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Angelina Jolie writes eyewitness account from Iraq


March 3, 2008/13.52

Late last week, Angelina Jolie, UNHCR ambassadrice and actress, wrote an open letter published in The Washington Post, reporting her observations in Iraq.
   I am always keen to hear ?rst-hand reports rather than things ?ltered through some editorial agenda. This publication is no exception: I make it no secret that we support environmental causes—and have done so long before they were trendy. (We probably made them trendy, or played a part in that, which was my stated aim when UN Radio asked me why Lucire would help them promote the environmental movement in the early 2000s.)
   I also make it no secret that we support animal welfare and humanistic business practices.
   When Michael Yon telephoned me a while back I wanted to hear directly from him about his experiences being embedded with US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
   Too many media, sadly, function on sensationalism and sales ?rst, the personal aggrandizement of the journalist second, and the truth somewhere further down the line. On that we differ. We see reporting as a cherished duty and it is Job No. 1.
   Over the weekend I told three of my cousins, who are in their late teens to early 20s, the same thing and they agreed. They are obviously very perceptive but it is worrying we have already given our young people that cynicism.
   Thus when I read Ms Jolie’s letter, I thought we ?nally read something fair with the only agenda being pushed those of the UNHCR. There are no politics in there, or the taking of an anti-war or pro-war position. It certainly made better reading than some of the Hollywood rants over the last (almost) ?ve years.
   Some highlights include:

Here is what we do know: More than 2 million people are refugees inside their own country—without homes, jobs and, to a terrible degree, without medicine, food or clean water. Ethnic cleansing and other acts of unspeakable violence have driven them into a vast and very dangerous no-man’s land. … 
   An additional 2.5 million Iraqis have sought refuge outside Iraq, mainly in Syria and Jordan. …
   I’m not a security expert, but it doesn’t take one to see that Syria and Jordan are carrying an unsustainable burden.

   Ms Jolie met with Gen David Petraeus, the commander who is leading the surge against al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups within Iraq. She also met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
   She continues:

My visit left me even more deeply convinced that we not only have a moral obligation to help displaced Iraqi families, but also a serious, long-term, national security interest in ending this crisis.
   Today’s humanitarian crisis in Iraq—and the potential consequences for our national security—are great. Can the United States afford to gamble that 4 million or more poor and displaced people, in the heart of Middle East, won’t explode in violent desperation, sending the whole region into further disorder? …
   As for the question of whether the surge is working, I can only state what I witnessed: U.N. staff and those of non-governmental organizations seem to feel they have the right set of circumstances to attempt to scale up their programs. …
   It seems to me that now is the moment to address the humanitarian side of this situation. Without the right support, we could miss an opportunity to do some of the good we always stated we intended to do.

   Ms Jolie believes that spending on humanitarian crises makes sense, and the expenditure to help the people of Iraq is a lot less than on the war itself.
   Through their return and the rebuilding of their lives, they will be able to stand up against the terrorists.
   What would be fatal is leaving the Iraqi people to fend for themselves, and it is up to the international community to show its goodwill in helping another nation.
   Pro-war or anti-war, I believe most of us share the view that we humans are capable of helping one another and should when the occasion arises. The UNHCR appeal amount is US$261 million for this year, which Ms Jolie is set to help bring in.

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