January 21, 2017
The Honorable Katherine A. Castor
4144 N. Armenia Ave.
Tampa, FL 33607
Dear Ms. Castor,
Please consider that America has an outstanding debt to the men and women native to Iraq and Afghanistan who worked with US forces during our nation’s on-going conflicts. Due to fears, some real, but mostly imagined, fanned by the rhetoric of our new president and the echo chamber that got him elected, thousands of Iraqi and Afghan people who risked their lives for US soldiers are now living in perpetual dread with the stigma of having “collaborated with the Americans.” We left thousands of linguists and translators to whatever fate awaits them at the hands of the terrorists we hunted.
With the specter of Vietnam as a context and the thousands of people who worked with US forces during that decade-long debacle, we must consider a failure to act. If we do not honor a commitment to help the people who help us when we go on a military adventure, those adventures are going to be impossible to win, unless we find ourselves in a symmetrical battlespace like World War II. The likelihood of such a circumstance is equal to President Trump’s announcing a national day of celibacy.
I commend to you the idea of airlifting the thousands of Iraqis and Afghans to our base in Guam as we did in a few days with over 6,000 Iraqi Kurds in 1996. (See LA Times article). This quote from the article is telling of where we were as a nation twenty years ago: “In Washington, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said the United States felt an obligation to the refugees, because Iraqi President Saddam Hussein might “inflict punishment” because of their work for U.S. aid agencies.” We did this for refugees, not people who walked patrol with us, pinpointed the hideouts of terrorist cells, showed us where the bombs were planted, had their families massacred for working with us and then kept working with us.
Please consider sponsoring legislation that would achieve such an action now. It could change the course of the wars we are fighting. Because if we do not pay this debt to those who have worked or are working with us, our forces are at risk. Without these native speakers as trusted agents, US forces live and operate in theaters of war deaf to the world they are supposed to be helping, missing cues that could save lives, and vulnerable to manipulation by a translator who knows he or she has nothing to gain by risking life or limb for us.
I know it would be impossible in the current political climate to reinvigorate the special visa program for Iraqi and Afghan linguists, but the option of using Guam as a safe area is a solution that could save the people we owe from a tortured death, increase the survivability of our soldiers in those conflicts, and repair our nation’s reputation abroad.
I am glad you are our representative. Keep up the good work.