Sunday, April 01, 2007

He started it

but nobody laughed. Or cried. Or, apparently, listened:

Bush made a surprising reference to the blogosphere during a spirited defense of his war strategy on Wednesday. The mention seemed even more unusual because the president didn't identify whom he was quoting, so he seemed to be leaning on anonymous commentary.

"They have bloggers in Baghdad, just like we've got here,” Bush told the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

Then he began to quote: “Displaced families are returning home, marketplaces are seeing more activity, stores that were long shuttered are now reopening. We feel safer about moving in the city now. Our people want to see this effort succeed.”

His point was that Iraqi people are seeing signs of progress – and what better example of their unbridled expression than blogs.
Except. of course: what do blogs know?

The continuing violence and instability in Iraq has forced an ever-greater number of Iraqis to flee and seek refuge in neighboring countries. However, these countries, particularly Jordan and Syria, have voiced concern that they cannot take in more Iraqi refugees indefinitely.

Humanitarian organizations and human rights groups have called on the international community to do more to help ease the strain on these countries. While the international community debates on how to deal with the crisis, the plight of the Iraqi refugees worsens.


The influx of Iraqi refugees into neighboring Jordan and Syria has created a massive strain on the resources of the two nations. The UNHCR has estimated that there are 700,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan and 1.2 million in Syria. To stem the flow, authorities in both countries have imposed stricter border controls, particularly in Jordan.

Iraqis seeking to enter Jordan now must be over 40 or under 20, have sufficient funds to support themselves while staying in the kingdom, and most importantly, posses the new Iraqi passport.
That information, ironically, is from Radio Free Europe. The only domestic news report a cursory Google search turned up was about a squabble between Congress and the White House:

The Bush administration defended itself Monday against congressional charges that it is not doing enough for thousands of Iraqi refugees, including many who are at great risk because of their service to the American-led coalition in Iraq.
No mention there of any numbers at all. Not, of course, that the information can't be found:

AMY GOODMAN: Muhammad and Hiba, just two of the Iraqi refugees. They're living in Amman. Kathy Kelly, you went to Amman to work with refugees. How many, two million Iraqis?

KATHY KELLY: Sure, there are 750,000 to one million in Jordan alone, and in Syria, 850,000 to a million. And then of course, a massive humanitarian catastrophe within Iraq, where there are at least 1.9 million people that have been displaced.

AMY GOODMAN: What is happening and what about the United States? Is the United States allowing Iraqi refugees in here?

KATHY KELLY: About the time that Jen filmed her interview with Hiba, the United States State Department had issued a kind of rosy report about the programs it was undertaking with the new Iraqi refugee task force, and talked about social counseling, emergency cash and small infrastructure projects. But people that are living in Jordan have seen very little of that. And anyway, if all of the money they have allotted had been spent on Jordan alone, that would amount to $3.5 per person amongst the new population in Jordan of Iraqis forced to flee violence.

The Jordanian government is strained. It's very difficult for them to imagine trying to bring in this new population to their schools, to their hospitals. People are in grave danger of being deported. The young man who was interviewed, if he were to be discovered as having a visa that's run out, then he can be deported across the border. That trip to Baghdad is extremely risky and dangerous. And so people don't want to even produce their documents, for instance, to try to get their children into a school, even if they can afford it, because if their visa has run out they might risk deportation.

People don't have access to health care. They have basically no legal rights. And this is a situation which the United States has caused. And yet when the United Nations High Commission for Refugees asked for $60 million to alleviate some of the suffering, the United States contributed $18 million. If the US would just give a few hours worth of the money that's spent on the war, this could possibly make a significant difference.

“For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. 18 “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. 19 “So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. 20 “You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. 21 “He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen. 22 “Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven. Deuteronomy 10:17-22

Time was we knew, as a country, what those words meant. Now we would rather argue about homosexuals and priestly power and, apparently, consider which Presidential candidate talks about his faith "enough." But it is the loss of that moral compass that pains me more than any other. Even when the President mentions it, US media can't pay attention to it. And attention must be paid.

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