Yesterday, the New York Times ran an op-ed of mine which compared the closing months of the American Revolution (and the fate of the Loyalists who sided with the British Empire) with the final period of the Iraq war. It is, as you might imagine, not a pleasant comparison. In 1783, the Brits sent hundreds of ships to ferry out tens of thousands of Loyalists, whose future in America was bleak. By contrast, in 2011, we have sent our Loyalists stacks of forms to fill out, after which they are told to wait, usually up to 18 months or longer. The numbers of Iraqis on our list who are being resettled to safety are as low as they have ever been.
We at the List Project had hoped that our report “Tragedy on the Horizon,” issued in May of 2010, would be enough of a warning flare for all who have worked on this issue. In it, we examined the history of withdrawal, including what happened in Vietnam, Laos, Algeria (following 131 years of French occupation), WWII, and post-Revolution America. The lessons were clear and simple: hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Hardly any withdrawal in human history has occurred without a campaign of violence against the locals who collaborated with the departing power.
After at least 1,000 interpreters (the actual number is likely far higher) have been slain because they worked for America, and after the British withdrawal resulted in the tragedy of a public execution of British-affiliated Iraqis, it is incomprehensible to us why the Obama administration believes that there is no need to plan ahead.
We hope that we will be proven embarrassingly wrong in our predictions, and that no more bloodshed occurs by the hand of the militias who have just recently stated that U.S.-affiliated Iraqis have no future inside Iraq. But we cannot blind ourselves to the most basic lessons of history…