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Refugees and America

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American-supervised evacuation at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 24, 2021 (U.S. Air Force / Master Sergeant Donald R. Allen / Handout via Reuters) A question having to do with national interest and national identity. What is included in ‘American greatness’?

On September 1, the Wall Street Journal published a striking news article: “Vietnamese-Americans Organize to Aid Afghan Refugees: People who arrived in the U.S. after the Vietnam War see similarities in the plight of Afghans today.” This is fairly moving — powerful — to some of us.

• The Bulwark published an article by Phuong Tran Nguyen — “Welcoming War Refugees to America.” The article takes us back to 1975.

Extremists had their hour early on, some holding signs in Arkansas that read “Gooks Go Home.” An employee of the John Birch Society in Florida told the New York Times that, “There’s no telling what kind of diseases they’ll be bringing with them.” Anti-refugee constituents sent scores of letters to their U.S. senators.

When refugees actually arrived, though, they were received with open arms.

That’s America (many of us think, or like to).

In May 2015, I wrote a piece called “A Question of Honor: As the wolves circle, Iraqis who helped us are pleading for visas.” Here is a paragraph:

As Saigon fell, we airlifted thousands of Vietnamese — not a couple thousand but 130,000 — to bases in the Philippines and elsewhere. They were our allies, they had counted on us, and we felt we owed them protection from slaughter.

Another paragraph:

We did not save all the Vietnamese who helped us, obviously — that would have been much of South Vietnam. Before we left, in that panicked evacuation, our personnel did not have a chance to destroy all sensitive records. The conquering Communists found a list of 30,000 Vietnamese who helped us. They systematically hunted those 30,000 down and killed them (a small fraction of the million they ultimately killed).

It’s all happening again, of course.

Further from that piece:

At stake is American credibility — do we keep our promises or not? —

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