that struck me about Jordan was how dry everything is. The landscape is dusty and greenery is scarce. On the weather report, where I am used to seeing "sunshine" or "partly cloudy" or "rain," the Jordanian forecast indicates "smoke." Indeed, the air is so dry, it is at times difficult for me to breathe.

One of my first meetings, with the Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MOWI), revealed why: Jordan is the fourth most water-poor country in the world, and in fact the top ten are all in the Middle East. Jordan has about 140 cubic meters of water per capita per year, compared with a world average water use of about 650 cubic meters/person, and around 1,900 cubic meters/person in North America. You don't have to be an expert in the metric system to see the huge difference there -- can you imagine reducing your water consumption by 92.6 percent?

Iraqi refugees in JordanThat's hard enough, but imagine having to decrease your use of this precious resource even more as your country's population expands rapidly due to an inflow of other nationalities. Whether you accept
the Fafo estimate of 500,000 Iraqis in Jordan since 2003 or the larger UN estimate of 750,000, and whether you consider these people refugees, immigrants or visitors, the strain on the Jordanian infrastructure is clear.

All the Jordanians with whom I've met, particularly at MOWI, have been extremely compassionate towards the plight of their Iraqi neighbors. The MOWI officials made clear that protecting these people and meeting their needs is the top concern. "We want peace for the region and an end to Iraqi suffering, and only secondly to decrease the pressure on Jordan's water resources," one MOWI representative told me. And I believe him. But how many more people can one little water-poor country take?

Jordan is currently in the process of revising its "Master Plan" for future investment projects to meet the water needs of its people. When I asked whether the needs of Iraqi refugees were being incorporated into this new plan, with the assumption that these newcomers would be around for a while, the answer I received was straight-forward and realistic. "We regard them as people settling in Jordan, not as citizens. But yes, we are including them in our planning. We must revise our plans to accomodate these demographic changes. The plan must be dynamic, to provide for things like drought or increased numbers of refugees."

The Jordanian government, as well as organizations such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and USAID, is working hard to develop solutions to Jordan's chronic and worsening water shortages. Projects include desalinization, dams, canals, more efficient usage and re-usage, expanded and improved treatment plants, and tapping into the "Disi Aquifer" shared with Saudi Arabia. But such projects cost money, and despite a relatively high economic growth rate of 6.1%, cash for investment in Jordan can be as difficult to come by as water. Many projects must compete for scarce resources. Yet the strain on Jordan's water supply continues to grow.

This month,
fewer refugees returned to Iraq from Jordan than in previous months, and the flow of people leaving Iraq remains considerably higher than the rate of return. But the future is uncertain. MOWI officials expressed optimism that with continued development of alternative water sources, by 2022 Jordan will actually have a water surplus. Less hopeful are USAID estimates that, absent dramatic changes in water resource management and public perception, water shortages will bring economic development to a halt and disable the Jordanian government's provisions for its people by 2020. Precisely what role the possible continued and/or increased presence of Iraqis will play in those predictions remains to be seen.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Surge and Sadr's Ceasefire

"Is the surge working" is an oversimplified and deceptive question. The surge has served a purpose in increasing stability in Iraq, yes. But a lot of the things it has supposedly achieved can be attributed to other causes. And here's a big one: Muqtada al-Sadr's ceasefire.

Muqtada al-SadrSadr leads the Shi'a
Mahdi Army. It's arguably the biggest and most powerful insurgent group, and Sadr is a charismatic figure widely-respected amongst Shi'ite Muslims in Iraq (who make up about 60-65% of the Iraqi populace).

In 2006 and early 2007, Sadr and his followers were on the rise, gaining ground and expanding operations. But with this expansion came control problems -- corruption in the lower echelons, in-fighting and splinter groups, unsanctioned violence. That was about when we were hearing
horror stories of death squads in the streets, and rates of violence in Iraq were high.

The U.S. surge made the internal divisions amongst the Shi'ites worse. So in order to regain control, Sadr announced a six-month freeze on all Mahdi Army activities, starting in August of 2007. This ceasefire has mostly held and, together with increased U.S. and Iraqi military presence in Baghdad, helps account for the dramatic drop in violence. But how long can we expect that to last?

Today, many are breathing a sigh of relief as
Sadr announced a 6-month extension of the ceasefire. But that doesn't mean we'll have smooth sailing from here on in. According to an excellent report from the International Crisis Group (ICG), "the situation remains highly fragile and potentially reversible. If the U.S. and others seek to press their advantage and deal the Sadrists a mortal blow, these gains are likely to be squandered, with Iraq experiencing yet another explosion of violence."

