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Left in the lurch

July 23rd, 2007

There’s nothing much more reprehensible than pushing friends into danger and then leaving them in the lurch. But that’s what the main members of the Coalition of the Willing have done in Iraq. Having hired many thousands of Iraqis to work for them in various capacities, the Coalition finds itself unable to protect them from death squads who are specifically hunting interpreters, not to mention private acts of revenge and the general chaos the war has unleashed. In these circumstances, there is an obvious and direct moral obligation to grant asylum to those who seek it. Not only is there a moral obligation, but a failure to protect those who have worked for us will produce long-run consequences more durable and damaging than those of a lost war alone. If we desert those who have helped us now, who will be foolish enough to do so in future.[1]

But the Coalition countries, with the notable exception of Denmark, have so far chosen to ignore the problem. The US promised this year to take 7000 Iraqi refugees (a bit over 0.2 per cent of those who’ve fled the country or been displaced internally) but has so far managed to admit just 133 since last October. That number adds to about 600 since the war began. The British position is not much better. Australia admitted, admitting about 2000 Iraq-born refugees last year, some of whom fled the country when Saddam was in power, rather than as a result of the current chaos. This is not as bad as the US, but still incredibly grudging compared to our response after Vietnam.

If you’re in the UK, you can join a letter-writing campaign here. Similarly, the Australian government and the Labor opposition should be pressed to make a commitment to follow Denmark’s lead and provide asylum to all those who have worked for us.

A big problem here is that those making a noise about the issue (here, here, here, here and here for example) are not those that the authors of this war will listen to.

Still, there is time. Particularly for those who claimed to be motivated by humanitarian concerns in supporting the war, there’s a chance of at least partial redemption in doing something to help its millions of victims.

[1] Of course, there’s a broader obligation to the millions of refugees created by this war, which I’ve discussed previously. But if we can’t even protect the people who actually worked for us, what hope is there for the rest.

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  1. July 23rd, 2007 at 21:01 | #1

    Yes, allowing into the country a few thousand muslims who are not kindly disposed toward murderous terrorists will be a great thing.

    Diluting the current strain of islam in Australia with heaps of anti-terrorists can only be a good thing for the country.

  2. observa
    July 23rd, 2007 at 21:53 | #2

    I was going to suggest we call upon all the human shields to protect them but then this bloke has a brighter idea http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,22117962-401,00.html?from=public_rss

  3. Hermit
    July 23rd, 2007 at 22:16 | #3

    If the US takes in many Iraqi refugees while oil output remains below Saddam levels it will be a humiliation. Instead of plunder the US will gain more mouths to feed. Not only is less Iraq oil flowing to the market the US military is forced to buy huge amounts of refined fuel from neighbouring Kuwait I believe. Given the tensions over Hispanic immigration to the US I think a large Iraqi refugee intake would be the last straw. A more abject debacle is hard to imagine.

  4. jstrocch
    July 23rd, 2007 at 23:23 | #4

    This is one asylum seeking episode which AUS should wade into with its eyes closed and its pockets open.

    We should do everything we can to rescue those that the war party’s reckless militarism (mea culpa) has placed in immediate and irrevocable peril.

    This is a moral imperative on humaitarian grounds.

    The threat to our Iraqi allies is also a test of national honour. No image more symbolised the disgrace of defeat than the image of our South Vietnamese allies attempting to hitch a ride on helicopters lifting off from the US embassy in Saigon.

    A repetition of that dismal spectacle in Baghdads Green Zone is unbearable to contemplate.

  5. mugwump
    July 23rd, 2007 at 23:37 | #5

    I agree entirely.

    Let us not repeat Whitlam’s disgrace of refusing to allow South Vietnamese into Australia after the fall of Saigon, fearing the “Yellow Balts” would have anti-communist sympathies and be hostile to the ALP.

  6. July 24th, 2007 at 08:04 | #6

    saving people who helped the oz government is the responsibility of the oz government. i expect them to allow as many iraqis as want to, to immigrate to nauru. i was one of the 70% of ozzians who didn’t want to join dubya’s big adventure, and i expect iraqis to be quartered in the back bedrooms of those who got a thrill out of being dubya’s lackey, if nauru is not good enough.

    but, just a modest suggestion, shouldn’t we talk about how this position occurred, and how to prevent it occurring again?

    or is serious political discussion impossible in a land with sedition laws and gulags? especially since there is general acceptance that pollies and police should do as they please, unfettered by law.

