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Another Voice: Be like Ike and give safe haven to war refugees

By William Lambers

We have seen the heartbreaking images of Syrians in desperate attempts to flee their war-torn homeland. All they want is to find safety in Europe, away from the conflict in the Middle East.

Thousands of Syrians each day are making this dangerous journey. They are tired, scared and hungry. What should the international community do? Start welcoming them.

That is exactly what the United States and other nations did for Hungarian refugees after their failed 1956 revolt against the Soviet Union. President Dwight Eisenhower launched Operation Safe Haven for refugees who were escaping the assault by the Soviet troops suppressing the rebellion. Other nations were welcoming to those Hungarians forced out of their country.

Eisenhower remarked in 1956, “It is heartening to witness the speed with which free nations have opened their doors to these most recent refugees from tyranny. In this humanitarian effort our own nation must play its part.”

Eisenhower did something else that President Obama should do right away, too. Ike ordered food and other assistance for the refugees. Welcome kits were provided. Eisenhower met Hungarian refugees at the White House.

Eisenhower was not the only U.S. president to get involved. Former President Herbert Hoover became involved as well with the relief of Hungarian refugees. Hoover became a spokesperson for the charity First Aid for Hungary, which set up field kitchens, first aid stations and mobile pharmacies for those escaping the violence.

The Red Cross was able to feed those who remained behind in Hungary. Catholic Relief Services, a charity helping Syrians today, was one of the leaders in providing aid at the time of the Hungarian crisis. So, too, was CARE.

The United States, in 1956, quickly began bringing thousands of Hungarians to Camp Kilmer, N.J., to begin their settlement process.

Today, the international community needs a new Operation Safe Haven for Syrians. This would help those who are fleeing into Europe. But the crisis of course goes much deeper.

Millions of innocent civilians remain in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. They are running out of food and hope.

We cannot let these people starve. Peace cannot be won on empty stomachs. No political solution in Syria or anywhere else will succeed if people are malnourished and desperate. Hunger and chaos play into the hands of extremist groups like ISIS.

One thing we do know is that we can respond to this crisis. We can elevate our response like we did during World War II and the Cold War era. We can have great leaders today who will rise to meet the challenge.

William Lambers, of Cincinnati, partnered with the U.N. World Food Programme on the book “Ending World Hunger.”