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Hey, Obama: Crowdfunding Aid for Syrian Refugees Is Incredibly Gross and Tacky

A Commentary By Ted Rall

I pay taxes.    

You pay taxes.   

Some of those taxes pay for good things. Some pay for bad things.   

One of the good things on which taxes can be spent is taking care of war refugees. Especially, when the refugee crisis was caused by your country.   

Is the United States government really outsourcing basic care of refugees from the Syrian civil war to Kickstarter?   

Yes, really. "At the request of officials from the White House Office of Digital Strategy, the crowdfunding website Kickstarter has begun its first social service campaign aimed at raising money for the United Nations refugee agency on behalf of Syrian refugees," reports The New York Times. "Visitors to the site, which is better known for helping inventors and filmmakers, can contribute $15 to buy a sleeping bag, $70 for an emergency rescue kit, or $160, which the site says could pay for a refugee's shelter in a 'well-built group tent, complete with sleeping bag and mat.'"   

(Disclosure: I have used Kickstarter to fund a trip to Afghanistan to do comics journalism.)   

This, to me, is so distasteful that it's hard to know where to start.   

There's the fact that the U.S. won't take in a respectable number of refugees. At last report, the Obama administration has taken in a paltry 1,500 -- equivalent to the population of a larger-than-average high school. Europe has accepted almost 500,000. There are 1.9 million in Turkey. But neither Turkey nor Europe caused the Syrian civil war. The U.S. did, by funneling the arms and money that wound up in the hands of ISIS and other militant groups fighting to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad.    

If you start the war, you're responsible for cleaning up the mess. That includes taking in refugees.   

Then there's the cheapness.   

Why should Syrian refugees have to make do with a tent, mat and sleeping bag, when there are millions and millions of vacant real actual houses all over the United States -- the country that, you know, caused them to become refugees? It's not like they'll be a bother: In the post-industrial Midwest, where populations have declined in the wake of devastating NAFTA-caused job losses, cities like my hometown of Dayton, Ohio, have extended a warm welcome to immigrants.   

Finally: How dare President Obama imply that the U.S. government is too broke to fulfill its basic moral responsibilities to the world?   

As long as taxpayers are shelling out tens of billions of dollars a year to the NSA and other intelligence agencies that can't point to a single real terrorist plot they've managed to disrupt, I don't want to hear that we can't put a million Syrians displaced by Obama's war into houses.   

"White House officials noted that in 1885, hundreds of thousands of Americans donated small sums to pay for a $2.5 million base for the Statue of Liberty," the Times report says. "Just like we banded together in 1885, we can join together to provide shelter, food and medical assistance to these people in need," one of Obama's digital PR flaks wrote. "It's the American thing to do."   

Actually, it was $100,000 at the time. America wasn't a rich country. And 1885 was the third year of a deep economic depression. Crowdfunding is the American thing to do when America is broke, and raising money for a statue it didn't have to have.   

You know who didn't have to wait for Kickstarter to come through?    

ISIS. They got their American weapons the old-fashioned way: free, directly from the United States government.   

Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the new book "Snowden," the biography of the NSA whistleblower. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.



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