The camps that U.S. troops and allies are building on the Iraqi side of the border with Turkey may alleviate the starving and freezing of hundreds of thousands of homeless refugees on the mountainside. Those camps may alleviate the pressure of more Kurds on a nervous Turkey that suppresses the cultural freedom of its own Kurds for fear of losing the southwestern quarter of its territory. But the camps are only a Band-Aid, and could, like many a festering bandage elsewhere, become part of the problem.
It is small wonder that some Kurdish leaders refuse to lead their people back to the Iraqi side of the border, believing that U.S. protection will not last as long as Saddam Hussein's malevolent power. The last thing the U.S. should wish to make permanent is a set of Kurdish camps on the model of Palestinian camps in Lebanon or Cambodian camps in Thailand with no economy, no future and no hope.
The three million or so Kurds of Iraq who have fled their homes belong back where they came from, in their homes, their jobs, their farms, their way of life, unmolested. The United States started the avalanche that brought them to the mountains of northern Iraq, where Sun reporter Diana Jean Schemo has vividly described their suffering and where the White House says some 510 Kurds each day are dying. The United States has a humanitarian obligation to those Kurds that extends beyond putting up flimsy camps.