IMPORTANT: Time to do the right thing by our Iraqi friends

by Daniel on July 22, 2007

I’ve written on this in the past (as has John, and Jim Henley, and it’s been in the New Republic), but the situation is now urgent as well as serious – there is a very grave danger that the UK is preparing to sell its local employees in Iraq down the river, and the time to do something about it is now.

Iraqi interpreters used by the British Army and CPA South have already been hunted down by death squads. The British forces in and around Basra are no longer really sufficient to protect themselves, let alone their employees, as Channel 4 news details.

There really is no way of keeping these people safe while they are in Iraq, and they need to be kept safe. Quite apart from what one would call a “debt of honour” (the phrase is somewhat pompous, but accurately describes the situation), it never makes sense to get a reputation for abandoning one’s friends. Therefore, the Iraqi staff used by the British in Iraq need to be given asylum in the UK, along with their families.

This is not the current policy of the UK. The Home Office has simply suggested that Iraqis put at risk by their work for the British “register with the appropriate UN refugee agency”, joining the mountain of 2 million-plus refugees and IDPs already caused by the war. This simply isn’t good enough; the safety of Iraqis who are marked out as traitors by the insurgency can’t be guaranteed in the refugee camps either.

Denmark has already done the right thing, giving asylum to all 200 Iraqis who worked alongside their forces. The vast majority of the people concerned are already fluent English speakers and number only a few thousand, so we are not talking about a huge burden on the UK’s asylum system here – certainly nothing like the scale of the Ugandan Asian asylum operation, which is itself generally recognised to have been a massive net positive for the British economy and society.

British readers of CT ought to write to their MPs to ask them what they plan to do about this problem. It is best if you can write an individual letter, perhaps based on the set of bullet points over the fold, but if not, then the form letter on Dan Hardie’s blog is better than nothing (Update: the entire form letter is now also below the fold, after a burst of realism about how many readers you lose per click). I’ve also emailed my small set of contacts in the media about this story – as the links above show, to a large extent the “MSM” is already working on it, but anything we can do to keep it on the front pages will help. American readers of CT, well I guess you probably need to be thinking about how to organise something similar when your politicians start doing the same thing.

(other CT authors – can we leave this one up at the top of the page during Monday UK daytime please?)

bullet points for a letter to an MP (Dan H wrote these):

  • It is morally unacceptable that Britain should abandon people who are at risk because they worked for British soldiers and diplomats.

  • This country will be shamed if any more Iraqis are murdered for the ‘crime’ of having supported UK forces.
  • Iraqis who worked for British forces should not be told to leave Iraq and throw themselves on the mercy of United Nations relief agencies in Arab countries: these agencies are already being overwhelmed by the outflow of Iraqi refugees, and Iraqi refugees who have worked for British diplomats or troops may well be targeted by local jihadists.

  • There is plentiful evidence that armed groups in Iraq kill the families of those they consider ‘enemies’: for this reason we must extend the right of asylum to the families of those who worked for us.

  • It is entirely practical for this country’s troops in Iraq, and its embassies in neighbouring countries, to take in Iraqis who have worked for us and fly them to the UK. Indeed, there is already considerable anger among British servicemen that Iraqis are being abandoned in this way.

  • This country is large enough and rich enough to accommodate several thousand Iraqi refugees. Denmark has already given asylum to all 200 Iraqis who worked for its smaller occupying force.

  • It does not matter what your MP’s views (or what your views) are on the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. People who risked their lives for this country’s soldiers are now being abandoned by the British Government. Their lives can and must be saved by their being granted the right of asylum in this country.

  • This policy should be implemented regardless of whether British soldiers stay in Iraq or are soon withdrawn. But it must be introduced soon: applications for asylum cannot be processed in a lengthy fashion, as the security situation in Basra is deteriorating rapidly, and delay is likely to lead to further killings of Iraqis who worked for British troops.

and here’s the form letter, and a repeat of the Write To Them link.

Dear (MP’s name)

As your constituent, I am writing to discover your views on the treatment of Iraqi citizens who are working, or have worked, for the British Army, t he Coalition Provisional Authority, and contractors working for both organisations in the South of Iraq. In particular, I would like to know if you support the right of these people to indefinite asylum in the United Kingdom. I strongly suggest that they do indeed have this right. They have, by definition, put their lives at risk by the support they have given to British soldiers who were sent to war by a vote of the House of Commons.

Whether you- or I- supported or opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq is immaterial. The risk run by Iraqis working for British troops is even greater than that run by the soldiers themselves. British soldiers are now suffering very high casualties in Iraq, and are continuing to serve bravely- but the ir local staff are obliged to live among neighbours who will, in many cases, be sympathetic to or even belong to the armed groups fighting the British army. We owe these people a clear moral debt. We cannot allow them to be murdered for the ‘crime’ of helping our service men and women.

The most effective way of helping these brave Iraqis is to offer them indefinite right to remain in the United Kingdom. There is plentiful evidence that armed groups in Iraq make a practice of murdering not only their ‘enemies’ but their families too: and for this reason we must extend the right of asylum to the families of those who have worked with us. This policy should be enacted immediately whether our forces stay in Iraq or are soon withdrawn. Applications for asylum cannot be ‘processed’ in a lengthy fashion: the situation in Basra is deteriorating, the ability of British soldiers to protect those that work for them is seriously compromised and any delay is likely to lead to the murder of Iraqis who have worked for the British military.

I would appreciate your views on this matter.

Yours sincerely
NAME

{ 3 trackbacks }

Tim Worstall
07.23.07 at 9:44 am
Unschooled » Blog Archive » Do the right thing
07.25.07 at 1:06 am
Pickled Politics » Help save some Iraqis
07.25.07 at 10:43 am

{ 111 comments }

1

Dan Hardie 07.22.07 at 9:36 pm

Dsquared, that’s fantastic. Thanks to you, and also to Alex Harrowell and Justin McKeating for all your help with this.

Please, if you’re going to use the form letter, just use it as a basis for your own letter. Copy and paste it into word and then rewrite it extensively: I’m really convinced by the advice at ‘writetothem.com’ that just sending out lots and lots of letters which are identical bar the signature is utterly ineffectual. Use the form letter to break your own writer’s block, if you have any. I mean, you have to be able to improve on that pile of junk…

2

novakant 07.22.07 at 10:33 pm

That’s a good initiative, but we should ask ourselves and our politicians what can be done that the hundreds of thousands civilians who didn’t happen to work for the UK and are in equally great danger don’t suffer the same fate.