  7. conrad
    July 24th, 2007 at 08:52 | #7

    As much as that might be morally decent, I find it hard to imagine any of the countries that caused the problems are likely to do this — especially if there is another terrorist bombing (from any nationality) in those countries. I can just imagine the hysterics in Australia if that happened.
    How about a second solution — Iran installs a new authoritarian puppet government that brutally suppresses all and sundry, including those causing the violence.

  8. July 24th, 2007 at 10:07 | #8

    conrad, you may be onto something, but i wonder- do any pahlavis dare travel east of manhattan?

  9. jstrocch
    July 24th, 2007 at 10:11 | #9

    THe Bush admin probably think that helping Iraqi refugees “sends the wrong message”, preparing for defeat. I can just imagine stony-faced Dick Cheyney stamping NFA on their file.

  10. Razor
    July 24th, 2007 at 15:09 | #10

    The best thing we can do for these people is to continue to kill the terrorists who are targetting innocent civilians. At the same time we ned to continue to build the Iraqi’s organic fighting capability and build the institutions to bring about a stable democracy.

    The worst thing we can do for the Iraqis is talk about withdrawing forces before the terrorists are defeated or the Iraqis have the capacity to take the fight up themselves.

    We are still in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor – why the rush to abandon the Iraqis to a bloodbath?

  11. bam
    July 24th, 2007 at 18:37 | #11

    How could we ever hope that our government, who denied refuge to people fleeing the very man they invaded Iraq to stop, the late S.H., would give refuge to people who would now be fleeing a democracy. This is what has been established (well they voted didn’t they) regardless of fact that it is a democracy in turmoil, a nation now out of control and home to a devestated people.

  12. observa
    July 24th, 2007 at 19:07 | #12

    “We are still in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor – why the rush to abandon the Iraqis to a bloodbath?”

    So we can legitimately save Afghanis from the same fate and make us safer from terrorism silly. The last bit might seem a tad selfish, but then nobody’s perfect.

  13. swio
    July 24th, 2007 at 19:27 | #13

    Without question asylum should be provided, but there is a real practical problem to providing asylum.

    Do they provide conditional asylum? You have asylum in the US/Aus/UK, but only if America pulls out of Iraq, otherwise you are expected to continue to work in Baghdad? How do they provide asylum to worker’s families? Now, or during an evacuation? And if a person’s family is already out of the country how long are they going to want to remain there themself? Plus the rate of asylum offerings will inevitably be seen as a measure of confidence in a continuing mission.

    Once asylum starts being given in quantity the mission in Iraq becomes significantly weakened. Its hard to see how it can be done without also making the decision to withdraw.

  14. observa
    July 24th, 2007 at 19:57 | #14

    SATP’s point about stuffing marginal seats with effing Iraqi Balts may have some considerable merit too, but there is the uncomfortable question of every time some troublespot turns particularly bad, due to persecution should we be complicit in ethnic, theocratic and economic cleansing, to aid and abet the persecutors? After all, when you have taken the stance that Saddam was really the best option, and those under the yoke need time to work out their troubles in their own good time, then you can hardly argue for cleansing the very people who may be able to speed that process, that you were comfortable with, albeit that it was a least worst option. In this particular case, now that the Jihadists are doing the persecution, it may be better to have these people flee across close borders, to help provide an antithetical bulwark against such persecution spreading. Again a least worst option, but at least being with like minded people and close to their homeland, they can ferment and exert the necessary pressure to return their country to better times. We should of course be prepared to help them and their new refuge achieve that with economic assistance.

  15. observa
    July 24th, 2007 at 19:58 | #15

    Actually with all the means at our disposal.

  16. Razor
  17. observa
    July 25th, 2007 at 01:30 | #17
  18. July 25th, 2007 at 08:40 | #18

    actually, now that i think about it, there is something worse than leaving friends in the lurch:

    that would be putting them there in the first place.

    i can claim to be not responsible, as i didn’t vote for a politician. those who did, are responsible.

  19. July 25th, 2007 at 10:12 | #19

    Gotta love Razor’s linked op-ed, written by a mouthpiece of the Iraqi government. This was the best they could find to say:

    ‘Just this week, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, the United Nations’ special representative for Iraq, announced at a news conference in Baghdad that Iraq had achieved, or at least started to achieve, 75% of the benchmarks it set for itself in the U.N.-led International Compact with Iraq.’

    Sounds like one of my weight loss projects … 75% of the time I at least start to achieve my targets.

    Why anyone would present such an obviously self-serving piece of Iraqi government propaganda as evidence of anything is beyond me.

