One in seven

Will Rogers suggested a simple standard for evaluating any country or community: Are people trying to get in? Or are they trying to get out?

By that standard, as Dahr Jamail reports on TomDispatch, Iraq is a massive failure:

Let's start with the numbers, inadequate as they are. The latest UN figures concerning the refugee crisis in Iraq indicate that between 1-1.2 million Iraqis have fled across the border into Syria; about 750,000 have crossed into Jordan (increasing its modest population of 5.5 million by 14%); at least another 150,000 have made it to Lebanon; over 150,000 have emigrated to Egypt; and — these figures are the trickiest of all — over 1.9 million are now estimated to have been internally displaced by civil war and sectarian cleansing within Iraq.

These numbers are staggering in a population estimated in the pre-invasion years at only 26 million. At a bare minimum, in other words, at least one out of every seven Iraqis has had to flee his or her home due to the violence and chaos set off by the Bush administration's invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Syrian officials and UNHCR workers tell Jamail that these estimates are probably too low — that the number of Iraqi refugees in Syria is probably closer to 1.5 million. The High Commissioner for Refugees has a budget of only $16 million for 2007 for assisting these refugees.

The primary trigger for this crisis was the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, and yet President Bush and his top officials have taken no significant steps whatsoever to share in the resulting refugee burden. To date, the administration has issued only 466 visas to Iraqis. Under recent pressure from the UN, it has said that it would offer an additional 7,000 visas — but without either announcing the criteria for accepting such refugees or even when the visas might be issued.

This is unacceptable. America has an obligation — for pragmatic, political reasons as well as inescapable moral ones — to help these people. Even the minimum threshhold of Colin Powell's "Pottery-Barn rule" makes this clear. And yet America is doing almost nothing to assist these refugees we helped to create. To do so would undermine the attempt to create the perception that steady "progress is being made." To assist, and therefore acknowledge, these millions of refugees would undermine the desperate spin promoted by the Bush administration and its defenders that any apparent bad news out of Iraq is the product of media bias. And so, to maintain the lie that the good news is being underreported, the human suffering of 4 million people is ignored and the debt we owe them is unacknowledged, unpaid.

And every month, another 50,000 refugees flee their "liberated" country. Joining them, soon, will be Riverbend and her family. Anyone who has been reading her Baghdad-based blog for the past five years has seen the abundant evidence of their courage and resourcefulness, and of their love for their home. Yet finally, they have decided, it is time to flee:

It's difficult to decide which is more frightening — car bombs and militias, or having to leave everything you know and love, to some unspecified place for a future where nothing is certain.

Riverbend suggests that part of what finally spurred this desperate decision was the "Great Wall of Segregation":

Which is the wall the current Iraqi government is building (with the support and guidance of the Americans). It's a wall that is intended to separate and isolate what is now considered the largest "Sunni" area in Baghdad — let no one say the Americans are not building anything. According to plans the Iraqi puppets and Americans cooked up, it will "protect" A'adhamiya, a residential/mercantile area that the current Iraqi government and their death squads couldn't empty of Sunnis. …

The Wall is the latest effort to further break Iraqi society apart. Promoting and supporting civil war isn't enough, apparently — Iraqis have generally proven to be more tenacious and tolerant than their mullahs, ayatollahs, and Vichy leaders. It's time for America to physically divide and conquer — like Berlin before the wall came down or Palestine today. This way, they can continue chasing Sunnis out of "Shia areas" and Shia out of "Sunni areas."

This wall, and the division and separation of the people of Iraq it symbolizes, is deeply troublesome. It suggests that the current flood of Iraqi refugees — already perhaps the "most severe refugee crisis on the planet" Jamail says — is likey to increase dramatically. And it is likely to do so regardless of whether American forces stay or go, surge or redeploy.

Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, the president of Genocide Watch, offers a watchlist of "The Eight Stages of Genocide."

1. Classification
2. Symbolization
3. Dehumanization
4. Organization
5. Polarization
6. Identification
7. Extermination
8. Denial

Go read his entire list and his explanation of each step and consider whether all of these have not already begun, at least in part, in Iraq.