3

Joel Turnipseed 07.22.07 at 10:43 pm

I had a long and fascinating discussion this spring with a former Iraqi special forces soldier who left Saddam’s Republican Guard and joined on as a U.S. Special Forces advisor in late 2003. He subsequently earned high praise all the way up the chain of command–and was ultimately ambushed at his mother’s home and permanently paralyzed (to what extent, it’s not clear: he’s in a special neurological trauma center here in the States).

He’s also currently fighting for asylum (it wasn’t clear to me/we never got around to what his status is now): it would be a travesty if we (the coalition countries) didn’t give all of the Iraqis risking their lives for us (and our news services) immediate asylum.

Now, that said, there is a sticky question: does having served in a CAP unit qualify? If so, that would not be a couple hundred–but hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, especially including family members–who qualified. No small number.

Finally, if you want to read an absolutely fascinating story about what happens to those left behind, my friend Quang Pham published a memoir a couple years back about his experience joining the USMC as a fighter pilot and how/what his experiences helped him understand what his father, a South Vietnamese fighter pilot left behind in the evacuation of Saigon went through: http://www.qxpham.com/books.html

As dsquared said: it doesn’t matter whether you support(ed) the war in Iraq or not–this is a terrible, terrible human rights issue: and a cost of war we should be willing to burden.

4

Daniel 07.22.07 at 11:06 pm

As dsquared said: it doesn’t matter whether you support(ed) the war in Iraq or not

I agree with the sentiment, but just to be clear, the words are Dan Hardie’s – this does not amount to an endorsement of every single thing he’s ever done, particularly on Crooked Timber comments threads, but Dan is doing yeomanlike work on this campaign.

5

Sk 07.23.07 at 2:41 am

Another solution would be to stay and win the war.

Sk

6

Down and Out of Sài Gòn 07.23.07 at 2:46 am

Well said, Daniel.

The same should go for the Iraqis who worked with other Coalition countries, of course. My primary concern is Australia, because I live there. What is the policy of the Australian government on this matter?

7

John Quiggin 07.23.07 at 3:41 am

Given the Tampa episode, my impression is that Australia’s policy begins with the premise that Iraq is now perfectly safe, and follows with the view that anyone who leaves should seek asylum in the first country they reach. I plan a post on this over at my blog.

8

John Quiggin 07.23.07 at 3:45 am

Noting that sk is a sockpuppet/new pseudonym for rightwing troll “Steve”, I’m forced to the conclusion that #5 is meant to be taken seriously.

9

Doctor Slack 07.23.07 at 3:49 am

Another solution would be to stay and win the war.

Down to the last Iraqi, hey, champ?

10

abb1 07.23.07 at 6:53 am

Comment deleted by DD. I am really not bloody pleased at the level of narcissism and silliness in this comments thread.

11

ejh 07.23.07 at 8:27 am

[reference to deleted comment deleted by DD]

Of course the UK has a responsbility here: if you ask people to undertake dangerous work for you then you own them a responsibility. Doesn’t matter a damn whether we approve of the war or not or indeed whether we approve of the work these people did – I most certainly don’t in thre first instance and generally don’t in the second instance either. Nor does it make any difference whether one approves of the government’s disgraceful asylum policy. The point here is that the government should recognise its responsibilities. One does not oppose the war better by releasing them from this.

12

ejh 07.23.07 at 8:28 am

Incidentally, there is, I think, a caveat, which is that some people who will have worked for the government may be suspected of having committed criminal acts in Iraq. This complicates the picture, does it not? It’s hard to argue that people against whom there is genuine evidence should be protected from justice and it might be profitable to discuss how that should be addressed.

13

bad Jim 07.23.07 at 8:38 am

America ought to shoulder the major part of the cost for the war, and we’ve got wide-open spaces, vast deserts empty of people, ready for Iraqis. So far we’ve admitted what, a hundred or so?

14

abb1 07.23.07 at 9:00 am

It’s a humanitarian catastrophe there, a million dead, several million refugees and internally displaced. I see absolutely no reason why the collaborators who helped bring it all about should be able to jump the queue.

15

ejh 07.23.07 at 9:06 am

Because it’s not about them, it’s about the responsibilities of the government.

16

alphie 07.23.07 at 9:09 am

Certainly seems like the right thing to do.

But it also brings to mind the phrase, “Not enough lifeboats.”

17

Dan Hardie 07.23.07 at 9:22 am

Ejh, re the possible crimes committed by these people:
1) We’re talking about interpreters, cooks, drivers and other support staff- largely female. The chances of crimes having been committed by them are very small. The Iraqi police aren’t asking for asylum (as they are basically, from what I hear, members of one or another militia in Basra and are sticking around for the fight to control the city).

2) In the event that one of these people, on admission to the UK, is credibly accused of criminal behaviour, then- as Dsquared said on Jamie Kenny’s blog- the thing to do with them is give them a fair trial in a proper court, and, if they are found guilty, a proportionate punishment. What they’re facing in Iraq is death for no criminal behaviour at all, as the reports make clear.

18

Chris Williams 07.23.07 at 9:39 am

NB – I’ve just contacted my MP about this, and I’ve stressed that what these people need is not ‘indefinite leave’ but legal refugee status, something which the British government has been very cagey about giving out over the last few years. The former implies that they are here on suffrance: the latter applies they have a right to stay, which is what HMG owes them.

Abb1 – we’ve all got to make a living, and when the economy tanks, the rations dry up, and the only employers in town hiring are a selection of groups of armed men, you don’t have to be an imperialist (or a fascist, or an Islamist) to sign up with one or the other of them. The point is to change the system, not blame its pawns.

19

abb1 07.23.07 at 9:40 am

Because it’s not about them, it’s about the responsibilities of the government.

Fair enough, those who are indeed government employees and protection/evacuation is a written or implied part of their contracts need to be taken care of. If that’s the whole extent of it, I have no problem.

What I don’t like is the “our Iraqi friends” thing. Your Iraqi friends may not be the same people as Dan Hardie’s Iraqi friends, or you may not have any friends there at all. That’s why over the years various procedures and protocols for dealing with refugees and asylum seekers have been developed.

20

ejh 07.23.07 at 9:46 am

The chances of crimes having been committed by them are very small.

