One can imagine George Herbert Bush’s military advisors telling him not to go after Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War. Overthrowing Hussein, the advisors explain to the erstwhile president, will create a power vacuum and a country splintered by bloody civil war. In addition, the advisors remind the president that the United Nations has not issued a mandate allowing military forces on the ground to topple the Hussein government. George Herbert Bush decided to listen to his advisors and obey the will of the international community. It was not a popular decision at the time.
In retrospect, it is obvious to even a casual observer that our incumbent president was itching to finish what his father started. George W. Bush figured he could secure his place in history by exporting democracy to Iraq with an iron fist. The results have been catastrophic for the Iraqi people and the citizens of the United States.
Here are the simple facts. Despite opposition from international and domestic leaders, President Bush convinced enough people in government to green light the invasion of Iraq. The military intelligence used as a pretext for the invasion turned out to be bogus. Five years later, the war rages on. Thousands of U.S. Military personnel have died or have received serious, life-changing injuries. Thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens have needlessly lost their lives or suffered serious wounds. More than five million Iraqi refugees have lost their homes, jobs, and entire way of life.
No one in the United States government wants to take responsibility for this destruction. It is now the responsibility of the people in this country to do the right thing.
Nothing speaks more eloquently about the suffering the war in Iraq has caused than the stories of the refugees themselves. Kareem, a history professor, suffered disfiguring wounds to his face when American airplanes bombed the University where he teaches. Forty-five students and teachers died when the second floor of the building collapsed into the first floor. More than a hundred people reported injuries from the attack.
“The Americans are a peaceful and honest people,” Kareem says. “That’s what I’ve seen through the television. They refused the war and this war has been destructive to both countries…For the last four years, it has gone from bad to worse.”
Ahmad worked as a loyal employee of the US Coalition Forces in Iraq. He bonded with the Marines he worked with as a translator and cultural liaison. He felt as if the Marines had become his family. After a Shiite militia murdered his fellow translator and friend, Ahmad fled the country in fear for his own life.
This story is all too familiar to seven thousand other young Iraqis who worked faithfully in official capacities for U.S. troops in Iraq, mostly as translators and cultural advisors. Insurgent factions have marked these young Iraqis for death. The United States Government refuses to grant visas or political asylum to these former employees.
Hiba is a young woman who fled Iraq with her family a few months after the war began. Jordan’s government denied asylum to this family of seven. They spent four years living in a tent in Ruwayshed, a refugee camp on the border of Iraq and Jordan.
Unfortunately, Hiba’s story is similar to the experience of a majority of Iraqi refugees. Syria, Lebanon and Jordan routinely deny access or status to homeless families and refugees fleeing from religious or political persecution from within their own country. There is no government infrastructure or private sector relief programs established in bordering countries to deal with the refugee crisis. The situation is analogous to the Jewish refugee crisis after World War II when more than four million people lost their homes and way of life in the Holocaust.
These are but a handful of the refugees stories. There are thousands of stories, many too horrible and brutal to imagine. We are the only source of help the Iraqi refugees can call on at this time. “The List,” an independent citizen action group, helps Iraqis living under the threat of death to find safe haven outside of the country. UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, urgently needs funding. This agency relies on private contributions for over 95% of its budget. To find out how you can support organizations like these, please visit http://www.iraqirefugeestories.org/