  • Raka

    bulbul: here is what I think he was thinking
    This is probably the biggest gripe I have, as usual: the presumption of underlying prejudices, motives, agendas and whatnot. You’ve got legitimate and easily supported complaints about his comments. Why weaken them with unverifiable ad hominem? Explicit demands to “shut up” or “go away” also tend to sit poorly with me (and many liberals); as a rule, I prefer that people be given the chance to correct their mistakes or continue to dig themselves deeper, as long as they’re not harming anyone in the process. If they continue to dig, I can ignore them or continue to shine the harsh light of logic and reason on their failings (which you did). Making it a pissing contest (which you also did) might be fun, but it only hurts the argument I’m trying to make.
    “I really don’t like what Fred is saying, so I really need to come up with some counter argument. Ah, there is one!”
    I can’t speak to what BM was thinking, but I have personal experience with unintentionally creating a perception of anti-Fred-ism. +90% of the time, I read his posts and think “Gosh, that’s interesting and well-put. This is why I regularly read this blog.” But I don’t post anything, because I don’t feel I have anything meaningful to contribute (which makes me a typical American male, I suppose– positive reinforcement? what’s that?). When I do feel that he’s missed something, then I chime in. Which means that I see myself as a fan-of-Fred to the point of idolatry, but all evidence available to anyone else indicates that I live for those moments when I can spite him.
    That’s me. Maybe BM is trying to undermine Fred for some base purpose. But I really do try to stick to that “presumption of charity” thing. I think it’s a good idea for all sorts of reasons.
    HE DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER TO CHECK
    Maybe. A casual googling doesn’t get me any hard numbers, but there is a definite acknowledgment of a big pulse of former Soviet citizens taking advantage of their sudden ability to leave: “The economic incentives to migrate were accompanied by a relaxation of traditionally tight borders. As Russian society was liberalized and some of the restrictive vestiges of communist control were discarded, emigration to the “far aboard” … was allowed”. This was BM’s memory, and it was accurate. It was also incomplete. Immediately after the 92/93 laws made it easy to leave, emigration from the USSR was significant compared to previous rates, but not significant compared to the population as a whole. He also merely assumed that emigration was restricted under Saddam… but you didn’t bother to find evidence that it wasn’t, either. Nor did I. It’s a bit lazy, sure. But hardly unforgiveable.
    [renunciation] Really, when?
    Um… okay, you have a point here. I really remembered seeing him gracefully back down pretty completely somewhere, but I’m not finding it now. My mistake.
    “People who are reading too much into it” aka “People who are exagerating the importance of what was actually said” aka “People who are simply too sensitive” aka … “People whose words should not be taken seriously”
    *blink*blink* Uh… no. Just people who read too much into it. “Too much” meaning “more than he actually meant”, which does not absolve him from the responsibility for creating that perception in the first place. I still think his original point was a mere pondering that the numbers we’re seeing might not mean exactly what we think they mean, and he phrased it poorly (so that it sounded like he was downplaying the horror Iraq has become) and made a comparison (USSR) that wasn’t as apt as he initially thought. Given his initial phrasing, it’s almost unavoidable to read too much into it, and had I not seen his later attempts at clarification, that’s exactly what I would’ve done as well.
    Most of his defense was against those inferences, like people believing that he was trying to deny our culpability or claim that conditions in Iraq aren’t much worse than they were in post-dissolution USSR. Those are reasonable inferences for people to have drawn, but they aren’t what he said, and I see no reason to disbelieve him when he says they aren’t what he meant, either. Unfortunately, those defenses foster the impression that he stands by his initial phrasing.
    An unequivocal restatement of what he’s trying to say would be nice, but you seem to want him to go further and explain exactly how the original statement doesn’t contradict the clarification, point-by-point, to prove that he’s not the terrible person that one interpretation of the original statement might reveal him to be. That’s not really necessary, nor particularly reasonable. He said something in a sub-optimal way. He may very well have been outright wrong about some of the particulars. I don’t see why that makes all future input from him worthless unless he undergoes some penance you’re prescribing.

