When the United States evacuated Saigon, nearly 35 years ago, it left behind thousands of South Vietnamese who were struggling to leave the country, even as the tanks of the Army of North Vietnam were at the doorstep of the city.
And so it may be in Iraq, where U.S. troops will begin their gradual withdrawal in August. That is, unless the United States acts on behalf of those Iraqis that were integral to its mission. No contingency plan to deal with the potential crisis has been formulated, and as the date for withdrawal nears, precious time remains to do what is right.
In its new report, Tragedy on the Horizon: A History of Just and Unjust Withdrawal, The List Project urges our government to come to the aid of these imperiled Iraqis, warning that “Once U.S. Affiliated Iraqis are ‘cut loose,’ they will be at the mercy of insurgent groups and militias that have already assassinated hundreds, if not thousands of our employees.”
The List Project makes a number of recommendations; chief among them is urging the United States government to develop contingency plans for the emergency evacuation of those imperiled Iraqis who have worked in some capacity for the United States. We must prepare for the possibility that these Iraqis will be targeted so that we do not relive the scenario that was played out on the rooftops of Saigon, as thousands of South Vietnamese scrambled for the last chopper out of Vietnam.
As well as developing plans for a potential evacuation of Iraqi allies, The U.S. should also create mechanisms to ease the overwhelming burden on those that are presently seeking resettlement.
By dedicating resources now to an operation that comprises elements of the recommendations that have been put forward by The List Project, we can eliminate unneeded confusion and backlogs if an emergency evacuation is indeed needed, averting a disastrous scenario that would see our Iraqi friends left to the mercy of terrorists.
What The List Project is proposing is by no means unprecedented. It is not even foreign to the country of Iraq. In 1996 the United States instituted Operation Pacific Haven, where it airlifted around 6,000 Iraqis, mostly Kurds, to the American territory of Guam. It was there that they went through the administrative procedures of being allowed into the United States, and most if not all were there by the next year.
History is riddled with both just and unjust withdrawals, and it is imperative that the United States withdrawal from Iraq not be a betrayal to those Iraqis who came to trust and depend on us most.
Every now and again, there comes a time when politics need be pushed aside and we as countrymen do what is altogether noble, and right. That time is once again upon us. We urge President Obama, his administration and the United States Congress enact the proper mechanisms to insure a just withdrawal.