That’s so, except that if they have carried out these tasks in order to facilitate the operations of an occupying army which – if the situation were that Britain were occupied – I think we would find unacceptable. That said, of course the penalties being inflicted are out of all proportion to the offence and it would be among the responsibilities of the occupiers to preserve their employees from reprisals.

I do suspect though that those who will be best protected will be those who have committed crimes.

21

ejh 07.23.07 at 9:50 am

That’s why over the years various procedures and protocols for dealing with refugees and asylum seekers have been developed.

Yes, but surely the point of these is to impose on governments humanitarian responsibilities which they would otherwise like to evade. I don’t think other refugees will be worse treated if Iraqi employees of HMG are treated better than they are. Of course there will be any number of pundits who will try to use the latter as a stick with which to beat the former, but in fact that former’s position will be, at worst, unchanged.

22

dsquared 07.23.07 at 9:59 am

Incidentally, there is, I think, a caveat, which is that some people who will have worked for the government may be suspected of having committed criminal acts in Iraq. This complicates the picture, does it not? It’s hard to argue that people against whom there is genuine evidence should be protected from justice and it might be profitable to discuss how that should be addressed.

I am pretty sure this can be addressed through the normal extradition and criminal procedures though – certainly not asking for any blanket amnesties. Even in actual war crimes trials, it’s pretty much established that justice is best served by proper trials and sentencing, not leaving people to the mercy of death squads.

23

dsquared 07.23.07 at 10:00 am

comment deleted because it was responding, foolishly, to a deleted comment

24

ejh 07.23.07 at 10:08 am

I am pretty sure this can be addressed through the normal extradition and criminal procedures though

One would hope so because we do not want a situation obtaining such as obtains between the US and Havana, where the States harbours all sorts of people up to their necks in crimninal violence against Cuba.

25

abb1 07.23.07 at 10:42 am

[more deletion by me -DD]

26

ejh 07.23.07 at 10:50 am

Resources are limited

That strikes me as being the very argument most likely to be advanced by people wishing the government to wash their hands of this.

27

abb1 07.23.07 at 10:59 am

[and another. I also note that the commenter in question is in breach of the requirement to give a genuine email address]

28

Barry 07.23.07 at 11:18 am

[Don’t call people “scum” – DD]

29

Matthew 07.23.07 at 11:20 am

There’s a related story in today’s Guardian.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,2132438,00.html

30

ejh 07.23.07 at 11:21 am

Because the government owes a special responsibility to people who it has placed in a particular position. That’s the point you’re trying hard not to see, abb1. You’re so busy thinking that people who (in your view) have collaborated might get away with it that you’re comnpletely missing that their boss will otherwise get away with it.

31

ejh 07.23.07 at 11:22 am

[deleted reference to deleted post -DD]

32

abb1 07.23.07 at 12:03 pm

[deleted reference to deleted post – there was actually some other content in this post but I am by now in too bad a mood to care. Leave a bloody email address! – DD]

33

ejh 07.23.07 at 12:05 pm

It seems to me you’re taking one small aspect of this huge disaster and declaring it the most important one for some reason.

I don’t see anything about it being the most important. It seems to me to be an important aspect and moreover one that involves a governmental responsibility. How and who would it help not to raise it?

34

Naadir Jeewa 07.23.07 at 12:32 pm

The Green Party is investigating raising a motion in the House of Commons.

FYI

35

Barry 07.23.07 at 12:48 pm

[deleted reference to deleted post]

36

rea 07.23.07 at 12:50 pm

some people who will have worked for the government may be suspected of having committed criminal acts in Iraq.

Honorable criminals don’t betray their accomplices. Most of our ideals were thrown overboard in service of the War–can we at least be honorable criminals?

37

slippy slope 07.23.07 at 12:56 pm

Cool. So the enablers of the occupation deserve more sympathy and aid than the poor saps caught in the crossfire? Now there’s a moral imperative if ever I saw one.

38

ejh 07.23.07 at 12:58 pm

[deleted reference to deleted post]

39

aaron_m 07.23.07 at 2:07 pm

[deleted reference to deleted post – if you think these deletion references are getting tedious, you should have seen the thread earlier]

40

Barry 07.23.07 at 2:16 pm

I think that I’ve been vindicated quite nicely [… no you weren’t -DD].

41

lemuel pitkin 07.23.07 at 2:18 pm

Resources are limited, a collaborator saved is likely to mean that someone who is not among your friends should die.

But no, the whole point is that this isn’t true at all. The US and UK are admitting far fewer Iraqi refugees than available “resources” would permit — in the US case, practically none at all. So both the intent and effect of a campaign like this is to increase the number of Iraqis able to leave.

42

Dan Hardie 07.23.07 at 2:22 pm

[deleted reference to deleted post, unobjectionable in itself but makes no sense without quoted material – DD]

43

Dan Hardie 07.23.07 at 2:29 pm

Btw, ejh, the fact that [reference to deleted posts – DD ] says nothing about you and a fair amount about the person who said it. I can appreciate that you’re making rational arguments but, with these particular interlocutors, I would just leave it: email your friends and try to get them to write letters. People who are against the campaign, say so and walk away from it; if you’re for it write some letters.

44

abb1 07.23.07 at 2:46 pm

So both the intent and effect of a campaign like this is to increase the number of Iraqis able to leave.

If the intent is to increase the number of Iraqis in general, it’s not at all obvious from the post with all that pompous language.

Even if it were the intent, the priorities are still completely screwed up here. Why don’t they instead campaign for getting pregnant women out or small children?

45

walt 07.23.07 at 3:03 pm

Because morally we owe the collaborators more than we owe other people.

46

Slocum 07.23.07 at 3:32 pm

Yes, of course asylum should be granted to those Iraqis who worked directly with coalition troops should the need arise.

However, it seems plain to me that the responsibility does not end with those who were employed. Rather the U.K. (but the U.S. to a much far greater extent, obviously) is responsible for not packing up and leaving the country to impending genocide.

I thought this was appalling:

Obama says preventing genocide not good enough reason to stay in Iraq
http://www.startribune.com/587/story/1313874.html

The difference between Congo and Iraq is obvious — we already HAVE intervened in Iraq. If we’d intervened in the Congo, we’d also be obligated there, also, to ensure our departure was not going to result in genocide.

How can one seriously argue that we should take full responsibility for the relatively small numbers who worked directly for us (and yes we should) but no responsibility for the fates of the vastly larger numbers of Iraqis who must stay?

