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June 9, 2008
Exodus (IV)By Greyhawk
Continuing a series begun here.
Michael Totten discusses the Iraq war with an Iraqi, in early 2005:
At one point, apropos of something I can’t remember, Ahman said to me: “I can tell you in one sentence how my country feels about your country.”I remembered reading that conversation - it struck me as one of the defining statements of the entire war, it did indeed seem totally right. And I mentioned it to Michael when I met him in Baghdad three years later, and both of us laughed again - the sort of laugh that is the only possible alternative to tears.
It also addresses another aspect of the Iraqi refugee issue currently just under the radar of American notice - but likely to rise in visibility during an election year. Of concern is the number of refugees who should be granted asylum in the United States. Democrats in congress are taking the lead in making this a political rather than a humanitarian issue:
Democratic lawmaker Gary Ackerman, who chairs the House subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, recalled that Congress had increased from 500 to 5,000 last year the number of immigrant visas available to Iraqis, such as translators and drivers, who worked for US efforts in Iraq.But in a recent briefing the State Department's James B. Foley, Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugee Issues, explained the challenges with meeting that goal.
First - congress screwed up the Bill:
And then in this connection, the other, I think, bit of significant news today is that we understand that the President has signed the technical correction bill to the special immigrant visa part of the Iraq – Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act that passed in January but that needed correction because while granting – authorizing the granting of 5,000 special immigrant visas per year for five years, the bill was deficient in making it applicable immediately in 2008. And this fix, now signed by the President, does that. And so those special immigrant visas become available going forward...Second: the processing office for refugees in Baghdad just opened in early May.
Third - even so, there's no rush to the door from Iraq:
MR. FOLEY: Oh, a small, smallish number. I think that those who have been approved but not yet traveled out of Iraq probably are in the range of around 70 or so.Fourth - other countries housing Iraqi refugees are sometimes reluctant to let them depart:
We also had, unfortunately, 114 “no shows.” In other words, these were refugees who had passed successfully every stage of the process: they were approved, they were cleared, they were booked, they had tickets, they were supposed to get on airplanes and they were unable to travel because it turned out that either they did not have the necessary exit permits or it was believed that they did not have the necessary exit permits... So there’s a certain amount of attrition that we have to deal with, and the arrival numbers would have been really in the 1,250 range had we not had those no shows.Fifth - some just don't show up:
We also have some, frankly, as I told you before, refugees who simply don’t – for unknown reasons – appear even though they have been – have their airplane tickets.Sixth - violence actually occurs in countries that aren't Iraq:
But we did have to postpone a circuit ride into Lebanon in the month of May that certainly would have yielded a fair number of approved refugees who would have traveled to the U.S., been resettled in the U.S. this fiscal year.So there you have a half dozen reasons the US might not take in its "quota" of Iraqi refugees this year.
And there's the real concern for State - because if they can't get 12,000 Iraqi refugees to enter America this fiscal year they're in for some heavy criticism - and reasons are also called excuses in an election year.
But they're confident that they can do:
But I have to say at the same time that we are not satisfied with these results because in order to reach the goal of 12,000 arrivals of Iraqi refugees this fiscal year, we have a long way to go, and we recognize that.Because even with only 70 coming from Iraq (so far) and Iraq's neighbors preventing departures the search for refugees is widening:
MR. FOLEY: Terry, could you describe some of the far-flung places we will process Iraqi refugees?I laughed because it seemed totally contradictory and totally wrong.
To be continued...
Posted by Greyhawk / June 9, 2008 10:00 AM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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