Monday, October 1, 2007

Editor's Introduction - October 2007

“No Refuge Here: Iraqis Flee, but Where?” by Joseph Huff-Hannon. Dissent. Summer 2007.

An Annotation:

Following closely the last installment of the Roundtable, this month we detail another aspect of the human side of the Iraq war: the mass displacement of Iraqis who have fled their country as it crumbles around them. The traumatic process of flight from one’s home cannot be understated and is increasingly entering mainstream dialogue about the war. While these stories are often framed as human-interest pieces, they are underwritten by very real, very serious implications. Unpacking the potential repercussions of another massive refugee population sprawled throughout the Middle East, and to a far lesser extent the West, requires addressing not only particular geopolitical considerations, but also the impact on these people and their communities.

“In much the same way that media images of the flag-draped coffins of U.S. soldiers killed in combat have been kept from the public eye, Iraqis fleeing their war-torn homeland have also been effectively kept out of sight and out of mind by current U.S. refugee and immigration policy.”

If it were the case that Iraqi refugees were allowed to resettle en masse in American cities and towns, the human consequences of this war would be driven home all the more forcefully. In such a scenario, how would Americans respond to the Bush administration’s war policy? Coming face-to-face with those affected so dramatically would possibly have the effect of changing many attitudes toward compassion, away from militancy. Distance has a way of allowing for a detached naïveté in decision-making—the type of ignorance that even good journalism cannot remedy.

“Though historically the world’s largest resettlement destination, the United States has linked refugee policy to foreign policy, making a consistent distinction between ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ refugees.”

The old adage of “Give me your tired, your poor…” is sadly accompanied by political fine print. The maxim that has defined America as the universal recipient—the arms unconditionally open to the oppressed and downtrodden—was amended after September 11, 2001, placing enormous burdens on refugees, asylum seekers and all immigrants generally to demonstrate their plight and prove their credibility. While one option available to the U.S. is to exhibit care and concern for the well-being of Iraqis fleeing terror, it seems at every turn policies are enacted that further erodes the moral standing of the superpower.

“With or without a U.S. withdrawal, the current exodus continues and demands an immediate solution.”

As domestic debate rages about the future of the U.S. presence in Iraq, the discussion must address all possible consequences of withdrawal: those that impact Americans, as well as those that impact Iraqis. This month’s Roundtable highlights the fact that the effects of this war and occupation are far-reaching, beyond the battlefield and into the homes of innocent Iraqis. Therefore, an American exit will also have broad ramifications on the landscape in the Middle East—its countries, its politics, and its people.

These issues and many more are addressed in this month’s installment of Human Rights & Human Welfare’s Roundtable.

~ The Editors


Would Iraqi Refugees Please Disappear

by Richard A. Falk

"The imperial mind tends to be narcissistic: It always insists that its power is deployed for the benefit of others, but when things go wrong, the primary victims are kept at a safe distance so that the metropole is spared the anguish of confronting the havoc that it has caused."

I am grateful to Joseph Huff-Hannon for drawing our attention vividly and movingly to the plight of Iraqi refugees, its magnitude and cruelty. There are more than two million Iraqi refugees, with an estimated 50,000 per month added to the total. Many are languishing in terrible conditions in such neighboring countries as Syria and Jordan. These states, neither of which are notable as places of refuge, lack the capabilities for humane treatment even if their governments were altruistically inclined. Many Iraqis cannot even find such refuge, and remain hapless nomads in search of a sanctuary country. The U.S. refusal to do more than make nominal gestures toward admitting a pitiful few Iraqis is a dimension of the Iraq War that is so scandalous that most otherwise decent people ignore the issue altogether.

This eerie silence is likely to haunt any future understanding of the American role in Iraq, and add gravitas to those who offer dark explanations of what really motivated the invasion and occupation of the country. If refugee policy were established as a test of humanitarian credibility, it would certainly add weight to skepticism about the claims of the Bush presidency—aside from its search for weapons of mass destruction—that a secondary goal was to liberate the Iraqi people from the truly brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. It hardly qualifies as “liberation” if the intervening nation cannot create the minimal conditions of stability required to keep people from fleeing their homes, and enduring the dreadful fate of most refugees. It is a rarely discussed failure of the American policy that so many of the most-highly skilled and financially endowed Iraqis risk life and limb to escape from their country, or failing that, relocate internally away from the combat zones (there are reportedly as many internally displaced Iraqis as refugees, with an additional million expected by the end of 2007).

