While serving with the Marines in 2003, my squad went on a patrol in the slums of Al Kut Iraq. Truthfully, I can’t decide whether it was because we were trying to build good will or that our Battalion Commander never had a good Halloween in his life, but we were instructed and encouraged to throw out candy to the kids as my infantry unit patrolled the streets. They would yell, “Saddam Donkey, George Bush good” as we gave them candy and a thumbs up as we moved on. On one such occasion, candy was thrown out and picked up by a beautiful Iraqi girl who couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9. However, when she picked up the candy, an older boy, perhaps 14 or so ran over, slapped the girl to the ground, and took her candy. The other boys laughed, the adults did nothing, and my squad was about ready to commit a war crime because we were freaking pissed.
The Children We Know
There is not a single Marine I knew who wouldn’t have picked up that little girl and brought her to America that very moment. Honestly, it was not a rare occurrence to have had experiences with Iraqi children that moved even the hardest warriors to compassion in that very uncompassionate land. Fascinatingly enough, the adults I encountered in Iraq blend in together, but the children stick out in my mind. I don’t imagine it is any different in any war. Take a look at this video below and it will testify to the common experience of many.
Veterans of all wars are not the minions of homogenous thought that many make us out to be. We are as diverse as the stars in the sky and while you might find common themes of thought, we are not the same. So while this article is titled, what Veterans think, I admit I have not been appointed to speak on behalf of them in any fashion. But neither have you.
So it bothers me when a Veteran is attacked for expressing hesitancy at taking in 10,000 refugees from the war-torn region. The average Veteran of the GWOT wars have met more potential refugees than you and have felt more compassion at the plight we observed with our own eyes. The only problem is that we know the rest of the people who inhabit that region and there is more than meets the eye.
It is Not Just the Children
We were stationed at a fire station in Al Kut for about a month where we spent time having chai with the firemen where they told us that if anyone attacked us, they would fight with us to defend us. Good men. Interpreters, affectionately known as Terps, risked their lives to help us as they regularly went on patrol with us while potentially risking reprisal from militants. There was even this one hilarious guard at the City Hall we affectionately named, MoFo, because the Marines he previously encountered taught him nothing but English profanities. As we left the gate, he would scream them out at us and we would yell them back with love. By all means, bring the firemen, Terps, and yes even MoFo to America.
But the Iraqi/Syrian people are not all the same. I don’t know if that 14-year-old kid who slapped that girl wound up joining ISIS, probably not because he was likely Shia, but I know the adult version of that man is not someone I would enjoy having in America. Go and google much of the combat footage from the GWOT wars. You can even find videos from the insurgent’s standpoint and those men exclaiming Allah Akbar as they snipe American soldiers or blow up our vehicles are not men we need in this country. And the entire complaint when you tell me you are bringing 10,000 refugees over is I don’t know which ones you are bringing? America has no idea and can only hypothesize. But for those who walked the streets of the region, we know that some could come and live in our houses with our children while some deserve to meet the brrrrrrt end of an A-10 Warthog. Do you really trust government bureaucrats to tell the difference between the two?
Slow Down America
For all the various camps which have developed about this particular issue, I fall into the camp of whoa, I mean just whoa. Ease up compassion dog because you might not be certain who you are dragging into the gates of America. If I saw that same little girl in Iraq who got slapped to the ground I just might jump the gate and bring her in myself. But if you open the gates wide and the adult version of that 14-year-old male who slapped her to the ground come in with a few of his buddies, then we have trouble. Do you know who these 10,000 are and that is the sole complaint of those who know.
If we import even one ISIS terrorist, we will know it. The results, aka the body count, will be explicitly measurable. That being said, I want so badly to help the children that I have seen with my own eyes and I reject the notion that because I am cautious for the sake of American children that I don’t care about refugees in need. We most certainly should admit refugees. However, we should be able to tell the difference between a 9yo girl fleeing with her mother and the 22-year-old male without family who is either too much of a coward to fight for his homeland or a terrorist.
The House has just passed a bill, with a veto-proof margin, that would require more stringent checks and pause the flow of refugees until we can be sure who is coming through. Keep that in mind, a veto-proof margin in this day and age of partisan political bickering. Are we getting MoFo who risked his life with us, or are we getting that 14-year-old boy who slapped a girl to the ground for getting a piece of candy ahead of him? Or are we getting ISIS who would gun down Americans as they eat at a mall? I don’t know if even this new bill can tell us that, but it is a step in the right direction. But don’t tell me, or any other GWOT Veteran that we don’t have compassion for those children, because I can still see their faces. Can you?
If You Want a Rational Approach to the Refugee Crisis, then Like the Unprecedented Mediocrity Page Below.