Last night, in a sobering prime time address from the Oval Office, President Obama called for us to turn the page on Iraq. But for thousands of Iraqis, our translators, turning the page is not an option. These brave men and women wore our nation's uniform in combat and are now being hunted for doing so. We must not forget them.
I owe my life and the lives of my Marines to my translator Abood. While we saw some of the fiercest combat of the Iraq war together, my platoon was never attacked inside the town we called a home. Much of counterinsurgency is about developing relationships and through Abood, I am convinced that we were able to foster the close ties with local leaders and civilians we needed to keep us safe. Two of Abood's daughters also served as translators with coalition forces.
But in late 2005, during the darkest days of the war in Iraq, Abood had to flee his home with his family. He and his family became some of the fortunate few granted entry into the United States. It was one of the greatest days of my life.
Last night, the President reminded us that for many the war is far from over.
He spoke about veterans who bear the physical and mental wounds of war and the countless Iraqi and American families who lost loved ones.
He spoke about (and demonstrated) the need to move past political differences and focus our energy and resources on rebuilding our economic foundation at home.
He spoke about the remaining US troops, diplomats, and development workers who remain in Iraq and the tough road ahead for the Iraqi people and government.
But alarmingly, he never mentioned our translators. And the system to help them is broken. What kind of message does that send to future allies if we fail to live up to our obligation to them?
In the last days of the Vietnam war, despite the failings of the US Government to plan for evacuation of our Vietnamese allies, hundreds of thousands of people were saved by the heroic efforts of US Military personnel. Helicopters were pushed off of the decks of Navy ships to make room for refugees, faux marriages and adoptions were arranged to circumvent byzantine legal obstructions, and Generals even arranged for unauthorized flights of Vietnamese citizens out of the country.
Before we turn the page on the war in Iraq, we too must do everything we can to help those who fight by our troops.
And you can help...
By supporting the List Project to Resettle Iraqi allies and the Iraq Refugee Assistance Project. The list project maintains the single largest list of Iraqi translators who are in danger and then arranges for pro bono legal services to help them gain entry into the United States. The Iraq Refugee Assistance Project is a group of law students, who provide pro bono legal advice and services to Iraqi translators and refugees. Like the thousands of military men and women in Vietnam who acted on their own accord to protect our Vietnamese allies, these organizations have done tremendous work filling the vacuum left by our government protecting Iraqi allies.