The U.S. Government and public should certainly be ashamed of its currently miniscule program for the admission of Iraqi refugees. This unwillingness to do more to help Iraqi refugees is certainly by itself dismaying and discrediting, but the deeper issue here is the degree to which this scale of displacement, given a pre-war total Iraqi population of 27.5 million, is a decisive indicator of what a disaster the Iraq War has become for Iraq. Almost all of the American concern about the war continues to be associated with the adverse consequences for us. The imperial mind tends to be narcissistic: It always insists that its power is deployed for the benefit of others, but when things go wrong, the primary victims are kept at a safe distance so that the metropole is spared the anguish of confronting the havoc that it has caused. Consciously or not, this refusal to acknowledge the suffering brought upon the people of Iraq seems mainly to explain why our government lacks the decency to admit Iraqi refugees in far larger numbers.

The refugee issue highlights some other questionable aspects of the American role in Iraq, as in a nested Russian doll that embodies a generally heartless occupation so far as Iraqis are concerned. Perhaps, more disturbing than the callous disregard of the refugees, is the treatment of Iraqi casualties. Early in the occupation, General Tommy Franks dismissed inquiry about Iraqi civilian deaths with the nasty quip, “we don't do body counts.” It is appropriate to personalize American deaths and injuries in the war, but to exhibit indifference to Iraqi civilian losses confirms ugly suspicions of racism and imperial mentality. It conveys to Iraqis, and for that matter to anyone who stops to think, that Iraqi casualties have no bearing on how the United States assesses its approach to the occupation, which is better conceived of as the unfinished, and likely unfinishable, Iraq War. The best estimate by expert, neutral NGOs is that more than one million Iraqi civilians have perished so far. This is a huge figure that if admitted would go a long way to discredit the purported mission.

In recent months, under pressures from Democrats in Congress, the Bush presidency has agreed to evaluate its Iraq policy by reference to no less than 18 so-called “benchmarks.” Not one of these looks at the trends affecting the people of Iraq—for instance, there could be a benchmark involving a decline in the outflow of Iraqis, another on the per-month figures of those internally displaced, and certainly one on the rise and fall of Iraqi civilian casualties. One would search in vain for such benchmarks. The benchmarks are mostly connected with diminishing the American combat role and determining whether the Maliki leadership is capable of producing policy results desired in Washington, especially making the oil industry open to foreign investment and relying on the Iraqi army and police to do more of the fighting, killing, and dying, thereby relieving American troops of that role.

Huff-Hannon is to be commended for writing so well about the plight of Iraqi refugees, but he fails to connect these dots, and therefore does not convey the extent to which the deplorable treatment of Iraqi refugees is an aspect of a far wider pattern of disregard of Iraqi well-being that has had such a devastating effect on Iraq ever since the invasion was mounted in March of 2003. By now, it requires only modest intelligence to understand that as bad as Saddam Hussein was as an oppressive leader, the American-led occupation of Iraq is far worse, at least for the people of the country. For me, this is the primary message of the Iraqi refugee crisis.

As citizens, we should insist that our government adopts a more responsible refugee policy. Yet, more importantly, we should interrogate an approach to military intervention that is supposed to benefit a foreign society and yet makes no effort to assess the losses inflicted on its people. These losses are immense aside from the refugees.

Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His most recent book, The Great Terror War (2003), considers the American response to September 11, including its relationship to the patriotic duties of American Citizens. In 2001 he served on a three person Human Rights Inquiry Commission for the Palestine Territories that was appointed by the United Nations, and previously, on the Independent International Commission on Kosovo. He is the author or coauthor of numerous books, including Human Rights Horizons; On Humane Governance: Toward a New Global Politics; Explorations at the Edge of Time; Revolutionaries and Functionaries; The Promise of World Order; Human Rights and State Sovereignty; A Study of Future Worlds; and This Endangered Planet. Falk also acted as counsel to Ethiopia and Liberia in the Southwest Africa Case before the International Court of Justice.


Will Refuge Continue to be Elusive?

by Katherine Gockel

“...the last thing needed right now is another blame game in Washington. Rather, efforts should be directed toward fixing the problems and developing solutions that consider both current and future migration scenarios for people displaced within Iraq, as well as those who have fled to other countries.”

