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Refugees? What Refugees?

Conservatives continue to live under the wild delusion that our intervention in Iraq hasn't created any refugees has created only a fraction of the number of 4 million refugees reported by the UN and NGOs like Refugees International. Iraq Slogger shoots down that fantasy.

But then there was that field of trash. What had looked at first glance like just a garbage dump was dotted with crude brick homes and mud huts with walls reinforced with tin cans and roofs of corrugated iron and cardboard.

Small children played barefoot in the dirt. An elderly man hobbled by on a crutch. The water buffalo, valued in the south of Iraq for their milk, wallowed in stagnant ponds that had turned a dark maroon color from the waste.

There is no clean water, no sewage, no electricity. Just makeshift houses in a seemingly never-ending field of trash.

The police said the Shiite families had been driven out of al-Haswa south of Baghdad by sectarian cleansing. They said there were perhaps 100 families who had arrived over the past year.

One of the refugees prefers life under Saddam:

"Life was better under Saddam because then there were no terrorists. Nothing has changed except they removed Saddam - we didn't have electricity or water then either."

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says there are now 2.2 million Iraqi refugees and another 2 million people who have been displaced internally. The situation for the internally displaced is increasingly grim:

More than half of Iraq's 18 governorates are preventing displaced people from entering their territories, either by stopping them at checkpoints or by refusing to register them for food aid and other basic services.

Oddly enough, there wasn't a single question in this week's Republican or Democratic debates about the Iraqi refugee problem and what we intend to do about it. These people will be George W Bush's living legacy for decades to come. It's time we assume our responsibility for their plight and undertake a major initiative to help them out.

Update: Cirby points out that the striked out claim above was over the top so I've amended it.

Some conservatives, like Cirby, have made the claim that there must be far fewer refugees than the UN and NGOs are reporting. If the Bush administration disputes the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the governments of Jordan and Syria on the number of refugees I'd like to see the documentation. I haven't been able to find it. In fact, I haven't found much discussion at all concerning this issue by government or military officials or political leaders from either party. That's why I continue writing these posts--to get at the truth about what's happening.

Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!

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Comments (2)


...and, once again, you're making shit up.

It's a long way from 100 refugees to TWO POINT TWO MILLION - with all of the stories posted here added together, we're up to (maybe) five hundred.

You're also going to have to find some sort of source to quote for that "no refugees" straw man you put up there.

Sure, there's refugees, there's just nowhere near that two million (now 2.2 million) that someone made up - or if there are, they're magical invisible traceless ones.

...and have we got any more tragic stories from that "refugee camp" you reported on the first time? You know, the one with electricity, running water, and taxi service, and the brother and sister (the only two actual refugees mentioned in the text) who are talking about moving back to Baghdad because the locals aren't nice people and are sometimes rude?


...and that UNHCR report is getting odder and odder.

Somehow, among all of those hundreds of UNHCR prople running around the Mideast, with all of those supposed Iraqi refugees sitting in camps, nobody seems to be able to take any actual photographs of more than a few dozen actual refugees.

They might as well publish this guesstimate in the Lancet, since it's apparently based on the same sort of mathematics ("we've processed a few hundred in the last couple of weeks, so there must be MILLIONS more of them in other places we can't even find!").

It's even more interesting when you hit the various refugee organization web sites. At one (refugeesinternational), they repeat the same level of concern, and a similar number of people (1.8 million, in their case), but out of 1504 photos of various refugee crisis areas around the world, they have a massive total of 16 photos of refugees from and in Iraq AND Syria.

One of the photos is from the al-Tanf (also spelled al-Tanaf) camp on the Iraqi/Syrian border, which is the temporary home of less than 400 Palestinians, who had to run like hell when Hussein was overthrown (do some Googling as to why people in Baghdad didn't like Palestinians, due to their Baathist ties).

From other sources on the Web, the only camp anyone seems to be able to show is that same one -Palestinians who want to leave Iraq, but who are being kept out of Syria. The photos from al-Tanf are curious, too, since almost all of the ones showing people are of small crowds, and nothing showing the scope of the entire operation. Seems like someone could hop up on one of the surrounding hills to give us a look at the largest refugee camp in the area, right?

Unless, of course, there aren't that many. In which case, we'd get, well, pretty much exactly what the photos are showing. A few people, dressed pretty nicely for refugees, in a camp in the desert.

Syria? Seems that, if a country with a population of 19 million had to suddenly house an extra million or so, we'd be seeing signs of the massive overcrowding. Or at least one "camp" that didn't have better amenities than I did in my first year of college.

Some time in the future, someone from UNHCR is going to admit that the number of "refugees" is closer to 150,000 (the actual count by UN workers) than 2.2 million, and that most of them were fleeing the collapse of the Hussein government because they were part of that government.


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