But don’t worry — they weren’t widows and orphans. Barack Obama spent the last two days belittling concerns over the efficacy of screening in US refugee programs, but he seemed to forget that his administration has dropped the ball on this issue before. ABC News reminds viewers of their 2013 investigation that revealed that dozens of refugees admitted from Iraq and Afghanistan had suspected ties to terrorism. Two admitted in 2009 turned out to be al-Qaeda terrorists, who were only discovered after they tried to acquire heavy weapons while living in Kentucky:
Of the 31 states that have declared their opposition to taking in Syrian refugees, one state, Kentucky, has a specific reason to be wary of the background check process: previously two Iraqi refugees who settled in Bowling Green turned out to be al Qaeda-linked terrorists with the blood of American soldiers on their hands, an ABC News investigation found. Both pleaded guilty to terror-connected charges after trying to acquire heavy weapons while in America’s heartland.
The 2013 ABC News investigation also revealed that several dozen other suspected terrorist bombmakers, including some who were believed to have targeted U.S. troops, may have mistakenly been allowed to move to the U.S. as Iraq and Afghanistan War refugees, among the tens of thousands of innocent immigrants.
The Obama administration insists now that Syrian refugees are subjected to intense vetting before they’re allowed to settle in the U.S. and that a vast majority of the millions of refugees the U.S. has resettled since the 1970s are normal, peaceful people, but the program has had serious security problems before. In 2009, a flaw in background screening of Iraqi refugees allowed the two al Qaeda-linked terrorists to settle in Bowling Green and led to a temporary suspension of the refugee program, officials told ABC News in a 2013 investigation.
The two men, Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, were caught on surveillance video in 2010 in a storage locker in Kentucky handling heavy weapons, including a Russian-made machine gun and a Stinger missile launcher, which the FBI said the men thought would be smuggled to insurgents in Iraq.
But hey, who knows? Maybe they were orphans. Or widows. Shame on Kentucky for their irrational fear that the next infiltrator may have learned a lesson, will skip the heavy weapons, and just shoot up the streets of Louisville instead. And let’s not forget that the US had much better intelligence about refugees in Iraq and Afghanistan than we do on Syrian refugees.
In fact, the moral case for taking refugees was stronger in those cases, too. We were fighting wars in both countries that had displaced many thousands of people. Many others cooperated and supported our operations, making them targets for retribution. We had an obligation to welcome those who found themselves in danger, as long as they presented no danger to Americans. Our obligation in Syria is much fuzzier, other than the basic humanitarian desire to help. We didn’t start the war, we didn’t fight on that ground (yet); the moral obligation should fall more on Bashar al-Assad’s sponsors, Russia and Iran. (Libya, on the other hand, is fully owned by the US and EU.)
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t take any refugees ever. Those who are truly fleeing oppression and want freedom for themselves and others should find shelter in Western democracies, but only if we can determine beyond doubt that they pose no risk to our own security. Our government’s first obligation is to protect its own citizens, a priority that precedes all others. In a situation where our intelligence is even weaker than when the system has failed in the past, we should take more caution, and revise the process for even greater scrutiny and follow-up.
Instead, Obama would rather deliver personal insults from abroad while preening for the cameras and pretending that the only issue is “widows and orphans.” That’s not exactly a confidence builder for improving this track record.
Update: “Freeing oppression” was supposed to be “fleeing oppression.” I’ve fixed it above.