Wednesday, October 08, 2008

In the Next Obama-McCain Debate, Who Will Speak Up for Millions of Vulnerable Iraqis?

Kurdish refugee camp in northern Iraq.Here at EPIC we're disappointed but not surprised that we didn't hear Tom Brokaw ask a question about the humanitarian crisis facing millions of Iraqis. Given the global economic crisis, Americans are understandably focused on pocketbook issues close to home.

But in an increasingly interconnected world, it's important for the United States to be responsibly engaged in facing global challenges, especially challenges that we helped create.

Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, millions of Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes. Years of violence, economic dislocation, and failures in the delivery of essential services have left 17 million Iraqis without reliable access to drinkable water. More than 4 million Iraqis live in fear of hunger. While security has improved significantly over the past year, the vast majority of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are staying put. With their own safety or that of their families in mind, they worry about the sustainability of recent security gains. For those who fled direct threats of persecution, they fear any return as long as their persecutor remains free.

Dear friends, we think it's time we had a broader conversation about Iraq. A conversation that goes beyond shallow, partisan questions like "Did the surge work or not?" There are additional questions that the candidates ought to answer: How will you help millions of Iraqis affected by a conflict that we helped create? Will you increase U.S. admissions of vulnerable Iraqi refugees? Will you strengthen humanitarian assistance to the region? Are you committed to supporting Iraq's peace and development?

We need to take these questions directly to the candidates.

In one week, Barack Obama and John McCain will square up for one last debate. Here’s your chance to ask them questions about our issues and to offer the answers you'd like to hear. If you keep your submission to a paragraph or less, you increase your chances of reaching a senior communications adviser or even one of the candidate.

Send your questions and talking points to each candidate via their websites:

Barack Obama | John McCain

Here's a sample from yours truly: Americans and Iraqis are interconnected by events over the past five and a half years. It's not enough to say you support "victory" or "ending the war" in Iraq, we want to know what you plan to do -- specifically -- to help millions of Iraqis who desperately need humanitarian relief and protection. In addition, what do you see as America's moral and international obligation to the people of Iraq?

Photo caption: Kurdish refugee camp in northern Iraq. Jasper Young/Panos Pictures

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