What The US Owes Refugees Pouring Into Europe

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(Photo: UNHCR Photo Unit / Flickr)

The vision of hundreds of thousands of desperate human beings fleeing airstrikes, terror, and violence from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and beyond has brought the stark human cost of today’s “anti-terror” wars to the front pages. The heart-breaking photo of one small boy, still clad in a “red shirt, blue jeans, and little sneakers,” as a now-viral poem goes, washed up on the Turkish shore, has brought the horror of that stark reality into our hearts.

Indeed, the refugee crisis growing out of the multi-faceted Syrian war and others is now a full-blown global emergency. It’s not only an emergency because it’s now reaching Europe. It’s an emergency several years in the making as conditions have deteriorated throughout the Middle East and North Africa. In addition to Syria, refugees are also pouring into Europe — or dying as they try — from Libya, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Bangladesh, and beyond.

But it’s the war in Syria — now involving a host of regional, sectarian, and global actors all fighting their own wars to the last Syrian — that lies at the bloody center of the current crisis. And here the United States bears no small responsibility.

The Syrian war — and particularly the rise of ISIS — has everything to do with U.S. actions dating back to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, which gave rise to ISIS in the first place. Even now the U.S. airstrikes in Syria and neighboring Iraq are escalating the war in both places.

So emergency responses, particularly from the United States, need to start — though they must not end — with Syria. The Obama administration’s decision to allow 10,000 Syrian refugeesinto the country next year is a welcome step, but not remotely adequate.

Here’s what needs to happen next.

Immediately, the United States should announce:

  • An increase in daily U.S. refugee assistance to the World Food Program and the UN Human Rights Committee equivalent to the daily cost of U.S. military action against ISIS — that is, about $9 million a day.
  • A decision to immediately accept 65,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year, as called for by leading human rights organizations.

In next 30 days, Washington should roll out:

  • A plan to parole desperate refugees into the United States on humanitarian grounds. They should be provided with temporary protected status as long as conditions in their home countries remain dangerous. Once they’re in the United States, safe and provided with medical care, housing, work, education, and other support, longer-term protection can be determined on a case by case basis. Such an administrative decision can be made by the White House alone.

In next 45 days, the White House should announce:

  • That the United States will provide 28 percent of needed emergency refugee assistance, equivalent to the U.S. share of global wealth. That means…
  • That it will immediately pay 28 percent of the current United Nations refugee relief request, which totals $5.5 billion to support almost 6 million Syrian and related refugees through the end of this year. That would amount to approximately $1.5 billion in U.S. contributions by the end of 2015.
  • That the United States will accept 28 percent of those refugees from Syria (and others forced to flee as a result of the Syrian war) who need refuge abroad. That means 28 percent of up to 4 million refugees as determined by the United Nations, or up to 1.12 million refugees who are allowed to come to the United States.

It should be noted that fewer than 1,000 Syrians have been allowed into the United States this year, while Germany has already agreed to take in 800,000. The limits on numbers of refugees allowed into the United States each year are set by the White House, and fluctuate for political and policy reasons. (For example, in just over a decade, beginning with the decline of the Soviet Union in 1990, more than 378,000 Soviet Jews immigrated to the United States. In 1992 alone, more than 62,000 entered the country.)

Finally, in next 60 days, the U.S. should develop:

  • A new plan, now that the Iran nuclear deal is being implemented, to engage with Iran as well as all other regional and global players in a renewed United Nations-led diplomatic and arms embargo initiative to end the Syrian war.
  • AlanMacDonald

    Phyllis is precisely right that the Empire ‘posing’ as the U.S. is the cause of all these Middle Eastwars and the resulting war refugees!

    While the media/propaganda sector of this Disguised Global Crony-Capitalist Empire here in the U.S. metropole of the Empire has covered every conceivable aspect of the Middle East refugee crisis, the amazing thing is that this distractive media has never even suggested the underlying truth that the U.S. instigating wars in multiple countries is the proximate cause of all this refugee crisis, and of the tens of thousands of civilian deaths since 2003.

    Recently the vaunted and deceitful NY The Times has outdone itself.

    An entire report on the crisis of Middle East war refugees with no mention of the actual cause — the Disguised Global Crony-Capitalist Empire HQed in, and merely ‘posing’ as, the U.S. “The U.S. state is a key point of condensation for pressures from dominant groups around the world to resolve problems of global capitalism and to secure the legitimacy of the system overall. In this regard, “U.S.” imperialism refers to the use by transnational elites of the U.S. state apparatus to continue to attempt to expand, defend, and stabilize the global capitalist system. We are witness less to a “U.S.” imperialism per se than to a global capitalist imperialism. We face an empire of global capital , headquartered, for evident historical reasons, in Washington.”

    Robinson, William. 2014. “Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Humanity” Cambridge University Press

  • Robert H. Stiver

    Good commentary by Ms. Bennis. From my perspective, the greatest share of the tragedy of Syria lies in our U.S. subservience to the Zionist Lobby and the Zionist platform abutting Syria. I’ll take only one point in time: If Dubya Bush had enthusiastically embraced the Saudi Peace Plan of 2002 and forced our dependent bully-child Zionist Israel to embrace it just as enthusiastically, (1) Palestine would be unoccupied and free today, and Palestine Would Not Still Be The Issue; (2) Syria’s Golan Heights would be Syria’s unfettered, unoccupied sovereign territory, (3) we would have had diplomatic leverage with President Assad rather than continually demonizing him and fomenting disaster at the behest of the ZioLobby, (4) we could have ensured that the 22 Arab nations that signed on in unanimity to the Saudi Peace Plan [which has been re-offered in the meantime, BTW] lived up to their commitments thereunder, (4) we would have success today in Syria rather than unremitting chaos, (5) Zionist Israel would be (have been) forced to follow a diplomatic track rather than endless bellicosity and wars on its neighbors and illegally occupied territories (now the State of Palestine, still occupied belligerently), (7) the US Zionist Lobby, populated mostly by Zionist Jews, would have been brought to heel and the US would have been able to celebrate a second Declaration of Independence (from the USrael “entangling alliance” dominated by you know who), (8) other peaceful outcomes that flow from sanity and diplomacy, not the ever-ending “war is on the table.” Who knows?–implementation of the Saudi Peace Plan would very likely have allowed us to avert the catastrophic war on, and shattering of, Iraq. But of course, this is all academic (albeit not to the Palestinians, or the Iraqis, or the Syrians…) because WashDC was and is Israeli-Occupied Territory. Dubya was a puppet to the ZioLobby, just as were his predecessors and is his successor….

  • Kevin Schmidt

    The US owes everything, since it was the US Government that caused the refugee problem in the first place in every single one of these countries. How many more illegal wars of terror will the US start before the UN finally cracks down on them?

    We have met the terrorists, and they are US.

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