Logically, Iraqi refugees shouldn’t exist, according to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), because the United States already “won” the Iraq War.
In an interview with Boston Herald Radio this week, Paul attempted to justify why he wanted to restrict the number of refugees the United States takes in, particularly from certain areas of the world like the Middle East.
“It’s crazy that we would just say, ‘come visit us or come on a student visa or come as a refugee or just simply come and become a citizen,'” the Republican presidential hopeful said. “So I think we need much more scrutiny than we’re doing.”
In particular, he singled out for criticism the fact that the United States accepts thousands Iraqi refugees, because, according to Paul, asylum only makes sense when a side loses a war, like the South Vietnamese and the United States.
“We accepted 60,000 people from Iraq as refugees,” the Kentucky GOPer said. “What I don’t get about it is, I thought asylum would be when you lost the war. We won the Iraq War! We put in place a democratic government. Why would there be any people seeking asylum from Iraq after the war?”
Listen to it:
Paul’s implicit notion that former president George W. Bush declaring “mission accomplished” in 2003 was the end of the story is absurd. Following the American-led invasion and years of mismanagement, Iraq has endured over a decade of war and strife. During that time, nearly 500,000 people died from war-related causes in the country, and that toll continues to rise. Despite the United States’ “victory” in 2003, Iraq remains a dangerous place, particularly since the rise of the self-described Islamic State.
In addition, Paul’s declaration that the United States instituted a “democratic government” in Iraq belies the facts. Democracies aren’t built overnight, and elections are only a small part of building a democratic society. Under the democratically elected former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq devolved into sectarianism, leading to widespread widespread resentment among Iraq’s Sunni minority and contributing to the chaos currently enveloping the country.
Many of the Iraqis seeking asylum are people who helped the United States military or contractors as translators and guides, for example. They put themselves and their families at considerable risk in the process, so Congress decided it was only right to allow those currently living in danger to escape. Still, the screening process is so thorough that according to the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, the average wait time to receive a decision is over four years. There has been a recent spike in the number of Iraqis seeking asylum, and many have died waiting to be allowed to leave. You can hear one such story from a 2013 episode of This American Life.
Allowing Iraqi refugees to resettle isn’t just the humanitarian thing to do; it’s also good for the United States. Iraqi immigrants are helping to revitalize economically-downtrodden areas like Detroit, for instance, working in bakeries and filling factory jobs. Still, as VOA detailed, the challenges for Iraqi refugees of adjusting to a new country and culture, particularly after years of trauma, remain.