47

dsquared 07.23.07 at 3:33 pm

good God. If anyone thinks they might have met the love of their life in this comments thread, or if the comments have sentimental value for any other reason, then save a local copy now because I am going to go hog wild with the delete button when I get a spare minute.

48

abb1 07.23.07 at 4:12 pm

[deleted – DD. There was the germ of an argument here, but not nearly enough to save the post from a) general air of nastiness b) no email address again c) general policy of not giving benefit of doubt]

49

abb1 07.23.07 at 4:15 pm

[I hate the practice of adding posts to correct trivial typos at the best of times and this is a reference to a deleted post – DD]

50

johng 07.23.07 at 4:24 pm

Surely one of the really serious difficulties here is that the US and UK governments will simply not accept that they’ve lost the war. Admitting that they are no longer able to protect those who work for them, and accepting the obligation to treat Iraqi’s allied with the coalition forces as ‘refugee’s’ would be tantamount to facing up to the reality on the ground, rather then the rhetoric at podium.

In that light these people are just part of the roll-call of victims created by the disasterous decision to go to war and the disasterous decision to continue along this bloody path rather then admit it was a mistake. For that reason supporters of the anti-war movement should have no problem in demanding that the government recognise the refugee crisis they themselves have created.

51

johng 07.23.07 at 4:35 pm

However having just seen what, to me, is the very strange sentiment that we have a greater moral debt to our collaberators then to the lives and well-being of the hundreds of thousands of civilians whose lives we continue to destroy, its worth pointing out that our moral debt does indeed include the millions of refugee’s we have created in what must rank as one of the worst human rights catastrophe’s in the world today. There is no real reason why Amman or Damascus should be forced to shoulder the entire burden for our catastrophic failure to fulfill the minimal obligations to the civilian population of Iraq, and if the price of failure is taking on a few hundred thousand Iraqi refugee’s I can see no moral argument which could possibly stand against this. It would, morally, be the very least we could do.

However one can be sure that a range of political as opposed to moral arguments would be put foward to argue that this was impossible, and not a few based on expediancy (what is realistic for damascus or syria or indeed iraq obviously not having the same weight as what realistic for us).

All this being simply further proof that we have no right to be there at all, and never did, the whole operation being based around the idea of people in the region paying the price for our security and strategic interests. Aside from this argument there is a further deeply ominous implication of this situation for the liberal internationalist position. Given that we already have an intervention, and despite that, a mounting catastrophe, as far as I can see, dwarfing anything happening almost anywhere else, what does this imply for the idea that military force is a crucial element in the construction of a global human rights regime.

As noted here, these military forces can’t even protect the people who cook food for them.

52

Jacob Christensen 07.23.07 at 4:44 pm

For what it’s worth: Denmark – yes, Denmark – after a prolonged public …erm… debate helped a group of Iraqi interpreters to get out of the country and to Denmark last week.

That the Danish FO originally managed to put them on the FO’s homepage with photos … well…

53

tveb 07.23.07 at 5:06 pm

Morality aside, I think from the perspective of the ‘occupiers’ it is imperative that they offer asylum to the ‘collaborators’. This is because of two reasons:
1)This is obvious. As virtually everyone has pointed out or assumed above, lack of asylum obviously raises the costs of ‘collaboration’ quite apart from the actual salaries etc, and as such sans asylum, the ‘occupiers would be less likely to find people who agree to work with them.

2) The U.S would not want to set a precedent whereby it is perceived as systematically abandoning collaborators; this would not stand in good stead for its future invasions.

3) The costs of offering asylum is not that high; a few thousand potentially loyal Iraqis that could be used by the U.S. in the future for its middle eastern operations.

Now to the moral question:on one level this is indeed a human rights’ issue and I think asylum should not be limited only to those who work for the occupation. To draw the line between the undeserving and deserving (of asylum) satisfactorily, we first need to answer a few questions (unless we decide to follow the utilitarian calculations of the occupiers sketched out above).

a) What separates those who decide to work for the occupation from those who are otherwise similar (say with respect to their socio-economic status)to the ‘collaborators’?
b) Is this difference morally relevant (e.g. would one describe them as similar to the Vichy who ideologically agreed with the Nazis)?

Obviously this is a whole lot of things to disagree about.

54

Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 07.23.07 at 5:48 pm

“Iraqi interpreters used by the British Army and CPA South have already been hunted down by death squads.”

If the British Army didn’t anticipate this, then they mustn’t have being paying attention while patrolling areas in N.Ireland with three-foot graffiti saying “Informers Will Be Shot”.

Kudos to Daniel for his campaign. I hope it succeeds.

55

Barry 07.23.07 at 6:35 pm

Dan Hardie: “Barry, the context is an attempt to get a lobbying campaign going to actually save people’s lives.”

You’re correct; I accept your rebuke. This will be my last comment.

[ more accurately, the first half of it will be your last comment – the rest deleted by DD]

56

roy belmont 07.23.07 at 6:50 pm

You were at a bar, a pub, a tavern, a saloon. It became late, you had many drinks, you were less well-integrated than your usual, normal, workaday self. Something happened, there were screams, yelling, explosions, excitement, blows from out of the dark and confusion. You ended up on your knees, crawling across the floor while people went running by in all directions, some of them screaming in pain, some yelling in violent glee, some frighteningly purposeful and silent. In the midst of all that it occurs to your shocked and drunken self that you were, or at least had been, on a mission. Dimly grasped, the purpose of it eludes you entirely, but still, a mission. A light toward which you’d been moving. A purpose.
But obviously you’ve not succeeded, witness all the broken glass the wrecked furniture and laid-out victims, the police sirens and lights, and all those frantic people. Something happened. Explosions continue to take place. Back in there. Now someone has helped you get out of the building, which seems to be on fire in various levels and corners, windows keep shattering, things come flying down. Through it all cell phones ring, people murmur and shout into them, others call out prayers, or just pleas. Someone in an indistinct uniform helps you get back away from the heat as an object big as a motorcycle comes crashing down right where you’d been sitting. Someone else gets between you and a hate-filled shadow in the dark. Still another takes a blow to the chest that was aimed seemingly for you, though you feel innocent of all motive save survival – you want to go home, that’s all. But here you are.
Then things calm down, well no but you’ve gotten used to it, this new context where the steady rhythm of violence and violent noises is simply the background hum of where you are. You want to go home. You want it to be over. But here you are.
There are bodies all over the place, more by the second. People are dying, actually dying – and it comes to you that you did this, that taking responsibility for those still able to move, even just the ones who helped you, will mean taking responsibility for all of it, the wreckage, what this is now.
Priorities! Where’s your first allegiance? Your second?
Are you some corporation whose only focus is the bottom line? Is there guilt? Remorse? Is this a football game? Can you even think of talking about winning and losing now? Are you ready to take on the full weight of what’s happened and all its consequence?
If you’re going to “do the right thing”, shouldn’t you begin with the most innocent of your collateral victims? Or is this thug rules, where the hierarchy of loyalties begins with the most powerful and extends logically and inevitably down through the levels of power before it cuts off above the weakest and most readily discarded.
Whole families are being exploded into the next world still, now, actual children actual mothers actual fathers, because of what you’ve done and what you’re still doing just by continuing to stay there.
Yet now you seem to want to make sure your apprentices have some safe harbor. Not that it’s your first thought exactly, but that it’s pragmatic, doable, the inception of a new purpose – salvaging some aspect of honor out of the awful degradation.
It’s a worthwhile sentiment, but ethically it seems a little incomplete.

