By Trudy Rubin
Last week I wrote a column about the plight of Iraqis who helped U.S. troops and civilians but face death as “collaborators” after we leave.
Since my column appeared, I’ve been receiving emails from Iraqis who fear that we will betray them. A special immigrant visa (SIV) program to get them out has been virtually frozen – supposedly, for security reasons – even though these Iraqis have undergone security checks in order to work on U.S. bases.
Many who had been issued SIV visas now face long delays or have been told their visas are canceled.
Reading these emails makes my blood boil – at our betrayal of our Iraqi friends and allies. (You can read excerpts of several of the emails at my blog: www.philly.com/worldview.) If you feel as I do, I have suggestions at the end of the column about how you can help.
One emailer, A.M. (I use his initials for safety’s sake), is a 26-year-old interpreter who has worked with a U.S. combat unit and with a U.S. contracting unit that checks on Iraqi subcontractors.
“My job was to coordinate with the government of Iraq to prevent waste, fraud and abuse,” he emailed me. “We made these companies to pay hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars they didn’t pay in previous years.” A.M. got recommendations from the brigadier general heading his unit and several other senior officers in the command.
But, in doing his job well, A.M.’s face became known to Iraqi contractors and ministry officials. He began receiving death threats. “In 2010 my car windows were broken in front of my house and a red X was taped on my driver’s side window,” he told me in a phone interview. For safety, he moved onto the U.S. base.
Now he must move off the base when it closes next month.
He certainly can’t expect Iraqi authorities to protect him.
As if this weren’t bad enough, radical Sunni and Shiite militia groups have publicly pledged to kill Iraqis who worked for Americans.
Readers have asked how they can help. Here’s what I suggest:
1. Contact your senator or representative. Send letters to Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Get your churches, your veterans’ groups, and any group you can muster to send letters, too.
Six senators, including John Kerry, D-Mass., and Republican Richard Lugar, R-Ind., have just sent a letter to Homeland Security requesting answers about why the SIVs are stalled. They should be urged to press the issue.
2. Fund groups such as IRAP, which provides volunteer U.S. lawyers to help SIV applicants. The Philadelphia law firm Reed Smith L.L.P. and students at the University of Pennsylvania Law School are helping with some of these cases.
Most Americans may want to forget about Iraq, but the betrayal of our allies shames us. I will write more on what’s to be done in another column, soon.
Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial-board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Readers may write to her at: Philadelphia Inquirer, P.O. Box 8263, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101, or by email at trubinphillynews.com.