Stingy

September 24, 2007

Americans can be glad they don't live in Sweden. If they did, they might have to get acquainted with some of the Iraqi refugees who have been uprooted by the war President Bush started in 2003.

The small city of Sodertalje, a little ways south of Stockholm, last year took in twice as many refugees as -

Baltimore?

No.

Miami?

No.

California?

No.

The entire United States?

Yes - 1,100 Iraqis went to Sodertalje, out of 9,000 admitted to Sweden, compared to the 500 who reached the United States in 2006.

This year, Sweden, which has a population of 8 million, and which has accepted more Iraqi refugees than any other industrialized country (by far), has decided that it must tighten up its entry requirements. The United States promised to admit 7,000 Iraqis this year, but the tally so far is about 900, and the total will probably be about 2,000. American officials say they have to be careful not to let terrorists into the country.

It looks more like American officials are too ashamed to let homeless refugees into the country - though on Friday they promised to admit 12,000 Iraqis in 2008. That's hardly generous.

The most deserving, of course, are the 100,000 or so who have worked for the U.S. government or American contractors since 2003; they are marked men and women. And presumably they've already passed scrutiny once, when they were hired. It's disgraceful to throw up roadblocks to their admittance.

The government had no such qualms in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, when 135,000 refugees were admitted. The difference, perhaps, is that to admit Iraqis is to admit that the American venture has been a failure.

But these people are just part of a bigger picture. The flow of refugees and displaced persons in Iraq is the greatest in the Middle East since the creation of Israel in 1947. At one point in August, 20,000 Iraqis were entering Syria every day. Two million are scattered throughout Iraq's neighbors; both Syria and Jordan are trying to tighten up their borders. More than 2 million have fled their homes but are still inside Iraq; this number has surged since the beginning of the "surge." It is a phenomenal crisis, and one that will build on itself.

U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker wants to know why the government can't speed up its processing of refugees. It can - and it should.

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