  • Raka

    bulbul: I’m assuming full responsibility for the dismissive insults and crude profanities.
    For what it’s worth, my delicate sensibilities didn’t suffer too horribly, and I’m guessing that goes for most other people on the board. I really only brought it up because I think it weakens your rhetorical position– which you’re welcome to do if you like, or don’t share my impression– and because I think it illustrates an entertaining double standard on Jesu’s part. To paraphrase Mel Brooks, “Oppression is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die”.

  • Jesurgislac

    the opoponax: woohoo! no need for me ever to cook! and i can eat in either rotation!
    I’m envisaging two kitchens and a shared dining-room… ;-)
    oh, boo, that probably means i do double dishes…
    Well, maybe we could spring for a dishwasher? Depends how many cooks we have. I’m longing to try Hapax’s hummus.

  • Raka

    cjmr: Well, Jesu and Hapax are always offering around cookies…
    Awwww. But I like pie!
    Jeff: What is our social and governmental model here on SI? I would imagine a fairly communal structure, but with considerable technology.
    X: I would say rule by shifting alliances of the loudest and most outspoken. Sort of like democracy, but without all the voting.
    It’s actually a benign dictatorship in which Fred holds absolute power but exercises almost none, to the point of nearly invisible authority. He has wisely provided the trappings of democracy-by-decibels which X describes, but this is merely to occupy our attention and in no way affects the day-to-day running of Slacktivist Island.

  • Angelika

    the oppoponax oh, boo, that probably means i do double dishes…
    Don’t worry, we just hire Scott and Mabus to do our dishes for minimum wages, when they come over as refugees from the collapsed libertopia island. – I mean, we can’t just force them to give up on their ideals and get any benefits, can we?

  • Rob

    Bulbul, Raka, Bugmaster-
    I just want to say that this little altercation is absolutely delicious for those of us who are uninvolved, and, while I certainly hope nobody leaves with their feelings hurt, I encourage you all to make the most outrageous accusations possible and assume the most insulting interpretations of everybody’s posts because it tickles me.
    Hey, what else are the internets for?

  • Jesurgislac

    Hey, what else are the internets for?
    Swapping recipes.

  • cjmr

    Awwww. But I like pie!
    Pie is also good. Except for the ‘humble’ and ‘cow’ varieties, that is.
    Don’t worry, we just hire Scott and Mabus to do our dishes for minimum wages,
    Why bother paying them minimum wage? Don’t they believe that no one should be paid more than the job is worth?

  • Angelika

    cjmr Why bother paying them minimum wage? Don’t they believe that no one should be paid more than the job is worth?
    Because I’m an intolerant and oppressive communist thief and out of purely egotistic motives* I just don’t like watch people starving – especially not in the kitchen -, even if they deserve it. And out of that pure egotism I prefer to oppress them by forcing them to receive minimum wages.
    *Having starved people rotting in the kitchen is unhygienic and the labor of carrying them to the shore to feed them to the sharks is substantial and unpleasant.

  • the opoponax

    we could just have them do dishes simply for the rate of their keep. i.e. they get to be safe from the ravages of Libertopia, live in some kind of little shed off the kitchen, and be supplied with 3 “staff meals” (AKA leftovers) per day, in return for being our kitchen wenches.
    on a related and non-silly note, i’m assuming everyone here has read Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, right? there’s a brilliant section on life as a waiter in a Parisian hotel.

  • Jesurgislac

    Angelika: Having starved people rotting in the kitchen is unhygienic and the labor of carrying them to the shore to feed them to the sharks is substantial and unpleasant.
    Besides, Scott would poison the sharks.
    Oops, did I say that out loud?
    the opoponax: on a related and non-silly note, i’m assuming everyone here has read Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, right? there’s a brilliant section on life as a waiter in a Parisian hotel.
    Yes. (Ugh.)

  • Raka

    opo:i’m assuming everyone here has read Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London
    If they haven’t, they can celebrate socialism by enjoying some public domain goodness.

  • Brandi

    Hey, what else are the internets for?
    Porn, of course. (You can find the Avenue Q song your own damn self.)

