Must read: “The Guam Option”

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The New Yorker’s George Packer continues his diligent coverage of the Iraqi refugee crisis, particularly as it pertains to America’s Iraqi allies. In his most recent post on the subject, he outlines what he calls “The Guam Option”:

In the fall of 1996, the U.S. military evacuated more than six thousand Iraqis—Kurds and others who had worked with American agencies in the north, and whose lives were directly threatened by Saddam’s army—halfway across the world to Guam. There they were screened, processed for asylum, and assigned sponsors in an effort that involved more than a thousand American soldiers and civilians. Almost all of the evacuees ended up Stateside within seven months. Major General John Dallager, the Joint Task Force commander of Operation Pacific Haven, said, “Our success will undoubtedly be a role model for future humanitarian efforts.”

Undoubtedly… Recently, some conscience-stricken American officials have privately begun to ask why the model of Operation Pacific Haven can’t be emulated today. Flying Iraqis to Guam would solve every problem, real and invented, that the Administration claims is holding up resettlement: the inability of Homeland Security interviewers to meet with refugees in Syria; the near-impossibility of Iraqis getting into neighboring countries; the supposed security concerns that prevent the U.S. from screening Iraqis inside Iraq. With the Guam option, none of this would matter.

…In a single day. fewer than a dozen planes could rescue all of the eight hundred Iraqis on Kirk Johnson’s list. And Guam has U.S.-run facilities that can house large numbers of refugees. An airlift to Guam would not be cheap, and part of the cost would be enormous publicity. But it’s the obvious answer. Unless bad P.R., with echoes of the fall of Saigon, is the Administration’s real concern, there isn’t a single persuasive argument, practical or principled, against it.

Slate’s Fred Kaplan endorses the plan (and also cites The List Project):

George Packer, the New Yorker writer who first drew attention to this crisis and who continues to shame officials for not doing more to resolve it, proposed a solution in his blog last week. The idea is eminently practical and logically unassailable—so much so that if Bush and his top aides don’t take him up on it, there can be only one explanation: They simply don’t want to.


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