According to U.N. estimates, if current trends continue, the number of Iraqi asylum seekers by year-end could reach between 40,000 to 50,000. The influx of Iraqis into states such as Syria and Jordan also threatens to be a destabilizing force in those countries. Therefore, it is unreasonable to expect these states to individually cope with migration flows of this magnitude.

As conveyed in the Dissent article, the U.S. Government’s response is untenable and unconscionable, particularly given the actions taken by smaller states such as Sweden, and the continued calls from the U.N. and other organizations for greater support. Thankfully, a recent memo sent by the current U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, appears to have prodded the U.S. Government to take action. The memo points to coordination breakdowns between various departments of the U.S. Government that resulted in an inadequate response to asylum requests. Yet, the last thing needed right now is another blame game in Washington. Rather, efforts should be directed toward fixing the problems and developing solutions that consider both current and future migration scenarios for people displaced within Iraq, as well as those who have fled to other countries.

A first step in this direction was taken with the appointment of two new officials—James Foley as the coordinator for Iraqi refugee issues at the U.S. Department of State and Lori Scialabba as senior advisor at the Department of Homeland Security. These appointments need to be followed very quickly by bi-partisan plans of action on the part of the Administration and Congress to ensure continued oversight of future activities.

Several key elements need to be part of these plans. First, special attention needs to be paid and policies enacted on behalf of Iraqis who have assisted the U.S. and Coalition Forces in Iraq. As noted in a recent Newsweek article, if and when the U.S. decides to draw down its troop presence, these individuals will be in even more danger than they are now. Therefore, ensuring their security and safety needs to be part of any troop redeployment and force reduction plans.

Second, the U.S. needs to reassess how its strategies and plans can be coordinated as part of a larger, sustained multilateral response. This is necessary due to the magnitude and nature of the current migration patterns and the fact that the security situation in Iraq is not likely to improve in the near future.

A component of this larger multilateral response should be formal requests to Iraq’s Arab neighbors for resources and support. In Track II diplomatic conferences sponsored by the Stanley Foundation in 2006 and 2007, individuals from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states asked for the Iraqis to provide concrete requests for assistance. It was also noted in the 2007 conference that Iraq is a member of the Arab League and as such should be able to rely on fellow member states for assistance.

These conference discussions beg the question as to whether or not these specific assistance requests have been made in support of Iraqis who have fled their homes. If these requests have been made and have gone unanswered, then this lack of response needs to be documented and brought to the attention of the international community. If the requests have not been made, then the Iraqi Government should immediately begin working with these organizations and states to develop plans on how immediate and ongoing assistance can best be provided and sustained until Iraq’s security situation improves. After all, this type of assistance serves everyone’s interest as further destabilization, caused by migration flows, is not in the best interests of the GCC or members of the larger Arab League.

Finally, given the number of Iraqis fleeing to neighboring states such as Syria and Jordan, another component of the multilateral response must be a rethinking of prior refugee strategies, as these displaced populations are not following “typical” refugee behaviors and are not covered under traditional refugee conventions. It will also be important to determine ways to mitigate the destabilizing effects of these Iraqi populations on the states to which they have fled, especially as these states are already grappling with their own security, demographic, and economic issues.
In conclusion, as noted by the authors of the article, the U.S. response to date has not been worthy of the situation it helped create or of its leadership status in the world community. Thankfully, publicity regarding this current sad state of affairs appears to have finally gained the U.S.’s and the international community’s attention which may in turn finally lead to a commendable response. In order to develop and implement the type of future solutions needed, the U.S. must make a concerted effort to work constructively across party lines and within a larger multilateral framework. Otherwise, refuge and sanctuary will continue to be fleeting and the negative fallout from Iraq will continue to cast the world’s only superpower in a disparaging light.

Katherine Gockel is a program officer in the Policy Analysis and Dialogue department. Gockel leads the foundation’s Middle East policy programming and also concentrates on the areas of counterterrorism and failing states. She holds an M.A. in global studies from the University of Denver where she focused on human security and economic development. She also holds an M.B.A. in marketing and a B.A. in communications. Gockel began her career in the business sector where she worked for and with organizations such as AT&T, Sun Microsystems, The National Nanotechnology Initiative, the Center for Teaching International Relations, and Ernst & Young Consulting.


Fleeing from Terror versus Fleeing from Poverty

by Michael Goodhart

“This is not a politically naïve call for granting asylum to all economic migrants. . .Yet ethically and conceptually, there is little basis for treating this category of people differently.”