  • bulbul

    Raka,
    You’ve got legitimate and easily supported complaints about his comments. Why weaken them with unverifiable ad hominem?
    You have it backwards. It’s not a problem to destroy Bugmaster’s comments any time, easy as this piece of delicious chocolate cake I am eating right now and wishing I had more of it (the cake, that is). The problem is finding the motivation. This time I did, because this latest piece of bullshit of the last straw that broke the camel’s songbird’s back.
    A casual googling doesn’t get me any hard numbers, but there is a definite acknowledgment of a big pulse of former Soviet citizens taking advantage of their sudden ability to leave:
    That’s all nice and good. But do you still remember what he said?
    Something similar happened in Russia right after the collapse of the KPSS.
    Not only are the two situations completely different, the migration in Russia/USSR is nowhere near similar to the one Iraq experiences now, whether in absolute or in relative terms.
    you seem to want him to go further and explain exactly how the original statement doesn’t contradict the clarification
    No. I want him to use one of the phrases or something similar.
    The problem is that with each “clarification”, he sunk deeper into the shithole of the undefensible.
    Given his initial phrasing, it’s almost unavoidable to read too much into it, and had I not seen his later attempts at clarification, that’s exactly what I would’ve done as well.
    I only responded to his bit on Russia/USSR. As for those inferences, I didn’t make ANY. Bugmaster’s immediate response to my original rant included this comment:
    I don’t think it’s fair to idealize the pre-war Iraqi life..
    Anyone who responded to Bugmaster after that – including myself – wasn’t inferring anything. It was pretty gorram obvious what Bugmaster meant.

  • X

    BM: Something similar happened in Russia right after the collapse of the KPSS.
    When everyone later pointed out that this was wrong, he effectively rephrased it to: “Ok, there were refugees, but there was probably SOME similar emmigration too.” In fact, his exact words were:
    [I]t is not the case that either all the people who left, left because of the US; or that none of the people who left, left because of the US; the truth is somewhere in between.
    But he didn’t acknowledge his lack of research, though, did he?
    That’s my scientifically unsupported opinion, anyway.
    Oh wait, he did.
    Anyway, the correct rejoinder to his last assertion was “probably yes, but only a tiny tiny fraction of the total displacement was regular post-regime emmigration.” Assuming he accepts that reasonably gracefully, I don’t see how this makes him an asshole.
    Bulbul, you started off being a jerk, yes, but then rapidly slid into patronizing prick mode. I like ‘smart thoughtful’ Bulbul much better.

  • Jesurgislac

    Bulbul: easy as this piece of delicious chocolate cake I am eating right now and wishing I had more of it (the cake, that is).
    Try this.
    Or there’s another cake I think of as Mortal Sin, which consists of three layers of artfully simple chocolate mousse (7 ounces melted chocolate, 1 pint thick cream, 1 sloosh orange vodka or good brandy, for each layer) on top of an extremely thin coffee-soaked sponge cake.
    Mmmm, cake.
    Bugmaster was an idiot. What else is new? Tomorrow is Left Behind Friday and we can all unite in dissing that.

  • bulbul

    X,
    But he didn’t acknowledge his lack of research, though, did he?
    That’s my scientifically unsupported opinion, anyway.
    Oh wait, he did.
    Only after julia sorta called him on it.
    And that wasn’t my point anyway. For the record: I hate stupid people and I really hate lazy stupid people.
    Come to think of it, small wonder I spent most of my days indoors with the blinds drawn…
    I don’t see how this makes him an asshole.
    Neither do I. I called him a dumbfuck which still stands.
    Jesu,
    I know that one! I still can’t wrap head around the concept of “flourless cake”, though.
    Dammit, now all I can think of is cake.

