Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Iraqi refugees

Another sad fact to come out of the Iraq war: millions of Iraqi refugees.

According to a report released this week by the U.N.'s refugee agency, there were 1.4 million Iraqi refugees at the end of 2006, most of them in Syria and Jordan. Another 1.8 million Iraqis were displaced inside their own country, according to the report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Iraqis who fled west are mainly Sunni arabs, proving that the Shi'ite death squads (often indistinguishable from government forces, many of which have been infiltrated by the Badr brigade, the Mahdi army and other Shi'ite militia) have been remarkably effective in trying to remake the country into a Shi'ite nation.

The other noteworthy thing is the number itself. Iraq had a pre-war population of about 26 million. The total of 3.2 million refugees represents over 12 % of the population. Add to this the up to 600,000 Iraqis estimated to have died in the war and this represents a significant demographic shift in Iraq, all due to the war that George W. Bush started.

More than just a number however, the refugees represent an ongoing problem that is likely to get worse over time. Camps full of refugees, if allowed to fester often form the birthplace and later the backbone of future guerilla armies (just ask the Israelis about that). The human tragedy is huge, it will put a strain on the economy and society of countries that host refugee camps and other countries, especially the U.S., will be pressured to accept sizeable numbers of Iraqi refugees (just as our significant Korean, Vietnamese, Hmong and Bosnian communities are part of the legacy of America's past foreign wars over the past half century.)

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