And one I have to agree with him in most respects -- we need to do more to assist refugees in Iraq, especially those who have assisted the Coalition and the new Iraqi government.
There is an overwhelming need for temporary relief and permanent resettlement. Last year, however, America accepted only 202 Iraqi refugees, and next year we plan to accept approximately the same number. We and other nations of the world need to do far better.
Thousands of these refugees are fleeing because they have been affiliated in some way with the United States. Cooks, drivers and translators have been called traitors for cooperating with the United States. They know all too well that the fate of those who work with U.S. civilians or military forces can be sudden death. Yet, beyond a congressionally mandated program that accepts 50 Iraqi translators from Iraq and Afghanistan each year, the administration has done nothing to resettle brave Iraqis who provided assistance in some way to our military. This lack of conscience is fundamentally unfair. We need to do much more to help Iraqi refugees, especially those who have helped our troops.
As a humanitarian issue, there is no question that Kennedy is right. More humanitarian aid will help to stablize the region and stem the humanitarian crisis that exists. But there is one other consideration as well -- one that the policy proposals we hear from too many Democrats make a real issue.
The biggest disgrace of America's betrayal of South Vietnam was the number of Vietnamese left behind who had relied on US assurances that their assistance to the United States and involvement with the South Vietnamese government would assure them a seat out when the Communists violated the Paris Peace Accords. As some Democrats prepare to force a second great military cut-and-run from success, we need to ensure that there are not many Iraqis who assisted America trying to break through the embassy gates as the last American helicopter leaves the Green Zone
UPDATE -- 1/2/2007: How serious is that refugee crisis?
With thousands of Iraqis desperately fleeing this country every day, advocates for refugees, and even some American officials, say there is an urgent need to allow more Iraqi refugees into the United States.
Until recently the Bush administration had planned to resettle just 500 Iraqis this year, a mere fraction of the tens of thousands of Iraqis who are now believed to be fleeing their country each month. State Department officials say they are open to admitting larger numbers, but are limited by a cumbersome and poorly financed United Nations referral system.
“We’re not even meeting our basic obligation to the Iraqis who’ve been imperiled because they worked for the U.S. government,” said Kirk W. Johnson, who worked for the United States Agency for International Development in Falluja in 2005. “We could not have functioned without their hard work, and it’s shameful that we’ve nothing to offer them in their bleakest hour.”
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The State Department has made it clear that it is deeply concerned about the fate of Iraq’s religious minorities, including Christians. Officials at the department say that any refugee program must also be geared to those vulnerable groups.
As many as 100,000 exiled Iraqi Christians have relatives in the United States and would want to resettle there if given the chance, said Joseph T. Kassab, the executive director of the Chaldean Federation of America, a Michigan-based umbrella group that represents Iraqi Christians. Mr. Kassab said his group’s estimates were based on questionnaires devised by University of Michigan professors and filled out by several thousand Iraqi Christian refugees in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon in recent months.
Yes, we need to care for the religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq -- but what of those in peril because of their service to the United States? Do we not have an obligation to them? Or is it April 30, 1975 all over again.