57

Daniel 07.23.07 at 8:30 pm

Right, that’s some pretty brutal clearup work done on this thread. The answer to various deleted comments (and some that survived) is that the overall crude mortality rate for the population of Iraq is in the region 15/1000. The mortality rate for British employees is much, much higher. They are at much more risk. And it is our fault. Department of the Bleeding Obvious.

58

ad 07.23.07 at 9:00 pm

You owe more to the people who have helped you than to those who have not helped, and still less to those who have tried to hinder you.

People who disagree with Daniel either do not believe this, in which case they conteptible, or they regard Iraqis who have worked with the British Army as enemies precisely because they have worked with the British Army.

Presumably they opposed the war, and regard anyone who disagrees with them as evil and deserving of death.

This latter attitude reminds me of something…

59

sbk 07.23.07 at 10:39 pm

Enormous thanks, at least, to Dan Hardie & dsquared for giving me a semi-productive channel for the rage and horror occasioned by this story. I’m sure there are a lot more where that came from, unfortunately.

60

minneapolitan 07.23.07 at 10:40 pm

Let me see if I get this straight: As citizens of states which have invaded another state, we are obligated to support the protection of citizens of the invaded state who turned against their own government in order to collaborate with our militaries? If the Iraqis in question did not support their own government, even to the very minimal extent of not aiding and abetting its enemies, what is the precise logic that argues that we must support our government in its prosecution of an invasion of a sovreign nation even if we consider that invasion immoral and illegal?

There seems to be one line of thought expressed here which argues that, since the people in question are certainly in harm’s way, we have a humanitarian responsibility to protect them, regardless of the fact that they have allied themselves with an invader which has practiced indiscriminate detention without trial, torture, rape-as-a-weapon-of-war, and the mass slaughter of civilians. I can’t see any reason why it should be that this set of people is more important and worthy of protection than any other at-risk group, unless we are operating under the assumption that the conflict which placed them in such a position was basically justified. If we don’t make that assumption, then surely we should be canvassing for the expatriation and support of a hundred other groups to an equal extent. But no one has yet advocated such a course of action.

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minneapolitan 07.23.07 at 10:44 pm

Furthermore, letting the Iraqi collaborators twist slowly, slowly in the wind would be no more than the US government has done for the Hmong people, many of whom, 30 years after the end of the conflict that placed them in an analogous situation, languish by their thousands in horrific refugee camps in other nations.

Can we expect a follow-up post which entreats us to petition our governments to offer full veterans’ benefits to the unreconstructed South African mercenaries we’ve hired to do more of our dirty work in this dirty war?

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John Emerson 07.23.07 at 11:16 pm

Haven’t read the thread, but I suspect that the high-level Bush administration people actually hope that our Iraqi friends will be massacred, in order to the make stabbed-in-the-back idea more dramatic, and in order to justify the next war they promote.

I’m sure that the people on the ground feel the opposite, but they won’t be deciding the policy.

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Doctor Slack 07.23.07 at 11:41 pm

minneapolitan: Actually, you don’t have to view the conflict as basically justified to realize that the people who worked for Western governments are at substantially higher risk of lethal retaliation. That collaborators may technically be accessories to a criminal enterprise is surely ameliorated (at least somewhat) by the fact that they’re people who did their best to survive in a warzone that was inflicted on them, just as much as anyone else, by the invasion. And it’s not cynical to think that the invaders have some ethical responsibility to make a priority of getting them out of the mess that the invaders themselves have created.

The US, for one, is of course not likely to do anything, not least because (as has already been noted) doing something would amount to admitting defeat. But I’m a little nonplussed that the notion of doing something should be this controversial.

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slippy slope 07.24.07 at 12:03 am

ad: You owe more to the people who have helped you than to those who have not helped, and still less to those who have tried to hinder you.

No argument there.

The question is whether ‘you’ happen to be a person for whom ‘helping’ equates with acting as enablers in an illegal and brutal occupation.

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sbk 07.24.07 at 1:16 am

The question is whether ‘you’ happen to be a person for whom ‘helping’ equates with acting as enablers in an illegal and brutal occupation.

Oh, people, think this through. Because the occupation was illegal and brutal, the occupying forces themselves should abandon everyone who worked with them to street justice. That way… um… those occupying forces, safe at home (or will they all be punished by international law?), won’t be furthering the bad cause of the occupation by supporting their allies anymore. The bad collaborating Iraqis, whatever their skills, will fend for themselves in Iraq and probably die with their families; the bad coalition forces will (in all likelihood) not really suffer any consequences; and the good Iraqis who resisted the occupation will be rewarded somehow, by someone, someday, maybe.

The idea that, once they withdraw, the bad coalition forces are transformed into moral agents capable of dispensing justice in Iraq, in a complete reversal of their previous role, by abandoning their erstwhile collaborators — can you run that one by us again? Are you a citizen of one of the occupying countries, as I am? I’m pretty sure we don’t get to play both foreign-occupier and neutral-adjudicator here, despite the appeal of that particular form of doublethink to many people I know.

