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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Hundreds of Billions for War, Pretty Much Jack for Refugees of War

The refugee crisis in Iraq and her neighbors should be news. Big news. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Iraq's refugee crisis is "the largest population movement since Palestinians were displaced after the creation of Israel in 1948." There are 1.8 million internally displaced and another 2 million have fled to other nations, according to the International Herald Tribune. Yet we in the west hear almost nothing about it.

Which is why we aren't freaking out about how little we're doing about it. The Herald Tribune tells us that the US State Department plans to spend $20 million on aiding refugees. Do the math; that's a little more than ten bucks per refugee for the internally displaced alone. That ought to go a long way.

Compare that $20 million figure to this:

Associated Press:

Keeping troops in Iraq for another year and a half will cost nearly a quarter-trillion dollars — about $800 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. — under the budget President Bush will submit to Congress Monday.

Bush will ask for $100 billion more for military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan this year and seek $145 billion for 2008, a senior Pentagon official said Friday. Those requests come on top of about $344 billion spent for Iraq since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

We've got boatloads of cash when it comes to killing people, but when it comes to saving them, we toss them some spare change. Suddenly, we can't scrape up the money.

Not to worry though, we'll spend a little more on refugees.

Reuters Alertnet:

Writing in USA Today, Adam Goodheart of Washington College in Chestertown and political writer John R. Bohrer point out another "laughable" figure when it comes to U.S. help for Iraqi refugees: $500,000 that will go to the U.N. refugee settlement efforts. Doesn't sound too bad until you divide the figure by the millions who have left Iraq and get a figure of a few cents of aid per refugee.

Of course, Bush's attitude is that the iraqis can take our pennies and thank us for blowing the hell out of their country and screwing up their lives.

60 Minutes Interview:

Asked if he thinks he owes the Iraqi people an apology for not doing a better job, Bush says, "Well I don’t, that we didn’t do a better job or they didn’t do a better job?"

"Well, that the United States did not do a better job in providing security after the invasion?" [interviewer Scott] Pelley clarifies.

"Not at all. I think I am proud of the efforts we did. We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude. That’s the problem here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that’s significant enough in Iraq," Bush replies.

Here's an interesting question -- is it that Bush is brain damaged or that he's drunk? I don't sit around worrying that iraqis don't appreciate what we've done, do you? Millions are displaced, armed gangs rove the streets, kidnapping, murder, and ethnic cleansing are common place, and iraqis are supposed to be grateful? Iraq is inarguably worse off now than it was under Saddam Hussein -- allow me to repeat that, we've taken a country ruled by a brutal dictator and made it worse. That takes a real talent for screwing things up royally.

And Bush thinks iraqis are supposed to be grateful for that. No wonder the most common sentiment in the middle east is screw America and screw George W. Bush. We need to get this idiot out of the driver's seat. Congress needs take this war away from him -- he obviously has no idea what to do with it. And we need to stop pretending that our actions are without consequence and everything's great.

We need to deal with the crises we create. Throwing refugees a crust of bread isn't going to get the job done.


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(Photo courtesy of UN High Commissioner for Refugees/P.Sands/December 2006. Free for editorial use)