Instead, the ICG recommends that the U.S. and Iraqi forces work on incorporating Sadr and his followers into the political process. They suggest narrowly circumscribing operations against the Mahdi Army and Sadrist movement by:

(a) focusing on legitimate military targets, including armed groups involved in attacks against civilians or U.S. or Iraqi forces, weapon stockpiles and hideouts, or arms smuggling networks;

(b) taking action against Sadrist-manned patrols or checkpoints; and

(c) tolerating Sadrist activities that are strictly non-military, including those involving education, media, health services and religious affairs.
The ICG also urges freezing recruitment into the Shi'ite sahwa (awakening), the U.S.-backed tribe- and citizen-based militia set up to fight the Mahdi Army. Instead, we should concentrate on building a professional, non-partisan security force, integrating vetted Mahdi Army fighters.

So you see, whether or not gains attributed to the surge can be maintained depends on how smart our forces play it with Muqtada al-Sadr. In fact, a lot of the gains themselves might be more accurately attributed to Sadr's ceasefire. It's not a simple question of the number of troops, but rather a complex intersection of factionalized local politics, religious and sectarian divides, and fragile cooperation.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Iraqi Refugees Return to Challenges

EPIC's Erik Gustafson was quoted in an excellent article about the prospects and problems faced by Iraqi refugees returning home. Here's an excerpt:

An Iraqi soldier controls traffic at a checkpoint in central Baghdad.The Migration Policy Institute's Kathleen Newland argues that the Iraqi government is no longer encouraging large-scale returns.

"Before very many people had returned, the Iraqi government said to the ministry and to agencies assisting refugees in Syria to stop these organized returns because the Iraqi government just could not handle them," says Newland. "They were afraid that a large number of returnees might destabilize the situation if they try to get back to their houses that are occupied by others and that people would come back because of a monetary payment to a situation that really is not safe for them."

That view is shared by Erik Gustafson, Executive Director of the non-profit
Education for Peace in Iraq Center, which is based in Washington. He says Iraq still does not have the necessary infrastructure to support large numbers of returnees.

"We are seeing some steps like the distribution of oil revenues start to move in the right direction. But there are still a lot of roadblocks in terms of getting the resources out to the communities. A lot of Iraq's government ministries operate as the personal fiefdoms of whatever political party has that ministry and not truly operating on a national level," says Gustafson.

Returning Iraqis often face a shortage of housing and basic services, and residency restrictions in most governorates. Displacement specialist Dana Graberladek of the International Organization for Migration says those who have nowhere to go take residence in empty buildings or live in boxes on the street. Those who can, stay with relatives or rent.

"Those who are able to return to their homes return to the same conditions that all Iraqis are now facing: insecurity throughout the country, a lack of employment, a lack of access to medical services because there has been a flight of medical professionals. Many of the health centers and hospitals do not have the equipment and the medicine, overcrowded schools for those areas that have experienced an increase of internal displacement," says Graberladek.
For the full text of the article, click here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Headlines 2/19/08

UN Says Iraqi Refugees Need More Help
Associated Press
February 19, 2008
Iraq's government and international community must give more funding and support to resettle Iraqi refugees displaced by sectarian bloodletting, the United Nation's top official for refugees said Monday.

Iraq inches toward luring big oil investment
February 18, 2008
Iraq is inching toward attracting the billions of dollars needed to revamp its oil sector but international oil companies are still not ready to commit the massive sums required.

Sweden and Iraq sign deal to forcibly return asylum-seekers
International Herald Tribune
February 18, 2008
Sweden and Iraq signed a deal Monday that will make it easier for Swedish authorities to return Iraqi asylum-seekers who are not granted residency in the Scandinavian country, the Justice Ministry said.

Influx of Iraqi refugees bring Swedish town to its knees
Associated Free Press
February 17, 2008
A flood of Iraqi refugees to Soedertaelje is straining the infrastructure in this small Swedish town to the bursting point, but integration of the newcomers remains a top priority.

Iraq's Jihad Myths
Washington Post
February 17, 2008
Among Democrats and even many Republicans, it is by now accepted wisdom that the war in Iraq brought huge numbers of holy warriors to the anti-American cause. But is it true?

UN refugee agency boosts presence in Iraq
Associated Free Press
February 16, 2008
The UN refugee agency said Saturday it has boosted its international presence in Iraq and will intensify its efforts to support the war-torn country's two million internally displaced people.

