First EducationUSA Fair in Iraq Attracts More Than 1,000 Students

 A recent article declares, “Tired of war, thousands of Iraqis want to go to U.S.” What it fails to mention is who triggered all the bloodshed. Who made conditions in Iraq so intolerable that these people must flee?

You know who. Over and over again, the U.S. has instigated mayhem or carnage overseas, generating thousands if not millions of refugees, many of whom longing to escape, paradoxically, it seems, to the source of their suffering. You beat and humiliate me, so can I move in?

(From House Slave Syndrome by Vietnamese-American writer, Linh Dinh)

Photo: IIE

This is exactly what flashed through my mind as I read this EducationUSA Tweet First EducationUSA Fair in Iraq Attracts More Than 1,000 Students.  According to an Institute of International Education (IIE) press release (note: the US State Department outsources EducationUSA marketing and other tasks to IIE), “More than 1,000 Iraqi students, eager to pursue their graduate studies in the United States, attended the first EducationUSA University Fair in Iraq last week. Students traveled from all across Iraq to meet representatives from 21 U.S. higher education institutions. The fair, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and implemented by the Institute of International Education (IIE), took place in Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan Region) from October 14-15, 2011. With the goal of increasing the number of Iraqi students at colleges and universities in the United States, this fair provided participating institutions with an opportunity to talk directly with interested students and share with them the programs and academic options available at American campuses.”  Here is a copy of the fair guide

While I’m all in favor of overseas study for all of the usual reasons and maybe then some, and have spent my entire career in international education, I couldn’t help but wonder about the many ironies at play here.  Invade and occupy a country under false pretenses, destabilize its society, murder innocent civilians, wreak havoc on its economy, preside over a mass exodus of said country’s middle and upper classes and, now, EducationUSA to the rescue! 

Here are the rhetorical questions of the week.  Of those 1,000 young Iraqis who want to go to the US, I wonder what their post-graduation plans are?  I wonder how many of them can honestly answer the consular officer’s question about their post-graduation plans?  (I’m planning to go home to contribute to the development of my country.)  How many will be in compliance with section 214(b) of the Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which reads Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status…  Can you spell e-m-i-g-r-a-t-i-o-n and b-r-a-i-n d-r-a-i-n?  Can you blame them?

Shaking Hands: Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983.

NOTE:  Iraq – from ally to enemy to national security threat and back to ally in two decades.  I seem to recall that then Special Envoy Donald Rumsfeld’s December 1983 visit to Baghdad led to the normalization of relations between the US and Iraq.   I also seem to recall that the administrations of President Reagan and the first President Bush provided Iraq with intelligence and logistical support and authorized the sale of “dual use items” – those with military and civilian applications, including chemicals and germs (e.g., anthrax and bubonic plague).

In October 1989, President George H. W. Bush signed National Security Directive 26, which begins, “Access to Persian Gulf oil and the security of key friendly states in the area are vital to U.S. national security.” With respect to Iraq, the directive stated, “Normal relations between the United States and Iraq would serve our longer term interests and promote stability in both the Persian Gulf and the Middle East.”

A  year later:  Iraq transitions from ally to perennial thorn in the geopolitical side of the U.S. with the latter’s invasion of Kuwait and Saddam Hussein’s subsequent alleged plot to assassinate President George H. W. Bush.  Bombing and devastating economic sanctions commence.  Remember Madeleine Albright’s quote about the deaths of half a million Iraqi children? 

“We have heard that a half million children have died,” said “60 Minutes” reporter Lesley Stahl, speaking of US sanctions against Iraq. “I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And — and you know, is the price worth it?” Her guest, in May 1996, U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright, responded: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.”

Pardon the digression, dear reader, but this is an issue that deserves some reflection. 


P.S.:  Speaking of Iraq, I highly recommend this blog, Baghdad Burning, much of which was later published in book form.

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