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By Senator EDWARD M. KENNEDY, Chairman On April 15, 1991, 2 weeks after the Kurdish crisis in northern Iraq first developed, our subcommittee heard graphic testimony on a tragedy of historic dimensions—the plight of nearly 2 million Kurdish men, women and children fleeing the violence and repression of their Government.

In a matter of days they had left their homes and villages and fled in a panic not seen in modern times. Never in recent history has a refugee tragedy of this magnitude exploded upon the world in so short a period.

President Bush and our alliance partners joined in a massive humanitarian relief operation—to give substance to the broad refugee aid agreement negotiated between the U.N. Secretary General's Executive Delegate, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, and the Iraqi Government.

As the following staff report documents, in a matter of days the tide of misery and death was reversed. The immediate and massive airlift, the supplies of food and medicine, and the personnel of the U.S. Armed Forces and a dozen alliance nations-all contributed to the success of the U.N. humanitarian mission authorized by Security Council Resolution 688.

At the beginning the death rate in the mountains was estimated at between 500 and 1,000 a day-mostly children and the elderly. Within days, it dropped to less than 50. Today it is less than 5 to 10. The subcommittees staff delegation, which returned last week from the area, estimates that more than 20,000 Kurdish lives have been saved since the U.S.-led relief effort was launched on April 16.

That extraordinary relief effort is now being repeated in Bangladesh. The success of these recent operations may well have paved the way for institutionalizing a new role for the U.S. Armed Forces in responding to international disasters. We hope to explore that idea as well today.

From the delegation's report, it is obvious that the relief effort on the Turkish border has been a brilliant success. The humanitarian response of our troops has been outstanding. No international relief agencies, as good as they are, could have performed so ably and in so short a time. By making it a military operation, thousands of lives were saved. The only regret is that so many lives were lost while we delayed the beginning of the mission.

Less clear are conditions along the Iranian border, where the plight of an even larger Kurdish refugee population, remains largely unknown. Although the leaders of Iran plead for international help, they have erected serious obstacles to assistance from both private voluntary agencies and the U.S. Government. They denied visas for our staff delegation to visit their refugee camps.

So while thousands of lives have been saved, and Kurdish refugees are now moving down from their mountain camps to greater safety, their longer-term security and welfare remain in doubt. There is still much the international community must do to bring peace and relief to the refugees from the Persian Gulf crisis.

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