February 28, 2008


Staying to Help in Iraq: We have finally reached a point where humanitarian assistance, from us and others, can have an impact. (Angelina Jolie, February 28, 2008, Washington Post)

The Iraqi families I've met on my trips to the region are proud and resilient. They don't want anything from us other than the chance to return to their homes -- or, where those homes have been bombed to the ground or occupied by squatters, to build new ones and get back to their lives. One thing is certain: It will be quite a while before Iraq is ready to absorb more than 4 million refugees and displaced people. But it is not too early to start working on solutions. And last week, there were signs of progress.

In Baghdad, I spoke with Army Gen. David Petraeus about UNHCR's need for security information and protection for its staff as they re-enter Iraq, and I am pleased that he has offered that support. General Petraeus also told me he would support new efforts to address the humanitarian crisis "to the maximum extent possible" -- which leaves me hopeful that more progress can be made. [...]

My visit left me even more deeply convinced that we not only have a moral obligation to help displaced Iraqi families, but also a serious, long-term, national security interest in ending this crisis.

Today's humanitarian crisis in Iraq -- and the potential consequences for our national security -- are great. Can the United States afford to gamble that 4 million or more poor and displaced people, in the heart of Middle East, won't explode in violent desperation, sending the whole region into further disorder?

What we cannot afford, in my view, is to squander the progress that has been made. In fact, we should step up our financial and material assistance. UNHCR has appealed for $261 million this year to provide for refugees and internally displaced persons. That is not a small amount of money -- but it is less than the U.S. spends each day to fight the war in Iraq. I would like to call on each of the presidential candidates and congressional leaders to announce a comprehensive refugee plan with a specific timeline and budget as part of their Iraq strategy.

As for the question of whether the surge is working, I can only state what I witnessed: U.N. staff and those of non-governmental organizations seem to feel they have the right set of circumstances to attempt to scale up their programs. And when I asked the troops if they wanted to go home as soon as possible, they said that they miss home but feel invested in Iraq. They have lost many friends and want to be a part of the humanitarian progress they now feel is possible.

It seems to me that now is the moment to address the humanitarian side of this situation. Without the right support, we could miss an opportunity to do some of the good we always stated we intended to do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 28, 2008 9:45 PM

What a bizarro world where Angelina Jolie sounds more cogent and informed than Barack Obama.

Maybe the President could appoint her as our UN Representative for the remainder of his term.

Posted by: AC at February 29, 2008 7:49 AM

And you can take it to the bank that she will vote for Barack Obama in the fall, if she votes at all.

Posted by: Melissa at February 29, 2008 9:26 AM

When even airhead Hollywood types figure it out, . . . .

Posted by: Mike Morley at February 29, 2008 11:04 AM

And you can take it to the bank that she will vote for Barack Obama in the fall, if she votes at all.

Of course. Obama doesn't mean what he says about reneogtiating NAFTA, he doesn't mean what he says about withdrawing from Iraq. It is a gaffe for a politician to speak what he meant. And that is why to the sophisticated GWB is a moron.

Posted by: ic at February 29, 2008 2:21 PM

Great headline.

Posted by: Ibid at February 29, 2008 7:11 PM