Kirk Johnson: Of the Iraqis who are currently working at the U.S. embassy, none of them whom I’ve spoken with feel like they are going to be taken care of. There was a Christian couple that was killed about four months ago. The husband was a senior translator; his wife also worked in the embassy for years. He was kidnapped. When the wife went to pay the ransom, they killed both of them. Every killing is succeeded by a wave of Iraqis leaving because the presumption is that any U.S. government employee who was kidnapped was tortured and gave the names of other Iraqis who were working with them.

There is no way for Iraqis in country to get U.S. visas. If an Iraqi faces a death threat, he must follow assistant secretary of state for population, refugees, and migration Ellen Sauerbrey’s advice and forge his way into Jordan or Syria and stand outside of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees offices. Somebody who shows up at UNHCR in Damascus won’t get an interview until spring 2008. And that’s just one of three interviews where they’re asked roughly the same questions. Even if they get an American visa, they have to go back to Iraq and then come back when it’s ready. It’s appallingly slow and labyrinthine…

If you don’t step back from the situation and remember that we have done it before, [for example] 10, 15 years or so ago with 14,000 ethnic Albanians. Put them on C-130s and process them all on American military bases. Fly them here and process them here. You can forget that this is what presidents are here for and this is what leadership means. If you cut through this mountain of bureaucracies through leadership and say, “This is what we have to do.”

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