Let me repeat: if you are still living in an occupying country, no matter how much you hate the occupation, no matter how much you believe democracy sanctions your minority position on the world stage, you are responsible for your country’s actions until you find and join an organization capable of carrying out an effective opposition to it. Fantasy to the contrary. This is brute political reality: moral opposition doesn’t confer extraterritoriality, unless you’re actually in jail or on the run or something that would make commenting here difficult. It certainly sucks. But inveighing against this initiative is not a good way to register opposition to the occupation. The “enablers” you talk about were helping to build schools, supply food, reconstruct infrastructure — better that they hadn’t? The coalition army didn’t need much local help to bomb the hell out of everything or rape people. The “occupation” hasn’t actually only been physically destroying Iraq for four years; it does no good to oversimplify in that respect.

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walt 07.24.07 at 1:25 am

Minneapolitan, way to go, giving ad’s crazed rant plausibility after the fact. There is a very, very small sliver of the left composed of amoral monsters. I don’t run into them very often, so thank you for reminding me of its existence.

If people who collaborated with us committed crimes on our behalf, then they should be punished. For the rest, their only crime is being dumb enough to help us, or more likely, dumb enough to take a paycheck from us. For that, they don’t deserve the death that surely awaits them.

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Neil Morrison 07.24.07 at 1:49 am

One element in this moral equation is the nature of those who will be dealing to the “collaborators” once the coalition leaves. Those people will not be indulging in revenge in-order to promote a liberal secular democracy.

Think what you will of the invasion but it’s the so-called collaborators who are the ones working for that outcome, not the Shi’ite militias and Sunni death squads.

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Doctor Slack 07.24.07 at 3:07 am

Walt, come off it: There is a very, very small sliver of the left composed of amoral monsters.

This is silly. Calling Minneapolitan’s reasoning “amoral” doesn’t even effectively get at what’s wrong with it.

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notsneaky 07.24.07 at 4:00 am

JFC

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abb1 07.24.07 at 7:32 am

The mortality rate for British employees is much, much higher. They are at much more risk. And it is our fault.

I’m sure the mortality rate for the former Baathists in the British occupied areas is even higher and it’s your fault too. And the former Baathists are guilty of exactly the same miscalculation – opportunistically siding with the most powerful warlord.

Something is left out in this argument, and it’s the patronizing feudal/colonial attitude that’s so apparent in this whole campaign. Americans are better at this, they won’t give a shit about ‘our bastards’.

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ejh 07.24.07 at 8:35 am

Can we expect a follow-up post which entreats us to petition our governments to offer full veterans’ benefits to the unreconstructed South African mercenaries we’ve hired to do more of our dirty work in this dirty war?

No, because they would fall into the category of people who have committed crimes, discussed earlier.

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SG 07.24.07 at 8:45 am

Does anyone here think that those people being attacked with dogs, stacked naked and beaten to death in Abu Graib were interviewed without the help of interpreters? Got to Abu Graib without passing through the hands of some kind of interpreter? And these interpreters deserve a special campaign of their own?

I suppose, though, that when our nations have bastardised themselves as much as ours have, this is what it comes down to – public campaigns to save the principle of “honour amongst thieves.”

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ejh 07.24.07 at 8:53 am

There are some points to be made to anybody who thinks that “collaborators” should be left to fend for themselves.

1. Do you think that the penalties likely to be inflicted on these people are likely to be proportionate to their offence?

2. Do you really want to be associated with that or would you rather not distancce yourself from it?

3. Is it not the case that the punishment of suspected collaborators in liberated France is now regarded by pretty much everybody as a thoroughly nasty and shameful episode, and is it likely to be any better in Iraq?

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dave heasman 07.24.07 at 9:00 am

“And the former Baathists are guilty of exactly the same miscalculation – opportunistically siding with the most powerful warlord.”

I don’t know much about the people who actually were the translators. I really only know about a couple – “Salam Pax” who blogged at length for a year or so, then got out, and Mayada Salihi, referenced above at http://warhistorian.org/wordpress/?p=593

“opportunistically siding with the most powerful warlord.” doesn’t really describe their experience. Are there individuals you know of for whom it does?
Not everybody in Iraq working for “us” – hell, not every soldier, hell, not even every mercenary – is as evil as Cheney, as deserving of the piano-wire. Unless you know differently on an individual basis?

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SG 07.24.07 at 9:26 am

I think the point is not that they deserve to be left behind, ejh and dave, but that they shouldn’t be moved to the front of whatever process we as opponents (I assume we’re opponents – sometimes it’s hard to tell) of the war think should be used to rescue victims of the war.

What is the difference between getting these people out and supporting refugee status for people who collaborated with the right wing juntas in latin America? Surely any interpreter in Iraq who helped US troops track down and capture someone who was subsequently imprisoned without trial in Abu Ghraib is no better or worse than someone who helped track down and “disappear” leftists in those struggles?

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Katherine 07.24.07 at 9:26 am

Is it a rule of Crooked Timber that abb1 will disagree with anything posted, no matter how nasty or preposterous that means his position will become?

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ejh 07.24.07 at 9:30 am

sg – aren’t you asking a question that has already been answered?

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Phil 07.24.07 at 10:03 am

If the ‘collaborators’, for want of a better word, were given refugees status more quickly wouldn’t that free up resources and benefit other assylum seekers?

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SG 07.24.07 at 10:34 am

ejh, I don’t know – half the thread’s been chopped away. I think a lot of the people attacking abb1 (and you before?) seem to have the idea that US crimes are somehow different to the crimes of other invaders and mass-murderers. Hence someone who collaborates with the US is “just trying to look after themselves” and can come out of the whole deal with clean hands, having not committed any crimes; meanwhile someone who supported Pinochet (or I suppose Saddam) must have committed a crime. All of Saddam’s deputies must have wielded the nightstick themselves, but our collaborators simply did a spot of translating?

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minneapolitan 07.24.07 at 11:01 am

67. If people who collaborated with us committed crimes on our behalf, then they should be punished.

This is another part of the argument that makes no sense to me. If the experience of Vietnam is any guide, there’s a good chance that some of the people who are extricated from Iraq will not be the harmless old charwomen and enthusiastic young workers from the Green Zone bazaar — they’ll be the worst of the worst, the people who were right their watching their countrymen being tortured. And we’re supposed to believe that the best way to ensure that these folx receive justice is to bring them to the US and Britain, where they’ll be under the protection of their accomplices? That’s like saying that the best way to protect the chicken coop is by letting any fox who enters it return to the nest of foxes, where he’ll surely get a fair trial.