  • Jeff

    Who does the washing-up, or is this a communal task by everyone who didn’t cook dinner?
    It’s not necessarily limited to those who cook. It all depends on a) what people want to contribute; b) what they’re good at contributing and c) making sure the dishes get washed and the trash taken out. (Please note that I’m assuming a state-of-the-art dishwasher — no pre-scrubbing, thanks. **NOTE** (Trash will fall into several categories: fertilizer; compost; recyclables; other bio-degradables; and land-fill.)
    (Weeding is a good example of a), b) and c). It has to be done to raise good crops; not everyone is going to want to do it; and you don’t want the guy who can’t tell jimson from watercress to be tending your garden.)
    Can we have a double cookery rota for vegetarians/vegans and carnivores?
    It would probably be easiest to have most dishes be vegan — then milk/egg/meat eaters could augment at will. If someone wants to cook a dish, as long as the kitchen is free and they (or a designate) clean up afterward, they can cook what they want.
    **NOTE** This rules out Scott and Mabus as dishwashers — I don’t see either as state-of-the-art. I’m sure we can find some brain-less activity (picking crops?) for them to do.

  • X

    Jeff, much as I’m fascinated by your the details of your preffered aggrarian policy, you’re omitting the most important part of Terra Slacktivi, the state religion. To whit: talumudic dissection of the Revered Words of the Great Prophet Fred (“the other GPF”), and ritualized repetition, every two months, of The Arguments about abortion and God’s existence.

  • Jeff

    you’re omitting the most important part of Terra Slacktivi, the state religion.
    The State Religion (which doesn’t exist, even as we argue over what it is) must include: egregious puns, writing challenges, and a lot of general tom-foolery.
    The aggrarian policy is based on the notion that many of us will want fresh veggies. I’m not thinking of a Luddite back-to-nature commune, but one with all the comforts of home. (I could make a joke about making opopo the 5% hunter-95% gatherer, but I won’t…)

  • bulbul

    I’m sure we can find some brain-less activity (picking crops?) for them to do.
    Fred forbid! Even such inconspicuous activity as picking crops requires a certain degree of mental acuity – one must be able to recognize colors, for example. Composting sounds like an ideal job for the two of them.

  • cjmr

    Aerating the compost or being the compost?
    (I think I’ll take my foul mood elsewhere, now.)

  • Bugmaster

    Ok, comments here have piled up, sorry if I missed anyone.
    And I think [Bugmaster]‘s just a contrarian. Give him an argument, and he’ll try to find at least some hole in it. He’s got a libertarian heavily rationalist bent, true, but he sees to freely admit it.I think this is a fairly accurate description, though I’d like to believe that I’ve been doing a moderately good job of not compromising my actual beliefs just for the purposes of being contrary. But, I’ll stay out of the “let’s psychoanalyze Bugmaster” topics from now on; it doesn’t seem right for me to comment on those.
    I still think his original point was a mere pondering that the numbers we’re seeing might not mean exactly what we think they mean, and he phrased it poorly (so that it sounded like he was downplaying the horror Iraq has become) and made a comparison (USSR) that wasn’t as apt as he initially thoughtYes, this is sort of what I meant to say, and I did phrase it poorly. I was using USSR merely to illustrate that any kind of political chaos in a lousy totalitarian country could increase emigration rates, because people are able to slip through the cracks in the wall (metaphorically speaking). That said, if someone shows me a graph of USSR emigration vs. time, which doesn’t have any spikes on it around the political upheavals of the 90s, I’d be grateful; I can’t find any such graph right now, spikes or not (granted, I didn’t search all that hard, I have a day job too).
    but only a tiny tiny fraction of the total displacement was regular post-regime emmigrationYes, I’d agree with that, though I hope — for the emigrants’ sakes — that the fraction was more than microscopic. I’m not sure if it’s even possible to verify this statistically, though, one way or another.

  • Barry

    For what it’s worth, in the web magazine The Exile (www.exile.ru), published by Americans/Brits in Moscow, the illegal Tajikstan laborer immigrant occupies the same ‘space’ as the illegal Mexican immigrant does in the US. Apparently there’s lots of ‘-stans’, formerly part of the USSR, where becoming an illegal immigrant to Russia is part of the good life.
    I haven’t heard of many such in Iraq, save for foreign guerrillas.

  • X

    foreign gorillas and American contract army goons


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