U.S. Struggles to Tutor Iraqis in Rule of Law
New York Times
February 16, 2008
A mob had gathered by the time the F.B.I. agents arrived at the house where an assassin’s bomb killed nine people last year, narrowly missing a deputy prime minister. Fearing their own lives might be at risk, the agents gave themselves no more than 30 minutes to collect evidence.

Syria: Iraqi refugees can stay
United Press International
February 15, 2008
President Bashar Assad promised that no Iraqi refugees will be forced out of Syria while their country remains unsafe, the U.N. refugee chief said Friday.

Making (Some) Progress in Iraq
New York Times
February 14, 2008
Good news is rare in Iraq. But after months of bitter feuding, Iraq’s Parliament has finally approved a budget, outlined the scope of provincial powers, set an Oct. 1 date for provincial elections and voted a general amnesty for detainees.

U.N. seeks help for 'desperate' Iraqi refugees
February 14, 2008
Some 2 million Iraqis have fled their country, most seeking refuge in Syria and Jordan, and another 2.4 million have been displaced inside Iraq, according to the United Nations. The head of the U.N. refugee agency is on the road this week in the Middle East, trying to drum up more world support for a people in "desperate" straits.

Friday, February 15, 2008

U.S. Makes Major Contribution to Displaced Iraqis

Iraqi refugees wait to register outside a U.N. office in Duma, Syria, on Feb. 14th.Announced in a State Department press release yesterday, the United States is making an immediate contribution of $125 million to help provide protection and assistance for displaced Iraqis. According to the official statement, "these contributions are part of our large-scale efforts to protect refugees, internally displaced persons, and conflict victims worldwide."

The immediate contributions will include:

- $83 million for the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR)’s $261 million Iraq Situation Supplementary Appeal for 2008. UNHCR will ensure protection and access to essential services and education for displaced Iraqis in Iraq and neighboring countries.

- $2.4 million for the UNICEF portion of the joint UN Education Appeal providing education opportunities to Iraqi children in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt.

- $1 million for the UNICEF portion and $2 million for the WHO portion of the Joint United Nations Health Appeal providing medical assistance to Iraqi refugees in Jordan, Syria and Egypt.

- $5 million for the World Food Program (WFP)’s Emergency Operation distributing basic food rations in Syria.

These contributions are a big step for an administration that has
long remained silent on the issue of Iraqi refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). But it is not enough. UNHCR still needs over $100 million this year to meet the needs of Iraqis displaced by violence.

Hopefully, this action will be followed by the U.S. finally taking responsibility for the Iraqi displacement crisis, a humanitarian disaster totalling 4.5 million people, by excepting larger numbers of refugees, including the crisis in public discourse, and making further contributions to the NGOs and governments supporting displaced Iraqis.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Angelina Jolie Campaigns for Refugees

Click the box and then click "play" to watch Angelina Jolie's CNN interview regarding the Iraqi humanitarian crisis and the U.S. responsibility to help.

Folks, this is what "using your power for good" looks like. EPIC applauds Ms. Jolie's efforts to bring attention to this important cause.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Iraqi Refugee Resettlement Continues to Lag Behind Targets

Press Release from Refugees International

Washington, D.C. –- The number of Iraqi refugees resettled in the United States remained low last month with only 375 Iraqis resettled in January 2008. In response to the latest numbers released today, Refugees International expressed disappointment at the U.S. administration’s continual failure to meet its resettlement targets. In September of 2007, the State Department announced its goal of resettling 12,000 Iraqi refugees by the end of the fiscal year. Thus far, the U.S. has only resettled 1,432 Iraqi refugees in FY 2008. In 2007, the U.S. government only resettled 1,608 Iraqi refugees, despite the fact that the UN Refugee Agency referred 15,477 Iraqis to the U.S.

"It’s hard to imagine a stable Iraq when millions of Iraqis are languishing in neighboring countries. Syria, Jordan and others are unable to provide this huge influx of people with proper housing, food, medical care and education for their children," said Advocate Kristele Younes. "A year ago, the United States made a pledge to address the Iraqi refugee crisis and we have failed to keep that promise. In the President’s last year in office, a real effort should be made to resettle the most vulnerable Iraqi refugees and provide assistance for those still in the region."

