Being a week removed from President Obama’s speech has allowed me to reflect a bit more, and I’m still dwelling on the fact that very little was actually said about Iraqis. Obama made only a lukewarm acknowledgment of the struggles that Iraqis have made during the course of the war, mentioning that “Iraqis and coalition partners…made huge sacrifices of their own.”
Yes, this was a speech delivered by an American president wanting to shift focus away from Iraq, delivered to an American audience that largely wants the same. But Iraqis were listening, and what was painfully absent from the president’s words last Tuesday were any mention of the refugee crisis that this war has created both inside and outside of Iraq, the extent of which will surely reverberate for generations throughout the region. Nor was there any talk about the United States being committed to assuring that U.S. affiliated Iraqis would not be left hanging once U.S. troop presence ceases to exist in the country. What will happen to these Iraqis, when they must leave the relative security of U.S. bases for a life of uncertainty outside those walls? They will most likely be targeted by extremists who label them collaborators.
Even now, former U.S. affiliated Iraqis are being squeezed thin. They dare not apply for government jobs, because if they reveal their employment history they cannot be sure if the information they have given will remain secure or be passed along through unknown channels, reaching people who would want to do them harm. For most, the best and only option they have is to leave Iraq. This, as most know, is a grueling process, involving months if not years of wading through the bureaucratic morass.
The United States has the responsibility and the means to help U.S. affiliated Iraqis relocate to the United States. They helped us in our time of need in Iraq and now our government must do all that is in its power to help them in theirs.