What strikes me as morally monstrous in these times is any action which affirms the state’s monopoly on violence. I have protested this war — and suffered some minor consequences for it — while many of the folx here were havering about whether “the sanctions should be given time to work” or some such nonsense. Letting Iraqi collaborators butt in front of all other asylum seekers may assuage your guilty feelings about not speaking out more vociferously, but there’s nothing “moral” about it.

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Davide Simonetti 07.24.07 at 11:09 am

I’ve set up a petition on the Downing Street website. You can access it from here.
Please sign it and link to it if you’d be so kind.

Cheers

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ejh 07.24.07 at 11:14 am

they’ll be the worst of the worst, the people who were right their [sic ] watching their countrymen being tortured

I am sure you’re right – but that’s no reason not to demand that it’s the other people who are extricated while the criminals should face justice. Is it?

seem to have the idea that US crimes are somehow different to the crimes of other invaders and mass-murderers

You sure that’s not an internet “seem”, i.e. one where people seem to have implied things that they have not said?

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Alex 07.24.07 at 11:32 am

they’ll be the worst of the worst,

Has it crossed your mind, or what passes for it, that this is certainly more likely to happen in some sort of last-minute scramble to the helicopter pad?

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minneapolitan 07.24.07 at 11:34 am

Let’s all take a moment to appreciate the most absurd Godwinism in the history of electronic communication:

74: 3. Is it not the case that the punishment of suspected collaborators in liberated France is now regarded by pretty much everybody as a thoroughly nasty and shameful episode, and is it likely to be any better in Iraq?

I don’t consider it too nasty or shameful, nor, I believe, do many of the victims of the Nazi war and genocide. To put it plainly: If you aid and support an occupying army that is carting off your friends and neighbors to be tortured and killed, then hanging’s too good for you. And how many people in western Europe were actually executed post-WWII? A tiny portion of those who likely deserved it, I’ll wager. The vast majority of the Nazis and their collaborators were peacefully and happily reintegrated into western European society, hence the R.A.F.’s campaign against them 30 years later.

If this argument was meant to convey that Iraqi collaborators are not as bad as French collaborators, you may have a point, but I think that would be a pretty tough sell to the folx who’ve lost loved ones through the craven actions of their erstwhile compatriots.

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dsquared 07.24.07 at 11:39 am

Would the people in this thread trying to pretend that Saddam Hussein represented the legitimate government of Iraq and that the CPA and Iraqi government don’t (which is the only way that you can get to the conclusion that the Iraqis in question are “collaborators” or that the British troops are the “enemy”) please knock it off.

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dsquared 07.24.07 at 11:42 am

What is the difference between getting these people out and supporting refugee status for people who collaborated with the right wing juntas in latin America?

The people who collaborated with the right wing juntas in Latin America are in general facing the prospect of a fair trial and punishment, not murder by death squads. Any other damn fool questions (he asked with heavy heart, for he knew there were)?

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minneapolitan 07.24.07 at 11:44 am

85. That’s a totally different issue, but here goes anyway: How is the CPA/current Iraqi state more legitimate than Vichy France or S. Vietnam under Diem and his successors, or any other imperialist puppet state? Yes, yes, blue thumbs and all of that, but that election was a sham and everyone knows it. Not to mention that the current Iraqi constitution, which, from the tone of your argument, you seem to view as fixed and immutable, was dictated by US business interests. Please knock it off yourself.

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minneapolitan 07.24.07 at 11:47 am

86. The people who collaborated with the right wing juntas in Latin America are in general facing the prospect of a fair trial and punishment,

Do you have any proof for this huge and all encompassing assertion? As far as I have seen, the only people who are at any risk of being prosecuted are a few of the top military officers in a few of the affected countries. Many of the rightist terrorists from the 1970s have been, once again, happily and peacefully re-integrated into their societies, and many have already been amnestied. But I guess the handful of generals and secret police chiefs who might actually spend a few years in jail at some distant point are an adequate substitute for all of the peasants, workers and activists who were murdered under their orders, eh?

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ejh 07.24.07 at 11:53 am

#84 – why do I get the feeling that you’re not actually well-acquainted with the facts of what happened to suspected collaborators in liberated France, which is why you’re engaing in “hanging’s to good for them” rhetoric? It does not add to the attractivesness of your position.

#85 – trying to pretend that Saddam Hussein represented the legitimate government of Iraq and that the CPA and Iraqi government don’t (which is the only way that you can get to the conclusion that the Iraqis in question are “collaborators” or that the British troops are the “enemy”) please knock it off.

I don’t see this at all – or rather, I don’t see where you get “the only way” from. I would have thought many people in Iraq view the British troops as an occupying force regardless of their views on the Saddam regime and regardless of the post-invasion UN mandate. Their view might well be that there is no legitimate government of Iraq (and I’d concur with them). People holding that view might well of course hold a wide variety of views about people who worked with the CPA or the British forces but they might very well think that it wasn’t necessarily all right or legitimate to work with them or that it might depend on what those people did.

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abb1 07.24.07 at 12:18 pm

Saddam Hussein didn’t represent a legitimate government of Iraq? Boy, oh boy.

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Alex 07.24.07 at 12:24 pm

I take it you consulted a representative sample of the victims of the Nazi war and genocide before speaking in their name?

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SG 07.24.07 at 12:46 pm

so dsquared, if those collaborators in latin america were facing the prospect of retributory death squads you would want to get them out? You know, support your Latin American friends? I presume they would need to take priority in your view over other refugees?

But as minneapolitan observed, you haven’t actually answered my “damn fool question.” I was asking about the low level collaborators, not the generals. The equivalent in latin America of the interpeters and drivers who are now facing retribution in Iraq. I don’t believe these people had or ever will get a trial, and I don’t think you do either.

ejh says

You sure that’s not an internet “seem”

since you posted that, dsquared suggested that Saddam Hussein was no more legitimate a government of Iraq than the US (under whose rulership 655,000 people and counting have died). So no, I don’t think it’s an internet “seem” at all.

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ejh 07.24.07 at 12:53 pm

Mmmm, but I’m not sure you can take a comment posted after my question as being relevant to a question I asked about what was in the thread already.

