Omar on Refugees: ‘We Don’t Ever Pause to Think, What American Policy Made Them Come Over Here?’

By Patrick Goodenough | February 11, 2020 | 4:25am EST
Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar. (Photo by Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images)
Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar. (Photo by Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images)

( – As she prepares to launch her vision of what a “progressive” foreign policy looks like, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) has suggested that U.S. policies are to blame for driving refugees to leave their home countries and for climate “catastrophes” abroad.

On Wednesday, Omar is scheduled to hold a briefing on Capitol Hill to launch her “Pathway to Peace” vision. According to a blurb on her Facebook page, it “centers on human rights, justice and peace as the pillars of America’s engagement in the world, and makes military action a last resort.”

(Image: Ilhan Omar/Facebook)
(Image: Ilhan Omar/Facebook)

“It centers the experiences of the people directly affected by conflict, takes into account the long-term consequences of U.S. militarism, acknowledges the damage done when we fail to live up to international human rights standards and is sincere about our values regardless of short-term political convenience.”

Omar expanded on the matter at an event in Washington on Friday, when she spoke of her plans to “introduce next week our Pathway to Peace in thinking about the world.”

“When we engage in the creation of our foreign policy, we are truly disconnected from the foreign nations that it will impact, and the humans who are going to be impacted by our foreign policy,” she said.

Omar was speaking to the left-wing news program Democracy Now!, at an event organized by The Rising Majority, and also featuring fellow “squad” members Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.).

“When you see a Somali refugee or an Iraqi refugee or a Libyan refugee, we often are like, ‘Oh, this is my neighbor, they must have survived some struggle,’” Omar said. “We don’t ever pause to think, what American policy made them come over here? Right?”

“When you see a flooding happening in a country abroad and you are urgently raising money for these lives to be saved, you don’t think about, ‘How have I contributed to the climate warming that has led to these flights – floodings and these catastrophes that are taking place abroad?’”

Somalia-born Omar’s family fled their home country when the civil war erupted and after an extended time in a refugee camp in Kenya she arrived in the U.S. in 1992, aged 12.

Later that same year, with the conflict and drought threatening millions of Somali lives, the U.S.-led “Operation Restore Hope” was launched to safeguard U.N. food shipments. In 1993, 18 American troops involved in that mission were killed when Islamic militants downed two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters in Mogadishu.

Speaking at Friday’s event, Ocasio-Cortez praised Omar for working “so diligently” on a new foreign policy vision.

“And it is a difficult task, but we need to move away from a paradigm of imperialism, colonialism, and – speaking for myself – late-stage hyper capitalism,” she said.

Wednesday’s “Pathway to Peace” launch, according to a poster promoted by Omar on social media, will have as its focus “Progressive, Equitable, and Constructive Engagement.”

Other guests featured are William Hartung, director of the Center for International Policy’s Arms and Security Program (“promoting reforms in U.S. policies on nuclear weapons, military spending and the arms trade”); Kate Kizer, policy director at Win Without War (a network “working for a more peaceful, progressive U.S. foreign policy”); and Tara Sepehri Far, a researcher in Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division.

Moderating the event is Trita Parsi, founder and former president of the National Iranian American Council, and one of the foremost advocates in the U.S. for the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal.

Parsi is now executive vice president of the Quincy Institute, a think tank formed last year with funding from George Soros and Charles Koch, to advocate “a new foreign policy centered on diplomatic engagement and military restraint.”

Beyond Wednesday’s launch, Omar is also planning a “community conversation” on her “Pathways to Peace” vision, at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs next week.


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