George Packer has another great and heartbreaking story out in this week’s _New Yorker_. It’s about the Iraqi translators and workers who signed up for the American rebuilding project in Iraq but who are now being thrown to the wolves by the United States. I mentioned this “a couple of posts back”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/2007/03/language_in_iraq_on_the_radar.php, but George’s “full story is worth a full and thoughtful read”:http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/03/26/070326fa_fact_packer?printable=true.
As he puts it:
Between October, 2005, and September, 2006, the United States admitted two hundred and two Iraqis as refugees, most of them from the years under Saddam. Last year, the Bush Administration increased the allotment to five hundred. By the end of 2006, there were almost two million Iraqis living as refugees outside their country — most of them in Syria and Jordan. American policy held that these Iraqis were not refugees, that they would go back to their country as soon as it was stabilized. The U.S. Embassies in Damascus and Amman continued to turn down almost all visa applications from Iraqis. So the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world remained hidden, receiving little attention other than in a few reports from organizations like Human Rights Watch and Refugees International.
Of course, the reason the Iraqis are being treated like this is because the Bush administration refuses to admit that Iraq isn’t a abattoir of its making. And there is insult to the injury the Iraqis are facing. At least one Iraqi employee of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad was refused entry to the U.S. because he had paid a ransom to kidnappers, violating the “material support” clause of the Patriot Act.
One of the heroes of the story is a USAID worker named Kirk Johnson, who grew disillusioned with life in the Green Zone and asked to be transferred to Fallujah. I think I met Johnson when “I was in Fallujah in Nov. 2005”:http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1126748,00.html, but I’m not sure. Regardless, he has been a driving force in getting the U.S. to open its doors more to Iraqi refugees, with the highest priority given to those who worked for the U.S. and are now in the most danger.
“This is the brink right now, where our partners over there are running for their lives,” he said to George. “I defy anyone to give me the counter-argument for why we shouldn’t let these people in.” He then quoted something President Gerald Ford once said regarding his decision to admit a hundred and thirty thousand Vietnamese after the fall of Saigon: “To do less would have added moral shame to humiliation.”