Our Iraqi Friends Left to Die
The United States went into Iraq and enlisted the services of civilian Iraqis who worked for us as everything from interpreters to forklift operators at great personal risk to themselves and their families. This we knew. What most of us likely do not know is that our Iraqi friends, and that is what they are, have been left behind in a bureaucratic quagmire as they desperately seek refugee visas to the United States, the country they have already served at great personal risk. (Block quotes from The Iraqi Allies We Left Behind by Kirk W. Johnson Wall Street Journal (3/22/13))
This week marks 10 years since American forces stormed into Iraq, and although the war recedes from memory, I am daily reminded of an unresolved humanitarian consequence of the past decade…
We recruited thousands of Iraqi interpreters to risk their lives each morning by sneaking past militants into Baghdad’s Green Zone and into military bases in order to help us…
Mr. Johnson relates the story of Omar, an Iraqi with a five-year-old son and wife, a forklift operator at the Kirkuk base. After working for us for five years he applied for a refugee visa in June 2011. In July 2012 he was beheaded and his family received multiple death threats. Mr. Johnson’s List Project is working to get the rest of Omar’s family out of Iraq against overwhelming bureaucratic odds before they too are killed.
It now takes two full years for an Iraqi who approaches the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad—the largest in the world—to be scheduled for an initial interview.[emphasis added]
The Afghans who stepped forward to help the American war effort are in for an even ghastlier future. A special visa program created to help them was effectively neutered in 2010 when then-Ambassador Karl Eikenberry warned in a cable that granting the visas would deplete his embassy staff. [emphasis added] Three years later, as America draws down its forces in Afghanistan, the Obama administration has forgotten to ramp up the program, which now issues a shameful average of about 10 visas per month out of annual allocation of 1,500.
Ten years after the start of a war that is already ancient history for many Americans, many of our friends are still fighting for their lives. We should do more to help them. Why is it so difficult for us to help them? Will it be any better the next time?
We must do more to help them. In your humble blogger’s opinion, these brave Iraqi’s have earned at least a refuge visa to the United States. I would posit that they have earned American citizenship; let’s get them here now!