Iraqi Allies “A Population at Risk”

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Last night 60 Minutes ran a piece on the forgotten Iraqi fighters of this war, not the insurgents nor the Iraqi Security Forces, but the translators, the drivers, the guides, the civilians who signed up to work with the US Army early on, and are paying for it with their lives and security now.

In our current issue, on newsstands now, David Case looks at this very issue, reporting that only 291 Iraqis have been granted refugee status in the United States since the war’s beginning, and “meanwhile the line outside the UNHCR’s gates gets longer every week, and the wait for an interview stands at five months.” Read the whole thing, here.

Several (disguised) Iraqis, who have had to flee the country, spoke to 60 Minutes, expressing their frustration, and fear. One man whose leg was shattered in an explosion two years ago when he was working with the Mississippi National Guard said he was told by the State Department that he knew “the danger when you work with the U.S. Army” when he asked for support in leaving the country.

Retired Major General Paul Eaton, who was in charge of training the Iraqi army in 2003 and 2004, called on the President and Congress “to admit that a population is at risk. At risk because they have thrown their lot in with us.” By 60 Minutes’ tally at least 100,000 translators have worked for the armed forces in Iraq. “Add their families and you’re well over a half a million people at risk. How many of them have been allowed to immigrate to the United States? About ten.”

This, and the total of 291 Iraqi refugees, is in stark contrast to the 131,000 Vietnamese allowed into the United States in 1976, under Gerald Ford. In just 8 months. The Bush administration, on the other hand even after congressional hearings on refugees in January, has decided to let in 7,000 this year, which, with 2 million Iraqis already displaced is next to nothing.

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