Nine years ago on March 20 the forces of the United States began their assault on Iraq. It's pretty universally agree that this "war of choice" -- an aggression grounded in lies -- was a catastrophe for attackers and Iraqis alike.
One of the war's major consequences, in addition to directly killing between 100,000 and 1,000,000 Iraqis, was to drive several million Iraqis from their homes. Somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of the population found themselves involuntarily on the move, whether because of direct attacks from the occupying army or the sectarian civil war the U.S. invasion unleashed.
The only neighboring country that willingly took in large numbers of these displaced and dispossessed Iraqis was Syria, now in the midst of its own civil struggle. Are these Iraqi casualties of war once again going suffer for being in the wrong place at the wrong time while the fighting rages? Perhaps. A new government maintains a dubious peace in Iraq, but going home remains dicey. The UNHCR -- the UN Refugee Agency -- estimates there remain about one million of these people in Syria. Here's how they describe things in classic bureaucratese:
Al-Akhbar English paints a more vivid picture of what the Syrian unrest means to the marooned Iraqis.
It is not (so far) that either the Syrian authorities or insurgents are actively targeting Iraqis, but Syria's economic paralysis threatens their continued ability to make a living. As immigrants without legal status, they have never been able to work officially, but got by on the proceeds of informal commerce.
Al Azzawi is particularly concerned about the young people.
Iraqis who have officially declared their refugee status to the UNHCR have hoped to resettle somewhere with more opportunity than Iraq in its trashed condition or an uncertain Syria. Since 2007, 28,000 of them have moved on to other countries, mostly to the U.S. and Canada. But that's just a trickle from among the millions of lives torn apart by the war President George W. launched so blithely nine years ago.
And, as Al Ahkbar points out, now that the U.S. embassy in Damascus has been closed down, even that trickle has ceased to provide an exit for Syria's unbidden Iraqi guests.