Saturday, February 24, 2007
Xenophobes R Us
There has been very little discussion of this issue, but I predict it's going to rise to the surface in the future and it's not going to be pretty. The other day the new Dem governor of Ohio made some waves by saying that Ohio wouldn't be a welcome place for Iraqi refugees. He changed his mind a couple of days later.
Right now, Iraq is experiencing one of the most serious refugee crises in modern history.Millions of people are fleeing the country, most of whom are in the professional and middle class. In Vietnam we were faced with a similar situation that resulted in a terrible exodus with many thousands of boat people winding up in refugee camps, some of whom were eventually allowed to come to th US. This is going to end up being a very different situation. We are more
culpable for this crisis even than that in Vietnam and yet there is almost no chance that we will allow more than a handful to come into the US, despite the fact that many of them were helpful to the US occupation and therefore, probably need the protection of the US government after what we've done.
The right hasn't settled yet on whether they are going to make their argument agianst settling Iraqis in the US on that basis of the GWOT or on immigration. I'm sure they'll have arguments prepared for both sides. You can bet they will not want these arabs over here. After all, aren't we fighting ("liberating") them over there so we don't have to fight them over here?
Tom Tancredo is getting out in front of course, firing the first salvo:
COOPER: Well, we've been talking about the growing humanitarian crisis that the war in Iraq has created, forcing millions of Iraqis from their homes.
Almost 2 million are in Iraq and homeless. Many others have fled to Arab countries. One million are in Syria; 750,000 are in Jordan; and somewhere between
80,000 and 130,000 are believed to be in Egypt; and 40,000 are in Lebanon.
Only a few hundred are actually here in the United States. Now before the break, we told you about the Bush administration's new plan to allow some 7,000 Iraqi refugees into the U.S. this year. People who have helped the U.S., worked as interpreters or who face real threats.
The plan is facing fierce opposition from both sides of the aisle and sparked an intense debate. I saw just how passionate people on either side of the issue are when I spoke with Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado and Edina Lekovic of the Muslim Public Affairs Council earlier tonight.
COOPER: Congressman Tancredo, some of the Iraqis are applying for refugee status. These are people who have risked their lives working for U.S. forces as translators, doing intelligence work, as drivers. There are those who say, look, why shouldn't we help those?
REP. TOM TANCREDO (R), COLORADO: I'll tell you one reason why we shouldn't. Not too long ago we found out about a number of Iraqis here in the United States that had committed some other crimes. That is to say, they committed -- they were aliens here. They committed a crime. They were tried, convicted. They were supposed to be deported under those kind of conditions.
Come to find out, Iraq is a country, one of about 20, that refuses to accept their aliens back to their country after they've committed other crimes in the United States.
I don't care what they've done in Iraq before. There is a law, actually on the books today, Anderson, that says that if a country refuses to take back its aliens that have committed crimes in the United States, we should not give them any visas.
Well, there's always Gitmo.
COOPER: All right, you know what about this? The congressman is saying, look, there's a law in the books, which we're not supposed to allow Iraqis in if they're not willing to accept Iraqis who have committed crimes back into Iraq.
EDINA LEKOVIC, MUSLIM PUBLIC AFFAIRS COUNCIL: Well, look, that seems like a bit of political maneuvering and selective application of the laws, given that the Iraqi people should not be standing there to pay the price for this type of selective application.
What we're talking about is a humanitarian crisis on the scale that certain humanitarian organizations are saying could soon rival the crisis in Darfur.
COOPER: Well, Congressman, if they did decide to change that law in Iraq, if Iraq did accept it, would you then be in favor of allowing some 7,000 Iraqi refugees into America?
TANCREDO: I would be in favor of accepting those that can be actually identified as coming here under humanitarian conditions and as refugees. That policy we've already established.
But I'll tell you that, you know, it isn't as if these people, first of all, are trapped in Iraq. That's another situation. Where they are today, for the most part, is not in Iraq. They have gone to other countries. And now we are thinking about being pressured to take them from the countries where they are presently occupying.
LEKOVIC: Hold on there, with all due respect, Congressman, there are over 100,000 Iraqis who are fleeing Iraq each month, according to the U.N. There are over 2 million refugees from Iraq, as well as 1.7 million internally displaced people. There is a huge crisis on our hands here.
And right now, that burden is unfairly being shouldered by nations in the region like Jordan and Syria, which haven't even signed onto the U.N. convention on refugees. And our own nation has.
COOPER: What Edina seems to be arguing is that there is a moral obligation, given that we went to war, that we take care of a certain number of refugees since this war has created.
COOPER: Do you believe that?
TANCREDO: We have done that in the past, certainly in Vietnam and other places. And I understand that. And I'm telling you that we have a refugee policy. It is the most liberal in the world. There are no caps on it. I understand that.
My complaint here and concern is with the Iraqi government today. The fact is, we should use this as pressure to get them to accept back their people who have committed crimes when they're here.
COOPER: What do you think should be done with -- with that huge tide of refugees?
TANCREDO: Well, what should be done with them is being done. And that -- in the case of what we can do. That is to try and construct -- help construct an Iraqi government in which those people can feel safe to return to the country of origin. That is the real task here.
COOPER: Edina, I'll give you the last word.
LEKOVIC: Well, that's just a part of the picture: 7,000 is a very paltry number. And we can't forget the fact here that there are people involved. There are people whose lives have been devastated. We have promised that we would save -- we would rescue them from malnutrition, from mayhem, from murder.
And that is precisely what they are facing every day and why they are leaving the country in large droves.
Congressman Tancredo is the same man who a few years ago said that we should consider taking out Mecca in order to send a message to the terrorists. So...
TANCREDO: Whoa -- that is absolutely...
LEKOVIC: ... this gentleman is not the man to be...
TANCREDO: You have no respect, ma'am, because you would say a thing like that.
LEKOVIC: ... discussing this type of problem to preserve all human life.
TANCREDO: Well, that is absolutely untrue that I said we should take out Mecca in order to send a message.
LEKOVIC: Sir, you said we should consider it.
TANCREDO: It was never to, quote, "send a message." And that is an entirely inaccurate way...
LEKOVIC: Sir, did you say that we should consider taking out Mecca?
TANCREDO: What I said was, well, do you want to fight that battle again? I'm happy to. But what I'm telling you is what you just said is not only inaccurate, but I think it's disingenuous.
COOPER: Well, as always, we care about the facts on 360. We checked the transcript of Congressman Tancredo's interview with talk show host Pat Campbell.
When asked how he would respond if terrorists struck several U.S. cities with nuclear weapons, he said, quote, "If this happens in the United States and we determined that it is the result of extremist fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites."
Campbell said, "You're talking about bombing Mecca?"
And Tancredo responded, "Yes."
Tom Tancredo proves that he is just an all around xenophobe armed with an excuse for deomnizing foreigners no matter who they are. This is not a big surprise. He hasn't fully developed his argument yet, but he will.
Ms Lecovic is a very effective spokeswoman. She made steam come out of Tancredo's ears.
And good old Anderson did the work of a real journalist. Good for him.
digby 2/24/2007 02:31:00 PM