Nour al Khal worked as a translator for New York Times reporter Steven Vincent, who was murdered by Shiite militants in Iraq. Vincent’s widow has been trying to help al Khal (who was kidnapped and shot by the same group who killed Vincent) win asylum in the United States. So far political and bureaucratic obstacles have proven insurmountable.

Al Khal is one of the millions of Iraqis uprooted by the American-led invasion and occupation, which, Joseph Huff-Hannon reports, has triggered the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis. The current refugee crisis is the sad, direct, and entirely predictable result of American disregard—if not contempt—for the security and well-being of the Iraqi people. Huff-Hannon joins a long list of journalists, including the New Yorker’s George Packer, who have written about the disturbing failure of American policy with respect to those “Iraqis who trusted America the most. ” The United States clearly has special obligations to those who have directly aided the coalition effort in Iraq; obligations it has recently accepted but so far failed to meet. But t he plight of Nour al Khal also highlights just how restrictive international refugee law can be.

The U.N. Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees defines a refugee as a person who, “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country....” This is a narrow definition; indeed, the U.S. State Department told Vincent’s widow “that al Khal does not qualify for refugee or asylum status because Iraq is now a democracy, hence there should be no reason she would need to flee.”

International refugee law presently omits at least three common categories of refugee: those fleeing persecution by non-state actors, those fleeing conflict who are not directly threatened with persecution, and “economic migrants.” I shall say something briefly about all three.

Traditionally, the persecution described in the Convention and Protocol was understood to mean “persecution by states.” Increasingly, non-state actors like ethnic militias and insurgent groups that operate outside the (direct) control of states are responsible for persecuting minorities—as in Iraq. International law needs to change to reflect this reality. Moreover, recent asylum cases in the U.S. and Canada have established that threat of female genital mutilation qualifies as a reasonable fear of persecution; still, asylum for women fleeing honor killings has lagged behind, and international law still does not explicitly recognize the specific forms of violence women endure as grounds for asylum (some courts have relied on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and an expansive notion of persecution to make this connection).

A second type of refugee not presently recognized under international law is the person who flees a conflict but is not in direct danger of persecution on the basis of group membership. In many of the sectarian conflicts ravaging the world today, this distinction is hard to maintain. The “normal” tactics of war, including rape, ethnic cleansing, forced evacuation from neighborhoods, routine bombings of civilian targets, and so on, are themselves forms of persecution. In such cases, fleeing a conflict and fleeing persecution amount to more or less the same thing. Again, however, international refugee law does not adequately reflect these changing realities.

Finally, refugee law presently excludes individuals who are seeking a better life, so-called economic migrants. This is probably the most difficult case. Economic migrants appear at first glance to fall into a different category than those I have discussed so far. On closer inspection, however, the apparent differences blur. Persecution involves the systemic and sustained violation of fundamental human rights. But rights to food, clothing, and shelter are every bit as fundamental as rights to associate or to express ideas; dire poverty is a significant threat to life. In cases where corruption, violence, or intimidation result in grinding poverty, the case for treating it as a form of persecution is strong. It might also seem that economic migrants are not fleeing conflict and thus not entitled to refugee status. But structural or enforced poverty seems every bit as much an instance of conflict as gendered violence, which is rightly being recognized as grounds for asylum. In both instances, it is the violation of fundamental rights that represents a form of conflict.

This is not a politically naïve call for granting asylum to all economic migrants. The floods of people who might seek asylum on economic grounds would inundate recipient countries. Yet ethically and conceptually, there is little basis for treating this last category of people differently, and the international community has an obligation to protect and promote the rights of those in dire poverty as well. International development aid is shockingly measly, and few states would acknowledge any kind of binding obligation to give more. States that recognize a legal duty to accept those fleeing political persecution think it perfectly acceptable to deny refuge to people who might be starving.

Much more could and should be done to protect the most economically vulnerable people in the world. Obviously, the devil is in the details. But we should not be misled by those who say the resources are not available; the two trillion dollars the American Government is likely to spend on the Iraq war would have been enough to meet the Millennium Development Goals three to five times over. Protecting the poor is a question of priorities and values, not money.

