THE BLOG
01/30/2007 09:54 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

14 Cents per Iraqi Refugee per Year vs. $300 million per Day to Finance Occupation

iraqi refugee camp.jpg

President Bush probably chuckled when Colin Powell left the room after advising the President about the "Pottery Barn Rule" -- "you break it, you own it." (yes, I know Pottery Barn doesn't make you pay. . .but you get the point. . .)

Bush probably said, "Well, if I break it -- I can get away with it." And that's what he's been trying to do.

What I didn't realize is that the U.S. has been a worse fortress than I imagined to the innocent victims of Iraq who have been displaced by the invasion, occupation, and brewing civil war.

America has only allowed U.S. entry to 466 Iraqis since the beginning of this war -- while the UN reports that nearly 3.4 million have fled Iraq to escape the violence and are refugees practically everywhere except the United States.

Adam Goodheart, Director of the Starr Center for the American Experience at Washington College, and blogger John R. Bohrer have a great piece out this morning in USA Today comparing the refugee crisis of the Vietnam War to the current Iraq mess. It's a terrific piece.

And the zinger is this:

Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey said that her department wishes it could allow as many as 20,000 Iraqis to seek asylum here. Yet she admitted that the difficulty of setting up asylum application centers in Iraq might make it impossible.

Baghdad in January 2007 has still not reached the point of Saigon in April 1975. If the Ford administration could quickly save 130,000 people amid the tidal wave of a full-scale military defeat, surely the Bush administration can save 20,000, or more, from Iraq.

Compared with occupation costs of about $300 million per day, the money Sauerbrey spoke of allotting to the refugee crisis seems laughable. She boasted that in 2006, the U.S. provided $400,000 to support U.N. refugee resettlement efforts, a figure it proposes to increase to $500,000 this year. (If you divide $500,000 by the 3.4 million Iraqi refugees, you get a commitment of about 14 cents per refugee.)

Efforts for increasing the flow of Iraqi immigrants also have been stymied by post-9/11 counterterrorism laws that make it difficult for anyone from the Middle East to enter the USA. That's an especially cruel irony, since the refugees in greatest peril are those who have put their lives on the line for what President Bush has declared is a war against terrorism.

America is spending 14 cents per refugee in this war of choice?

This kind of bugetary ugliness is exactly what makes sure we lose the battle for hearts and minds in the Middle East.

-- Steve Clemons is Senior Fellow and Director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation and publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note