On January 23rd, Representatives Hastings and Dingell sent a letter to President Bush urging increased funding for Iraqi refugees, asking for next year’s budget to include $1.5 billion for humanitarian assistance for 2.4 million Iraqis displaced within the country and some 2.5 million refugees being hosted in neighboring countries. The 2008 Defense Authorization Act, which was recently signed into law by the President, also established a special P-2 category and a special immigrant visa for Iraqis who have been targeted because of their affiliation with the U.S. government. Senators Edward Kennedy (D-Mass), Gordon Smith (R-Ore), Sam Brownback (R-Kan), Joe Lieberman (D-Conn) and a number of liberal and conservative Senators supported this bipartisan effort.

"Members of Congress have worked together to ease this crisis and support Iraqis forced from their homes by the violence in their country," added Younes. "Now, the administration must follow through and implement these measures. No matter what future course is taken for the war in Iraq, providing for the well-being of the Iraqi people inside and outside of the country is essential for establishing stability in the Middle East."

However, the 2009 budget request released by President Bush’s administration today reduced funding for refugee assistance by $59 million. "It is disturbing that President Bush is proposing a budget that reduces assistance for refugees," said Advocate Jacob Kurtzer. "The number of refugees is increasing, causing humanitarian emergencies and threatening regional stability, yet the Administration isn’t requesting the necessary funds to address these issues. It is discouraging, and reflects a lack of commitment from the White House to support the needs of refugees worldwide."

Press Release from Refugees International

Headlines 2/6/08

Iraq embassy to ask Jordan to exempt illegals from fines
February 6, 2008

One Surge That Led to Another
By Michael Gerson
Washington Post
February 6, 2008

Iraq Refugees: Bring Iraqis here
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
February 5, 2008

Processing of Iraqi Refugees Remains Slow, U.S. Says
New York Times
February 5, 2008

Iraq issues new law giving Baathists jobs back
February 3, 2008

Sweden slashes asylum grants to Iraqi refugees
The Local (Sweden)
February 2, 2008

Palestinian refugees in Iraq call for unity
The International Middle East Media Center
February 2, 2008

Iraq, refugees and moral obligations
By Bernd Debusmann
January 30, 2008

Higher oil prices could be boon to Iraq and rebuilding program: report
The Canadian Press
January 30, 2008

UN survey finds 1 in 5 Iraqi refugees are victims of torture or violence
January 28, 2008

First Iraqi war refugees heading for NH this week
By Michael Cousineau
New Hampshire Union Leader
January 27, 2008

Refugees are too scared to return to Iraq: A woman who lost her family highlights the plight of Iraq’s forgotten refugees
By Hala Jaber and Ali Rifat
The Sunday Times
January 27, 2008

Severe cold weather pushing living costs to limit for Iraqi refugees
January 26, 2008

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday

Science Fiction/Horror writer Stephen KingThe most interesting take on today's excitement I've seen or read came from science fiction/horror writer Stephen King in Entertainment Weekly Magazine, who compares the primary race and the accompanying media frenzy to a reality TV show. Indeed, American voters seem to be on the edge of their seats today, waiting for the final elimination with rapt attention.

But in all the excitement and frenzy, let's not forget what is really important. The next President of the United States will hold not only the future of our country in his or her hands, but also the lives of millions of Iraqis who have lost their homes and loved ones, suffered untold trauma, and been forced to flee for their lives. The next President will have to decide how much to invest in military solutions, and/or economic and humanitarian ones in order to bring peace and stability to Iraq.

EPIC does not endorse candidates. But we have
summarized the Iraq positions of the leading Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, which we gleaned from their respective websites. The leading Republican candidates, Mitt Romney and John McCain, seem to be following President Bush's lead in not addressing Iraq's humanitarian needs.

We have no doubt that all the candidates are honorable individuals who value human life and want to do the right thing. But why aren't they talking about refugees, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and U.S. obligations to provide humanitarian assistance and protection? Acknowledging and offering a plan to address Iraq’s humanitarian crisis ought to be part of every candidate’s platform on Iraq, and ought to have come up often in speeches and debates. It’s in the best interest of Iraqis, Americans (especially in helping to restore our standing in the region), and international security.

Stephen King points out that "American voters seem to have realized that once they go into the voting booth and pull the curtain closed, they're on their own. No cameras, no celebs, no immunity challenges. Only them and the lever." If you are voting today, don't forget, when the curtain closes, that your vote will have impact not only across this country, but across the world. Please don't forget that with that lever, you may hold the lives of millions of Iraqis in your hands.
Clicky Web Analytics