Michael Goodhart is Associate Professor of Political Science and Women’s Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. His research focuses on democratic theory and human rights, especially in the context of globalization. He has published on these subjects in Human Rights Quarterly, Perspectives on Politics, the Journal of Human Rights, Polity, and elsewhere. Goodhart’s first book, Democracy as Human Rights: Freedom and Equality in the Age of Globalization, was published by Routledge in 2005. He is book review editor at Polity and a past president of the APSA organized section on human rights. For more information visit


The Least We Can Do

by Susan E. Waltz

“Until Iraqis can safely return to their homes, this war is not over. In the meantime, we Americans have a moral imperative to provide refuge to those whose own safety has been put at risk for their efforts to assist the U.S. ”

In the early months of 2003, when the U.S. was only threatening war, humanitarian relief organizations expected thousands of refugees to flee from Iraq into neighboring countries of Jordan and Syria. They were surprised when it did not happen. Four years later, the anticipated wave has at last arrived—and in tsunami proportions.

For more than a decade, specialists have been calling attention to a multitude of problems associated with the international refugee regime. Now, as many as four million Iraqi refugees are at risk of tumbling through one or another of its cavernous cracks, and that is to say nothing of the thousands of internally displaced Iraqis unable to cross an international border.

Several problems plague the international refugee regime—even before you get to the political overtones and undercurrents. To begin with, there is the question of definition. By the terms of the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, an individual must pass two tests to be considered a refugee. First, they must demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution, and secondly, they must have fled their country, crossing an international border. Those who meet these tests have an internationally recognized legal right to claim asylum in a safe country, and receiving countries have a corresponding duty to fulfill that right. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other immigrants do not have legal claim to those same rights—which builds in an internal and perverse incentive to prevent people in trouble from crossing international borders.

Those who succeed in leaving their country face massive bureaucratic entanglement. Western developed countries have their own procedures for granting asylum, and most of them are not triggered until a refugee is actually on that country’s sovereign territory. Most refugees, however, do not get that far—they are lucky to make it to the nearest neighboring country. They queue up to have their eligibility assessed by local offices of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, or go to plead their case at one or another of the Western embassies in town. And in the meantime, they rely on their own savings, the largesse of the country to which they have fled, or international assistance to address their daily needs—which may include food, shelter, medical assistance, and education. Displaced people who do not succeed in crossing a border may receive some material assistance from international agencies, but they generally are not eligible for help with resettlement or political asylum.

This is the situation facing refugees anywhere in the world, but the Iraqi refugee crisis entails one more crucial political factor: U.S. politics. Until very recently, the U.S. has been unwilling to acknowledge that any Iraqis have a “well founded fear of persecution” because the entire justification for this war was ostensibly to free them from such fears. Although the U.S. has said it would admit a few thousand Iraqis appealing for asylum from abroad (or from within the U.S.), it has not been generous with the assistance it has provided to the U.N., and it has done very little to expedite its own clearance procedures, which have only become more cumbersome in the context of the war on terror.

Following stories like the one in Dissent, several U.S. Senators have introduced the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act to assist Iraqis at grave risk because of their association with Americans or American interests, and provide them an expedited pathway to political asylum. This proposed relief is only a drop in the bucket compared to the need, but it is the least we can do. Sectarian violence, improvised explosive devices, and body counts have been used as metrics for assessing the progress of the Iraq War. The numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons is another measure of the state of affairs in Iraq. Until Iraqis can safely return to their homes, this war is not over. In the meantime, we Americans have a moral imperative to provide refuge to those whose own safety has been put at risk for their efforts to assist the U.S.

Susan Waltz is Professor at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy. She has published extensively on the politics of human rights in North Africa and she regularly teaches a graduate course on human rights and public policy. From 1996-1998 Dr. Waltz served as International Chairperson of Amnesty International. On a number of occasions over the past two decades, she has offered expert witness testimony for North Africans seeking asylum in the U.S.


Iraqi Resettlement: Why Congress Won't Act

by Daniel J. Whelan

“If Congress were to open the resettlement gates, the flood might very well put to death forever any possibility of salvaging the wreckage that Iraq has become.”

After making an excellent case for the plight of Iraqi asylum seekers who have served as valuable allies to the United States in Iraq, Joseph Huff-Hannon’s article suggests that Congress should play a stronger role in developing a resettlement policy to allow Iraqis, who have been on “our side,” to come to the U.S. Given the current political climate on Iraq—and with Congressional Democrats desperate to score some kind of victory in its battle with the Bush White House—what exactly is holding them back?

