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Performer Mayyadda singing at the University of Minnesota Juneteenth Celebration “We Are The Noise: The Echoes of Our Ancestors” captured on Saturday, June 15.
Best photos of June '24
Published June 23, 2024

We owe it to our Iraqi allies

U.S. obligations to Iraqi allies aren’t being fulfilled.

Questions about the ethical responsibility of our country in Iraq, moving forward, defy easy answers. How long do we stay? Does the “Pottery Barn” rule apply – that since we broke it, we bought it – as former Secretary of State Colin Powell has suggested? On at least one count – the debt our country owes to Iraqi translators and others who have risked their lives helping coalition forces – it’s clear that we aren’t holding up our end of the bargain.

Since the occupation began in 2003, an estimated 250 Iraqi translators have been killed because they were seen by sectarian militias and al-Qaida in Iraq as traitors for helping the United States. An estimated 20,000 more Iraqis are in danger of reprisals because of their willingness to help coalition forces, according to the United Nations. Some fear the number is as high as 110,000. These are people who heard our country’s tales of a free, prosperous, democratic Iraq and believed that we would be prepared, that we would have a plan, and they would be helping to usher in that day. We were not prepared, and now these people’s lives are in danger because of our government’s serial incompetence.

A provision in the Defense Authorization Bill signed into law last month will allow up to 5,000 Iraqi interpreters and translators to seek asylum in our country each year for the next five years. Previously, this number had only been 500, and even then the complicated process that required Iraqis to first travel to one of Iraq’s neighboring countries to apply for the visa meant that fewer than half that number actually arrived.

This process has been revised, and as encouraging as these changes are, we need to see results and make sure that the maximum number of Iraqis seeking asylum are able to actually do so. Their assistance to our government has painted a bull’s-eye on their backs. It is our opinion that people so willing to put themselves at risk for the prospect of living in a free, open society would make very fine Americans, and at the very least, we owe them a way out of the mess we’ve made for them.

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