Friday, March 16, 2007

Hutto: All in the Family

It looks like things are just ducky in Iraq these days, the Surge is on and the militias have apparently taken a powder (To Diyala province). Deaths from bombings are supposedly down 30% in Baghdad, down to 370 people killed in first 27 days of the Surge from a high of 528 in the 27 leading up to the crack down. Only about 80 mutilated bodies are being found on the streets these days, down from a couple hundred a month ago. [AP] Are we ready to declare mission accomplished yet, or, at least, call it a "dazzling success?" No? Maj. Gen. William Caldwell says, "I would caution everybody about patience, about diligence. This is going to take many months, not weeks, but the indicators are very positive right now."

You know, the thought occurs, if only W. & Co. had shown some patience and diligence in the days leading up to the invasion and had waited a few more months, not weeks, to allow the weapons inspectors time to figure out Saddam didn't have jack . . .

But I digress, despite all the happy talk coming out of Iraq the UNHCR estimates another million or so Iraqis will be heading for the exits by the end of this year to join the 2.3 Iraqis who have left Iraq for Syria, Jordan or another country since the invasion. Since the US kind of started this war and is ultimately responsible for the biggest mass exodus of refugees since the 50's, you'd expect that W. & Co. would be working overtime to do the right thing and let tens of thousands of them into the US -- like we did for the Vietnamese and the Cambodians in the 1970s -- right? Not quite, since 2003 the United States has allowed exactly 466 Iraqi refugees to emigrate.

But that's all about to change: The administration, feeling the pressure from the UN and Congress, has relented and agreed to let 7000 Iraqi resettle in the US this year. So the 50,000 or so Baghdadis escaping that dazzling success every month better get their papers in order and get their lotto ticket now. But if they've been giving "material support" to terrorists, they'd better forget it. By "material support" Homeland Security means paying ransom to kidnappers. That sort of thing on an application to the U.S. Resettlement Program will kill an Iraqi's chances of getting into the US right quick. Yesterday on Radio Times NPR's Deborah Amos reported from Syria that many desperate Iraqis have unwittingly killed their chances of getting into the homeland of milk and honey by using the kidnapping of a loved one as an example of the dangers they face if they go back to Iraq. Uncle Sam doesn't want to hear that, they've got no time for evil doers that pay ransoms.

In the most recent edition of Newsweek, Lorraine Ali writes of the travails of her Iraqi family and their desperate plight to get out of Baghdad. She writes that one of her relatives’ text messaged her as soon as he heard the US would take 7000 Iraqis. "There are some places for us there? Please send 2 me information soon."

The shame that is Hutto:

When I think of the story of Kevin Yourdkhani, the 9-year old Canadian boy who has been held since last month with his mother and father at the T. Don Hutto Family Detention Center in Austin,Texas, I start to wonder if maybe Ali's family might not want to look elsewhere for refuge. Although Kevin's detention is front page news in Canada, the US media has ignored it completely, except for Democracy Now. As I posted before, Hutto is a prison in Texas where Homeland Security has locked up entire families -- men, women and children -- whose only crime is that they've sought refuge inside the US.

CTV reports:

"The boy's parents have claimed in interviews that they were previously imprisoned and suffered physical and sexual abuse in Iran. The boy's parents also claimed they were detained and tortured when they were sent back to the country. When they were released from custody, the family fled to Turkey where they purchased phoney documents. They were on their way back to Canada to seek refuge again in February when the plane made the unscheduled stop in Puerto Rico.

In San Juan, they were given a big Homeland Security welcome and whisked away to Texas. Iranians with phony documents? They're lucky they didn't wind up at Gitmo!

Luckily, CP reports that sanity has prevailed and Kevin and his family "are being granted temporary passage to Canada by Immigration and Citizenship Minister Diane Finley. " That still leaves a hundred or so other children who the ACLU says in a lawsuit filed on their behalf:

". . . Are detained in small cells for about 11 or 12 hours each day, and are prohibited from keeping food and toys in these cells, which lack any privacy. Access to adequate medical, dental, and mental health treatment is severely limited—as a result, many children suffer from chronic ailments that worsen as they are left undiagnosed and untreated."

The US seems to have a nasty habit of kidnapping Canadian citizens, you'll remember the tale of Maher Arar, another Canadian, who was taken off a plane in New York bound for Canada in 2002 and rendered to Syria for torture. As if that wasn't a big enough black eye for the US, this time we've gone one better by locking up a family. My question then as now is why Canada doesn't do a better job of protecting their citizens. Why do they just let the US trod all over their sovereignty like that, time and time again? They are our allies, right? Aren't they losing soldiers over in Afghanistan for us? You'd think they could expect a little more respect from their best friend in the world.

And what have we come to that we'd even consider locking up families in a prison? And it is a prison, contrary to the protestations of Homeland Security that it's not. Hutto is run by the Corrections Corporation of America and the Warden Mickey Liles has had a lawsuit filed against him and CCA for mistreating prisoners in the past. How afraid of terrorists are we that we'd go right back to setting up internment camps, like we did to the Nisei in WW II? Back then at least you could make the case that we were at war -- not that I'd ever buy that line -- but what threat do a few hundred bedraggled refugees represent to the most powerful country in the world? Are we that cowardly?

This is just shameful what this administration is doing and as Americans we should all be horrified that this is being done in our name. Where's the media coverage? Where are the congressional hearings? Where's the outrage?


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