Wednesday, January 03, 2007
somewhere, somehow, somebody musta kicked you around some:
Allow me to sound like a cold-hearted troglodyte for a second. There is a very good reason not to admit more Iraqi refugees into the United States, and it has nothing to do with Bush preferring not to concede failure. Simply put, there's a need not to open up the U.S. to the prospect of domestic attack from pissed-off Iraqis.

Some, like Ted Kennedy and George Packer, contend -- out of the goodness of their hearts, at least in George's case -- that we have an obligation to help at least those Iraqis in the employ of the United States occupation. It's a stance that's morally blemishless on first glance, but gets harder and harder to accept the more scrutiny it receives. Simply put, the attacks that have occurred within the Green Zone suggest that merely working with U.S. forces does not indicate a lack of hostility to Americans. How could one set up a system establishing who is and isn't a security risk to allow into the U.S.? If we take Kennedy and Packer's advice, it's incredibly easy to imagine an aggrieved Iraqi obtaining a job with the U.S. in order to travel to America and seek revenge. In all likelihood, if their advice were adopted, everyone and his mother would try to get a job with the Americans in order to escape Iraq. What's more, not every "good" Iraqi works for the U.S., and should we let them suffer as well? Etc., etc. -- the objections compound.

I hate to say it, but the U.S. has a compelling security interest in keeping Iraqis in Iraq, at least while the war is going on. Those with family here probably have some kind of legal entitlement to seek refugee status here, and whatever those rights are, they should be respected. But the last thing we should do is make the prospect of jihadist exfiltration easier. I wish it weren't the case.
--Spencer Ackerman
I think you're wrong on this one. The issue here isn't the interests of the United States, but rather the rights of the Iraqis.

Seeing as their country was invaded and occupied by the United States, Iraq's vulnerable communities have every right to demand that the Green Zone viceroys find them safe haven, be it in the U.S. or elsewhere. This probably won't make me safer, but hey, I was, complicit in this war (in my own way) and I can eat shit.

Many European states have opened special immigration channels for citizens of their former colonies. Sure, they treat the immigrants real shitty when they arrive, but that's another issue.
Blogger The Special | 10:19 AM

Troglodyte indeed. Time to lock up all the Afghans and Pakistanis, too?
Blogger Michael Roston | 11:08 AM

I've got to second the special here. Many of these refugees are already elsewhere, and I could argue that a halfway decent life in America might help make sure their kids aren't radicalized in turn, whereas sitting in a refugee camp in Jordan or living in poverty in Saudi Arabia might just do the trick. As you've reported, I believe, al Qaeda doesn't have a huge presence among Iraqis, and I don't see why that conversion would take place on American soil if it doesn't work on Iraqi soil. We're talking hundreds of thousands of refugees made homeless by a war we chose to fight, and we're denying them a chance for a better life based on a completely hypothetical threat. It's immoral.
Blogger jfaberuiuc | 11:22 AM

My heart wants to agree with Special, et al, but my head is swayed to a disconcerting degree by Spencer. Given a more competent bunch running things, I'd have some faith that any sort of voi dire would weed out the bad actors here. But we accept refugees with the INS we have...
Blogger Pooh | 11:57 AM

That argument would seem to be valid for Syria and Jordan too. Would you advocate that the nation's around Iraq close their borders?

Actually, that there are risks to letting in Iraqis isn't really a counter-argument to the humanitarian argument for letting in Iraqis. So there are risks - every policy has risks. The bigger risk is in the habit of callousnes. That habit has consequences far beyond the violence that could or could not result from admitting Iraqis who were brave enough - or foolish enough - to work with Americans.
Blogger roger | 11:59 AM

Roger and JFaber make good points. I think, Pooh, like Mr. Ackerman is caught up with the risk of letting in "bad actors."

I suppose there is an argument to be made that facilitating Iraqi emigration will worsen Iraq's "brain drain" i.e. the flight of its professionals and intellectuals - which will make things worse for Iraq as a whole.

...But I generally don't buy those kinds of utilitarian arguments becuase it seems to me that our primary moral obligations are to individual persons - and not to the welfare of an imagined community of "Iraq."
Blogger The Special | 1:25 PM

Special, my concern is prudential. I agree that our obligations are to individuals. I just have very, very, very little faith that the people who will decide who qualify as such are likely to make a hash of it.

How many Chalabi's do we want? And he's a (relatively) benign example...
Blogger Pooh | 2:45 PM

Pooh, I think that the Chalabis will get out and land in clover no matter what. As it is, he is resting in London, sitting on the usual amount of suspicious money.

The vast majority is more like the translators and drivers and such who have no clover to land in, and no strings to pull in D.C.
Blogger roger | 3:44 PM

I get your point, Pooh. But my point is that i don't care about the potential security risks of Iraqi expatriates in the United States.

The U.S. is in no moral position to be choosy about who is offered sanctuary and who is not. The Iraqis, it seems to me, have every right to demand that the U.S. relocate them to safer shores.

It is possible (and maybe even likely) that unsavory elements of Iraqi society will slip in whith the rest. But this is a price WE may have to pay for OUR imperial crimes.
Blogger The Special | 5:59 PM

I agree with the special's comments about where the moral duty lies. But more than that I think Spencer's original point is misplaced. An Iraqi in the Green Zone, seeing the occupation in full flight and having access to militias in Baghdad, has both more motivation and more opportunity to mount an attack than the same Iraqi in the US. To put it bluntly: even if they were bad over there the risk is much lower that they'll be bad over here. So I think Spencer's fear is overblown as well as morally misplaced.

There's one additional PR problem, though. As more people get let in, the number of people who feel entitled to get let in but are refused will also increase (this is straightforward maths: you can't increase the volume of something without also increasing its surface). Improving the situation for Iraqis will actually increase the number of heartbreaking stories in the press about people being turned away. It's only a minor effect, but no-one should be surprised when it happens.
Blogger William | 1:51 AM

Seconding William's point, I would note that Spenser seems to be ignoring selection bias in who ends up working for the US in Iraq. Not only do such Iraqis have incentive and opportunity to attack the US, Iraqis wanting to attack the US have an incentive to seek jobs with the Americans. I would also note that if an Iraqi is so bent on revenge against the US that he or she contemplates moving all the way to the USA to wreak such vengance, he or she is likely to keep on desiring such vengance long after the war is over. Does the trodglyte position call for a permanent ban on Iraqi immigration?
Blogger Rich C | 7:38 AM

"How could one set up a system establishing who is and isn't a security risk to allow into the U.S.?"

Hm. Let's see. I suppose we could check their library records, tap their phone calls, open their letters... come to think of it, maybe the way to be safest it to bring everyone over here! Whatta ya think?

Seriously though, I thought I saw something in a post above about how letting bugs and rats run over someone's body struck you as immoral. That makes you more squeamish than invading a country, enlisting the help of local civilians, and then abandoning them to a power-drill-happy lynch mob?
Blogger chiggins | 2:11 PM