I was gestating a post about the Iraqi refugee situation then Riverbend declares they are leaving Iraq. I was thinking how the consequences of a war go on for many generations and many decades, like ripples spreading uncontrollably. The disaster of Iraq is still only in its first act, 4 million Iraqis now live away from their homes, roughly split 50/50 between internally displaced and refugees abroad. Most disgusting is the pitiful numbers the UK and US are taking and the conditions they put on those seeking refuge.
Get this, Iraqi’s are being stopped from entering America because the patriot act defines them as having materially supported terrorism. How does it do that? Well if you at any time paid a ransom to free a loved one, that’s giving money to terrorists, you are denied entry, if your cell phone was stolen and used by non US forces, that’s aiding terrorism. Put simply they are using bureaucratic evil to make sure as few refugees as possible get to settle:-
The liquor store owner is a Christian Iraqi. In July, he found a threatening note slipped under the door of his store in Baghdad. (Selling alcohol violates Islamic law.) The police could not help. With no other means of supporting his wife and seven children, he kept the shop open. The next week, five men entered the store, beat him, emptied the cash register, took his cell phone and demanded $10,000. Four days later, kidnappers snatched his 1-year-old son and demanded a ransom of $30,000. With the help of an adult son in Australia, he raised $10,000 and delivered it as instructed. The next morning he found a package on the porch: one plastic bag with the head of his son and another with his little beheaded body. The liquor store owner buried his son, and the whole family fled Iraq as soon as they got their travel documents.
What the Americans will want to know is whether the kidnappers were just after cash. Those who act “for mere personal monetary gain” have not committed “terrorist activities.” Then – and only then – would paying them a ransom not be considered “material support of terrorist activities.”
The civil engineer is a Sunni Iraqi whose family lived in a Shiite neighborhood. After the U.S. invasion, he got a job with an American company doing reconstruction work. He was abducted by Shiite militiamen. For 21 days, his family searched desperately for him, calling anyone who might pull strings to get him back. To thank those who came to their aid, they gave out prepaid minutes for cell phones, sent by text-messaging a code that could be redeemed with the phone company. In all, they gave out $3,000 worth of credits, some of which went to the kidnappers.
That may have helped get the engineer released. The engineer also used his own cell phone while he was held captive – an important detail. He was freed unharmed and left the country.
The critical question here will be: Were the cell phone minutes to the kidnappers sent from the engineer’s phone or from that of a relative? To transfer any form of payment to a terrorist is to “materially support terrorist activities.” If the bribe came from a relative, the engineer probably won’t be accused of “supporting terrorism” – unless he asked the relative to give the bribe.
The hairdresser is a single mother. She received threats by phone and in writing. She was told to close her salon, judged as unacceptable by Muslim extremists. In 2005, a man in a black hood entered her shop, beat her, pulled the crucifix off her neck and raped her. A week later, her son was kidnapped and the same man called; she recognized his voice. He demanded $10,000. She gathered $7,000 and paid the ransom. Her son was returned, and she fled the country with him.
At issue here is whether the rapist/kidnapper is a member of a U.S. government-documented terrorist group. Even ransom can constitute “material support” of terrorists. But if money is given “under duress” to a group that is not on either of the two State Department lists of foreign terrorist groups, the “material support” restriction can be waived.
Over the past year, I traveled to half a dozen countries in Africa and Asia and saw bona fide refugees barred from entering the U.S. because of obstacles that seem similarly absurd. But the U.S. government bears special responsibility for the war in Iraq, so the mindless application of “material support” provisions to Iraqi victims of terrorism would be particularly deplorable.
The 7,000 Iraqi refugees to be resettled this year in the United States have yet to arrive. So there is still time to pass legislation, or reform the Immigration and Nationality Act, to apply definitions that don’t turn victims of terrorism into supposed terrorists themselves-