While Congress is usually deferential to the White House in setting broad foreign policy goals when it comes to refugee and asylum policy, Congress’s implied Constitutional authority extends from its express powers to, for example, regulate foreign commerce and establish a uniform naturalization policy. Congress thus would stand on solid Constitutional ground were it to craft an Iraqi resettlement policy.

Furthermore, Congress has been able to exert its will against the President, even when the latter wanted to extend, rather than restrict, asylum status for certain populations. In 1992, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted more than 40,000 Haitians who fled after the ouster of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in late 1991. These refugees were taken Guantánamo Bay for initial asylum-screening. Eleven-thousand were allowed to continue to the U.S. to seek asylum formally. However, 217 of those who were cleared were nevertheless further retained at Guantánamo. They were HIV-positive, and therefore barred entry into the U.S. But they legally could not be returned to Haiti (that would constitute refoulment). They were stuck in limbo, a kind of “permanent exile.”

Since 1987, it had been U.S. policy to exclude anyone with HIV from entering the country—whether tourist, businessperson, immigrant, or asylum seeker. At first, this exclusion was based on specific legislation—an amendment to the immigration law which added HIV to a Congressionally-determined list of “dangerous and contagious diseases” that precluded aliens from entering the U.S. A 1990 overhaul of the Immigration and Naturalization Act replaced the Congressional “list” with a blanket provision allowing exclusion of anyone carrying a “communicable disease of public health significance”—but what would be such a disease was now to be determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), not Congress. Nevertheless, Louis Sullivan—the-then Secretary of HHS—was feeling significant pressure from conservatives and “determined” that HIV was just such a “communicable disease.” That policy was still in effect when the Haitian crisis began.

Bill Clinton, who came into office in early 1993, had vowed to resolve the plight of the Guantánamo detainees—and the 1990 Immigration Law was on his side. He soon directed his Secretary of HHS, Donna Shalala, to remove HIV from the list. But Senate stalwarts (led by Republicans, but joined by plenty of Democrats) moved to block him. They effectively placed HIV permanently on the list “communicable diseases of public health significance” through an amendment to an important reauthorization for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Unable to justify vetoing a bill that included new money for HIV/AIDS research, Clinton signed it. The matter of the Haitian refugees was finally settled by a federal judge who ruled the detention (but not the policy) unconstitutional. While those committed to human rights and sound public health (myself included) may find Congress’ actions in 1993 to be reprehensible, we see how it was able to force the president’s hand and prevail.

So Congress is standing on solid Constitutional ground, and there is a strong precedent in the Haitian HIV case which demonstrates that Congress does has significant “power” to force the President to adopt a policy he may find politically misguided (or embarrassing). On top of that, we must consider how attractive the political nectar of a victory over the White House on some, indeed any, aspect of Iraq policy must be to Congressional Democrats. So what is to stop the current, Democratic Congress from using its authority to address not only a serious moral and humanitarian need (indeed, responsibility) but also to score political points in its battle with the White House over Iraq policy?

I can only come up with one possible answer—and one that, surprisingly, Huff-Hannon completely overlooks. No matter what the contours of the debate in Washington about Iraq policy, no one wants to see a failed state sitting like a very lonely chick under the covetous eye of an Iranian wolf. At the heart of the debate is whether the U.S. is making things better or worse by following the current policy ( U.S. casualties notwithstanding). Congressional Democrats want a stable Iraq. But a stable Iraq means stable, secure Iraqis committed to building their nation and the institutions of government, civil society, and some kind of market economy. Nevertheless, since at least 2005, Iraq has been hemorrhaging talented men and women who are key to any such future for Iraq. If Congress were to open the resettlement gates, the flood might very well put to death forever any possibility of salvaging the wreckage that Iraq has become.

No matter how noble and humanitarian a resettlement policy would be, perhaps those stakes are simply too high—even for a Democratic Congress.

Daniel J. Whelan (Ph.D., DU, 2006) is currently Assistant Professor of Politics and International Relations at Hendrix College. He was founding editor (with Laura A. Hebert) of HRHW from 2001-2004, and Senior Editor from 2004-2007. He now serves on the HRHW Editorial Review Board. His doctoral dissertation, "Interdependent, Interrelated, and Indivisible Human Rights: A Political and Historical Investigation," was awarded the 2006 Best Dissertation citation by the Human Rights Section of the American Political Science Association.