The plight of Iraqis who have helped the U.S. government
July 25, 2011
An Iraqi interpreter during a day spent interviewing locals in search of intelligence tips in January 2006 (AP Photo/Nick Wadhams)
When the U.S. went to war in Iraq it relied heavily on local Iraqis to help interpret the language, explain local customs, provide intelligence tips and make contact with others who could be helpful to the U.S. mission. In doing so, they took enormous risks — perhaps thousands were killed — and in some cases their families were threatened as well. An act of Congress in 2008 called for 25,000 special immigrant visas for Iraqis who helped Americans yet that year, it is estimated that roughly 70,000 Iraqis were working for the U.S. government or its contractors. To date only 7,000 visas have been granted to Iraqis who cooperated with Americans and in recent months, the number of visas granted has stalled significantly due to new security requirements that require complicated rescreeing procedures. As the U.S. prepares to withdraw from Iraq, many fear for the safety of those who supported the American effort as both Sunni and Shiite militia groups have announced that they will target “collaborators.” In this hour of Radio Times we explore the issue with three guests — TRUDY RUBIN of the Philadelphia Inquirer, BECCA HELLER of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project and KIRK JOHNSON of the List Project.