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Ignoring the downtrodden and vanquished

Juan Cole, Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, in his blog, Informed Comment, makes more than a telling point in his post "Whether Jewish Refugees in ’30s or Syrians today, USA Falls Short of own Ideals" about Americans are "ignoring" people in peril  (think the current flood of refugees fleeing Syria) - and not for the first time!

"More than half of US governors have abruptly announced that they will not welcome Syrian refugees. Governors cannot actually tell people in America where they can live.

Germany, a country of 80 million, will take in 800,000 refugees this year, many of them Syrians. That is 1 percent of their population. It would be like the USA taking in 3 million refugees in one year.


The US takes in 70,000 refugees a year. Last year it accepted about 400 Syrian refugees.


The United States invaded Iraq in 2003, which led to the creation of roughly 4 million Iraqi refugees out of the then some 26 million Iraqis, or nearly 1/6th of the population. That would be like 50 million Americans displaced. The US took in only a few thousand Iraqi refugees after causing all that trouble. The US invasion radicalized Iraq’s Sunnis and drove them into the arms of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, which morphed into Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) at camp Bucca and then took much of Syria, contributing to making 11 million of 22 million Syrians into displaced persons. 4 million have been forced abroad, to Jordan, Lebanon & Turkey, and now thousands are trying to get into Europe.


The US politicians who voted for the Iraq War say we can’t let in Iraqis or Syrians because they might have been radicalized.


This grim landscape of racism, religious prejudice, blaming the victim and racial exclusion from immigration is deja vu all over again. In the 30s, it was the Jews that the troglodytes didn’t want.


It turns out that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was not responsible for America’s refusal to take more than a few thousand Jewish refugees during the 1930s. He wanted to spend $150 million to distribute millions of Jewish refugees among 10 democratic countries. His failures were imposed on him by a Congress that wouldn’t act and a foot-dragging State Department. By 1940 it was too late, as Europe became a fortress.


But the US in the 1930s did betray its ideals as a refuge for people yearning to be free. The episode of the SS St Louis, a ship full of 900 Jewish refugees that got close enough to Miami to see its lights before being turned back to Europe, epitomized this failure. A third of the passengers were later murdered by the Nazis.


One Jewish refugee the US did take in was Albert Einstein. How would we not have been better off if we’d had more like him?"

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