No One Left Behind

The organization called No One Left Behind is committed saving the lives of interpreters and translators in Iraq and Afghanistan who worked with U.S. forces and are now in danger as U.S. forces withdraw. To be admitted to the U.S., those Iraqis and Afghanis must be granted a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV). To obtain one,  an applicant must go through a 14-step process requiring a three-and-a-half year wait time. Nearly 18,000 Afghanis who risked their lives working for the U.S. military are trying to leave Afghanistan ahead of President Biden’s September 11 deadline to withdraw remaining U.S. forces from the country. The number of Iraqis who have applied for admission to the U.S. and are still waiting for a decision runs to the tens of thousands.

The numbers admitted to the U.S. are miniscule. According to NBC News, “In fiscal year 2016, 325 Iraqis who had worked as interpreters were admitted to the U.S. In 2017, the number dropped to 196. And for fiscal year 2018 ending in September, only two former interpreters from Iraq received visas, a more than 99 percent decline over three years, according to statistics from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).”

I have no figures on the numbers of Afghanis admitted, but what data I have suggests that they are comparable.

The pattern here is all too familiar. When the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam, we abandoned many thousands of South Vietnamese that had worked with us to oppose the North Vietnamese invaders. When our enemy was victorious, many of those left behind were executed on the spot; the remainder were sent to “re-education camps,” really concentration camps, where they languished for years.

We are, in other words, once again abandoning our partners and leaving them to their fate at the hands of people known to be cruel killers. Can we blame other nations of the world for their hesitancy to cooperate with us?

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