An option Hitchens doesn’t consider

by Chris Bertram on November 14, 2006

Christopher Hitchens “writes”: :

bq. What is to become, in the event of a withdrawal, of the many Arab and Kurdish Iraqis who do want to live in a secular and democratic and federal country? We have acquired this responsibility not since 2003, or in the sideshow debate over prewar propaganda, but over decades of intervention in Iraq’s affairs, starting with the 1968 Baathist coup endorsed by the CIA, stretching through Jimmy Carter’s unforgivable permission for Saddam Hussein to invade Iran, continuing through the decades of genocide in Kurdistan and the uneasy compromise that ended the Kuwait war, and extending through 12 years of sanctions and half-measures, including the “no-fly” zones and the Iraq Liberation Act, which passed the Senate without a dissenting vote. It is not a responsibility from which we can walk away when, or if, it seems to suit us.

Well there’s a rather obvious answer, isn’t there? The United States could offer to resettle all and any such people in the United States (with, perhaps, a smaller quota coming to the UK). No doubt those states where the war was most enthusiastically supported would be the first to make generous offers to the Arab would-be immigrants. Come to think of it, why didn’t Kinky Friedman make this part of his election platform?



John Quiggin 11.14.06 at 8:37 am

I’ve been meaning to post on this as a followup to my reparations post, but now I can just say “What Chris said”


Walt 11.14.06 at 8:53 am

Why, Chris, that’s because they’re just props in our little morality play. When the play’s over, they go back into the prop room. You don’t bring Yorick’s head home after a performance of Hamlet, surely?


Arthur Davidson Ficke 11.14.06 at 9:01 am

Too bad they couldn’t take some of Chris’ cynicism and turn it into something useful.


Barry 11.14.06 at 9:07 am

Gaaawwwd. Reagain (and Rumsfield) are now Photoshopped out of the picture; the Iran-Iraq War is apparently another crime committed by the ‘monster’ Carter. Invasion and killing people is now presented, yet again, as something that we owe them.


kid bitzer 11.14.06 at 9:08 am

Didn’t we do just exactly this with one of the tribes from IndoChina that had supported us? Hmong maybe?


abb1 11.14.06 at 9:13 am

Kurdish Iraqis who want to live in a federal country? I think I just saw them outside holding their annual meeting in a phone booth. But how do decades of my intervention in Iraq’s affairs result in my responsibility for this particular little group of Iraqi Kurds?


franck 11.14.06 at 9:47 am

So ethnic cleansing is ok, then, as long as a great power resettles the people in its own borders? There’s no right of return for Palestinians, since the Arab countries should just resettle them in their own countries? India should just take all the Tibetans, thereby letting China have its own pure-Han southern province?

It seems to me that you are ignoring a rather important thing. The Kurds, in the main, don’t want to leave Kurdistan and come to the US. They like living in Kurdistan; they just want national self-determination, a right guaranteed them by the UN. Now whether the US has an obligation to help them is another thing, but I didn’t realize crooked timber was interested in ignoring the suffering of other peoples.


franck 11.14.06 at 9:50 am

I await with interest your proposal for resettling 8-10 million Iraqis in the US and UK. I find this proposal hilarious, considering the UK wouldn’t even take its previous subjects from Hong Kong in.


Randy Paul 11.14.06 at 9:56 am

Maybe they can build them an apartment block near Euston station.


Ray 11.14.06 at 10:39 am

Franck, you miss the point. Hitchens argues that since the US meddled in Iraq, it now owes the Kurds the chance “to live in a secular and democratic and federal country”. Chris is pointing out a simple way of living up to the responsibilities Hitchens has identified, not pointing out a general solution to ethnic cleansing.


harry b 11.14.06 at 10:45 am

This is exactly what happened to the Hmong, as Kid Bitzer says. Relative numbers? I don’t know. But, there is a precedent.


KH 11.14.06 at 11:00 am

Equally to the point, what is to become, in the event of no withdrawal, of the many Arab & Kurdish Iraqis who do want to live in a secular & democratic & federal country? Hitchens implies that the US has the luxury of choosing between withdrawal & (at least some reasonable possibility of) a secular & democratic & federal Iraq. It doesn’t. Even if the US were to stay as long as he prefers, is there evidence it would be better able to forestall the bad outcome he wants to pin on withdrawal?


Brett Bellmore 11.14.06 at 12:36 pm

Excellent idea; And back when England screwed over the residents of Hong Kong, I though we were fools not to offer them refuge en mass.


bob mcmanus 11.14.06 at 12:57 pm

I am, reading the daily news from Iraq, not finding this particular subject all that funny.
Sue me.


roger 11.14.06 at 1:18 pm

Jonathan Schwart quotes a story from an American soldier in Iraq about what the Pentagon is teaching the soldiers over there in group sessions about why we fight:

“Along with the whole question of mixing faith and politics, we’re also dealing with a schismatic religion and people who loathe one another. A Sunni won’t even use a toilet after a Shiite has. Now we want them to work together to create a new system of law? Then you throw in the Kurds, who are mainly Christian, of an entirely different culture, and whose claim to fame is that their mere existence is the one thing that brings the Sunnis and Shiites together. The Muslims and Kurds hate each other with a bloodthirsty passion most of us cannot even conceive.”

Alas, I suspect more than a few right wing war supporters actually think that the Kurds are Christian. The name sounds Christian, no? It would be a real shock to this group if Kurds actually did come to the U.S. Hey, guys, what’s with the Koran?


roger 11.14.06 at 1:20 pm

Damn. “Jonathan Schwarz.”


Jim S. 11.14.06 at 4:38 pm

Sorry if I sound obtuse, but how is endorsing a 1968 coup the same as intervention? And therefore is America’s responsibility all that great? It is considerable, but can be (and often is) exaggerated.


Ragout 11.14.06 at 6:44 pm

Chris Bertram, a Brit who has apparently never been to Orange County or Northern Virginia, writes,

“No doubt those states where the war was most enthusiastically supported would be the first to make generous offers to the Arab would-be immigrants.”

It seems that this is intended as sarcasm. But given recent US history I have no doubt at all that we’ll let in lots of Iraqi refugees after we pull out.

As other have noted, we let in several hundred thousand of our Hmong allies from Laos after the Vietnam War, as well as about 1 million Vietnamese.


Scroop Moth 11.15.06 at 12:19 am

A better idea would be to resettle Israelis in the USA. paid for by Iran and Saudi Arabia.


Penelope 11.15.06 at 7:58 am

“…resettle Israelis in the USA.”

Didn’t Ahmadinejad make a suggestion like this? Except I think it was in Europe, not the USA.


john m. 11.15.06 at 10:17 am

“It is not a responsibility from which we can walk away when, or if, it seems to suit us.”

The problem for Hitchens (and all the others who supported this act of total lunacy) is summed up by this sentence because he is, once again, precisely wrong – walking away is both something they not can, but will do now that it is a political imperative because (and I’m going to shout now) THEY DON’T FUCKING CARE AND THEY NEVER DID.


peggy 11.15.06 at 11:34 am

Frank Sneep in “A Decent Interval” described how we walked, actually helicoptered, away from the Vietnamese who were fatally compromised as CIA agents.
Why should we behave better towards Iraquis?
Maybe churches can try and wrangel visas for Christians, who are being killed by both Sunnis and Shiites.
As Hitchens says we have a moral obligation to the Kurds-perhaps some underpopulated Western state might want some sheepherders.

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