Departing with honor and decency

In the TNR Iraq symposium, George Packer focuses on what will happen to the Iraqis who have cooperated with coalition forces in Iraq, and the need to save their lives before we leave. "To me," he writes, "the relevant historical analogy is not the helicopters taking off from the roof of the U.S. Embassy in ...

In the TNR Iraq symposium, George Packer focuses on what will happen to the Iraqis who have cooperated with coalition forces in Iraq, and the need to save their lives before we leave. "To me," he writes, "the relevant historical analogy is not the helicopters taking off from the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, leaving thousands of Vietnamese to the reeducation camps. It is the systematic slaughter by the Khmer Rouge of every Cambodian who appeared to have had anything to do with the West." Accordingly: 

If the United States leaves Iraq, our last shred of honor and decency will require us to save as many of these Iraqis as possible. In June, a U.S. Embassy cable about the lives of the Iraqi staff was leaked to The Washington Post. Among many disturbing examples of intimidation and fear was this sentence: "In March, a few staff approached us to ask what provisions would we make for them if we evacuate." The cable gave no answer. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad does not issue visas. Iraqis who want to come to the United States must make their way across dangerous territory to a neighboring country that has a U.S. Embassy with a consular section. Iran and Syria do not; Jordan has recently begun to bar entry to Iraqi men under the age of 35. For a military translator to have a chance at coming to the United States, he must be able to prove that he worked for at least a year with U.S. forces and have the recommendation of a general officer--nearly impossible in most cases. Our current approach essentially traps Iraqis inside their country [...] 

We should start issuing visas in Baghdad, as well as in the regional embassies in Mosul, Kirkuk, Hilla, and Basra. We should issue them liberally, which means that we should vastly increase our quota for Iraqi refugees. (Last year, it was fewer than 200.) We should prepare contingency plans for massive airlifts and ground escorts. We should be ready for desperate and angry crowds at the gates of the Green Zone and U.S. bases. We should not allow wishful thinking to put off these decisions until it's too late. We should not compound our betrayals of Iraqis who put their hopes in our hands.

In the TNR Iraq symposium, George Packer focuses on what will happen to the Iraqis who have cooperated with coalition forces in Iraq, and the need to save their lives before we leave. "To me," he writes, "the relevant historical analogy is not the helicopters taking off from the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, leaving thousands of Vietnamese to the reeducation camps. It is the systematic slaughter by the Khmer Rouge of every Cambodian who appeared to have had anything to do with the West." Accordingly: 

If the United States leaves Iraq, our last shred of honor and decency will require us to save as many of these Iraqis as possible. In June, a U.S. Embassy cable about the lives of the Iraqi staff was leaked to The Washington Post. Among many disturbing examples of intimidation and fear was this sentence: "In March, a few staff approached us to ask what provisions would we make for them if we evacuate." The cable gave no answer. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad does not issue visas. Iraqis who want to come to the United States must make their way across dangerous territory to a neighboring country that has a U.S. Embassy with a consular section. Iran and Syria do not; Jordan has recently begun to bar entry to Iraqi men under the age of 35. For a military translator to have a chance at coming to the United States, he must be able to prove that he worked for at least a year with U.S. forces and have the recommendation of a general officer–nearly impossible in most cases. Our current approach essentially traps Iraqis inside their country […] 

We should start issuing visas in Baghdad, as well as in the regional embassies in Mosul, Kirkuk, Hilla, and Basra. We should issue them liberally, which means that we should vastly increase our quota for Iraqi refugees. (Last year, it was fewer than 200.) We should prepare contingency plans for massive airlifts and ground escorts. We should be ready for desperate and angry crowds at the gates of the Green Zone and U.S. bases. We should not allow wishful thinking to put off these decisions until it's too late. We should not compound our betrayals of Iraqis who put their hopes in our hands.

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