IN OTHER WORDS: Iraq refugees

To calculate the price that Iraqis have paid for the American misadventure in their country, you have to deal in big, round, horrifying numbers. Civilians killed last year: 34,000. Driven from their homes within Iraq: 1.8 million. Fled to other countries: an additional 2 million, and growing. The number of Iraqis who have found refuge in the US is easier to pin down. This country has admitted a grand total of 466 Iraqi refugees since 2003. However, President Bush tries to manage the endgame of his dismal war, America has an obligation to the Iraqis whose lives it has upended. It owes a particular debt to those who have faced incredible dangers working with American forces as interpreters, guides and contractors. These allies and their families have become a haunted and hunted group.

The US should move quickly to organise a conference with Iraq’s neighbours to discuss ways to cope better with human suffering and the potentially destabilising effects of the rising human tide. And it should answer an urgent appeal for funds by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which is seeking $60 million over the next 12 months to shelter and protect displaced Iraqis. Does it really need to be said yet again that in these perilous times the way to win trustworthy allies is to be one?