    On the broader issue I would only suggest that ‘asylum’ is perhaps not the most suitable word. Countries usually grant asylum to people who have a legitimate fear of persecution by the government of their own nation. These Iraqis aren’t worried about that, they’re concerned that they run a greater-then-normal risk of being murdered. Given that the risk is unlikely to change any time soon, the question is whether they should be given permanent residency visas just because they’ve chosen a dangerous line of work … it’s different to granting political asylum.

    If they are granted visas and lots of them take advantage of them, it kind of defeats the purpose of employing locals in the first place, because those who leave would have to be replaced, in which case the new employees migrate, and so on.

    And where do you draw the line? Iraqi police guarding Americans and Iraqi soldiers serving with Americans are at an even higher risk of getting killed. Should they be allowed to migrate too? The notion that we should be helping people flee a country where the government is allegedly a friendly one based on free democratic principles is just one more example of the Alice in Wonderland quality that’s characterised the whole Iraq project. Which is not to say that I don’t agree we have an obligation … just that the situation has created problems to which there may be no satisfactory solutions.

  20. observa
    July 25th, 2007 at 10:18 | #20

    Irrespective of any initial position on Iraq, have a listen to the interview with Michael Yon on the ground and see if you come away thinking it’s time to pull the pin
    http://politicscentral.com/2007/07/23/the_glenn_and_helen_show_micha_4.php

  21. jquiggin
    July 25th, 2007 at 13:02 | #21

    “The Left will ignore any progress.”

    To put it more accurately, most people will ignore unverifiable claims made by people whose similar claims have consistently proved false in the past

    If you can point me to someone who correctly stated from 2003 to 2006 that things were getting steadily worse, and now says there is progress, I’ll pay careful attention.

  22. Razor
    July 25th, 2007 at 13:55 | #22

    OK JQ – go and read Michael Yon – easily found on the web. He has been reporting on the conflict for a long time. He called it bad when it was not working the way it should have. He is now reporting progress. His views are studiously ignored by main stream media outlets such as AP, Reuters, BBC, CNN et al. He filed stories on Al Queda massacres of entire villages that the mainstream media didn’t report on. Why are his reports ignored? Because he doesn’t fit the losing narrative.

    http://www.michaelyon-online.com/

  23. Ian Gould
    July 25th, 2007 at 21:29 | #23

    Let’s not forget that not only are the CoW governments leaving Iraqi refugees in the lurch, they are also for the most part leaving their American allies in the lurch.

    I disagreed (to put it mildly with the decision to invade) but having supported that decision, the governments of the various coalition members should have been prepared to support the invasion to the full.

    Despite my dislike for Howard, I give him credit for standing by the US and the Iraqi people.

  24. jquiggin
    July 27th, 2007 at 09:20 | #24

    I’ll grant that Yon is honest and trying to call it as he sees it, unlike the vast majority of those promoting “good news from Iraq”. But I can’t say his evidence that the surge is working seems any different from the evidence we’ve heard so many times before inhte past four years.

    As regards the claim that Al-Qaeda (which I take to be a catch-all for any of the groups engaged in this stuff) massacres of entire villages don’t “fit the losing narrative” are you saying they are a sign that we are winning?

  25. Mantaray
    July 28th, 2007 at 21:33 | #25

    The war is obviously going well; about 90% of the insurgents being killed are non-Iraqis. Compare this to the Vietnam War, and you can see immediately they (the insurgents) have no popular support nor base.
    Thus, talk of taking refugees who have “helped” us is premature nonsense.They are in the process of taking control of their own country, so why should they be encouraged to throw in the towel?

    When the Allies invaded Italy in 1943, should they have said “C’mon everyone. We’re here to toss Mussolini out and liberate the place. If it gets messy and the Germans try to help their mate and/or his gang stay in power, all of you wogs can immediately emigrate to the US and we’ll do the fighting for you”. Surely this would’ve been the stupidest thing imaginable.

    As far as death squads gunning for interpreters/police recruits etc etc; they’re indiscriminately killing people buying veges, going to the mosque, driving down the street, wearing shorts after tennis practice, having a coffee etc etc etc…every day of the week; the “american stooge” argument for murder is but one of thousands of such pretexts, which cannot be taken seriously.

  26. pre-aussie
    January 23rd, 2008 at 12:05 | #26

    now aussies will leave iraq in next june what we will face after that , i wish new australian government do some thing for staff which worked to help australian army and diplomatin iraq

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