Chapter 12

Challenging US Silence: International NGOs and the Iraqi Refugee Crisis

By Kathryn Libal and Scott Harding

In this chapter, Kathryn Libal and Scott Harding draw links between U.S. unilateralism, the consequent creation of a refugee crisis, and the dilemmas this situation has posed for the international community. The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 is but the latest and most muscular of a lengthy series of Washington interventions in Iraq’s affairs, including long-term support for the despotic government of Saddam Hussein, all of which has in the main worsened the potential for civil conflict in post-Hussein Iraq and heightened Iraqi suspicion of U.S. policy aims. Unresolved internal sectarian/ethnic schisms and the United States’ low level of political legitimacy have contributed to amplifying the outflow of refugees that could have been predicted to result from any war into a millions-strong exodus with few other parallels in recent world history. Left to the international humanitarian organizations is the daunting task of picking up the pieces for the United States, by drawing international attention and directly administering to the refugees’ urgent needs.

Study Questions

  1. According to Libal and Harding, what is missing from the public debate concerning post-9/11 U.S. actions in Iraq?

Further Research

  1. Why might it be that the United States government was slow in awakening to its responsibility to come to the aid of Iraqi refugees?