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slippy slope 07.24.07 at 1:05 pm

Would the people in this thread trying to pretend that Saddam Hussein represented the legitimate government of Iraq and that the CPA and Iraqi government don’t (which is the only way that you can get to the conclusion that the Iraqis in question are “collaborators” or that the British troops are the “enemy”) please knock it off.

Uh… Okay. So when large percentages of Iraqis surveyed approve of attacks on British and/or American troops, we should simply take this as an extremely unorthodox demonstration of friendship and/or gratitude?

As to the legality of the present Iraqi government, what ejh said. Ignoring the massively flawed election process, there’s the unfortunate fact that the USUK essentially forced the replacement of the prime minister. How does that square up with even the loosest definition of legitimacy?

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Mark Johnston 07.24.07 at 1:24 pm

SG, why wouldn’t you want anyone facing a death squad to be rescued from that fate, if it were in your gift?

The points are:

– Iraqis who have worked with coalition forces are at significantly greater than usual risk of being killed.

– A policy that recognises their refugee status would reliably and efficiently capture a bunch of people who manifestly satisfy the criterion of being at immediate risk of death if they remain in the country. This is usually considered a virtue when it comes to asylum policies.

– As a matter of common sense decency, the coalition owes a grave debt to those Iraqis that have (perhaps naively, perhaps desperately, perhaps whatever) believed in the bullshit project explicitly laid out by the coalition and risked their lives to aid them.

– The “collaborators” in peril might be an issue with bite that opens up a further push for a generally expanded refugee program that is obviously needed. Let’s face it – there’s a lot of racism and fear in the coalition countries that a push for a much larger refugee program would have to overcome. The common sense “debt of honour” idea could be a beginning. It’s not as though the claim that we should be taking in the Iraqis who worked with us goes against the claim that we should be taking in hundreds of thousands more who are at risk.

– Safe westerners who judge Iraqis for being “collaborators” are arseholes and wankers.

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ejh 07.24.07 at 1:26 pm

It seems to me that the present government is neither the author nor the enforcer of the law within its own territory, and that makes it hard to consider it legitimate. This is of course not the only objection to the description.

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Alex 07.24.07 at 3:17 pm

Arguably, no government of Iraq since its existence has been legitimate; the royalist government was a creature of the imperialist oil-grabbing British, the one that followed came to power in a coup, as did Saddam’s. Present govt, well, enough said.

This is an interesting argument, but as Dsquared would say, if I have it for lunch I’ll probably have a sandwich as well. I would have thought that “killing fewer Iraqis” as a political project would appeal to Teh Timberites rather more than it seems to.

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lemuel pitkin 07.24.07 at 3:55 pm

A lot of interesting arguments on both sides!

Seems there are a couple key questions here.

1. Morally, universal vs. particular. The notion that “we” (who we is is question 2) owe our Iraqi collaborators a special duty, regardless of the morality of the larger enterprise, has been denigrated here as “honor among thieves”. But that’s not quite right — it’s the same moral principle that says you owe a special duty to any benefactor or dependent. Which is worse, to harm someone who trusted you and helped you, or to harm a totally innocent bystander?

Roy Belmont at 57 above says the latter, at least if the harm occurred in the course of an immoral action. But I don’t think it’s so obvious. Duties do sometimes arise from relationships rather the intrinsic deservingness of the person owed the duty, no? Say at one pole you have a purely tribal morality, at the other you have Peter Singer-style utilitarianism. Most of our moral intuitions are somewhere between. And even if we think that the trend of history is from the former toward the latter, and see this as progress, it doesn’t exempt us from duties toward family and friends. Presumably we don’t totally reject the mindset that had Dante put traitors to benefactors in the very lowest circle of Hell.

2. Politically, the relationship of the citizen to the state. Suppose we accept that the US and UK would be doing something horribly wrong by abandoning Iraqis who assisted the occupation. What duty does that put on those of us who live in those countries, but opposed the war? Minneapolitan and others say, nothing. I agree this far, that the argument that abandoning the Iraqis will make it harder for the US to find collaborators for future occupations has no force if, like me, you think the less capacity the US has to occupy foreign countries, the better.

But sbk and others who say that by virtue of being a citizen of the US and UK, you have responsibility for those government’s actions — morally you must regard those governments as “us” — is more convincing. I think for the same reason we protested this war and not the atrocities committed by the governments of Sudan or Burma or wherever, we are also responsible for the actions of our governments and take on the corresponding duties toward our Iraqi collaborators.

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abb1 07.24.07 at 4:28 pm

Look, this is a humanitarian emergency. Over the decades international organizations developed procedures and protocols just for a situation like this. They interview the applicants, they verify their responses, they have lawyers, professionals, their job is to find out the truth in each individual case, reject or accept and assign priorities.

Do you have special circumstances that make you fear for your life more than the next guy? Yes? Why, is it true? OK, but are you a combatant? Are you a criminal? No? But is it true? Let’s check with the database. OK, fine – go into that line there.

See, this way you don’t have to classify large groups of people as ‘evil’ or ‘our friends’; you assess every individual case. Isn’t it a better way, seriously?

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lemuel pitkin 07.24.07 at 4:31 pm

Abb1, this is precisely the issue I was trying to get at in my first point. There is the moral question of which Iraqis are most deserving of asylum (based on innocence and immediate danger or whatever). There is a separate, but also legitimate question, of which Iraqis we owe the most immediate duty to.

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abb1 07.24.07 at 5:16 pm

I don’t understand it. You hire an interpreter. You don’t conscript him, you offer him a job. It’s a dangerous job. For money. Probably a lot of money, considering. And also probably some significant powers come with it: to settle old scores, for example, to protect some, to harass others. Pluses and minuses, pros and contras. It’s the choice he makes, not you. I say: you pay the money and you don’t owe anything else. He is not a child, he is not your friend, he probably hates you and waits for the opportunity to cut your throat, for all you know.

Also, I hope it’s not too stupid and nasty, but I have to question the premise. I understand that the Iraqi employees don’t live on the base, they live with the general population where they don’t have any special protection. So, it’s not obvious to me that the Brits leaving increases the risk. I may be wrong about this; if I am, don’t judge me too harshly please.

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dsquared 07.24.07 at 11:40 pm

Probably a lot of money, considering. And also probably some significant powers come with it: to settle old scores, for example, to protect some, to harass others.

Abb1, you are just making these fucking charges up out of thin air, and using them as a moral argument in favour of abandoning entire families to death squads. Screw your head back on.

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dsquared 07.24.07 at 11:44 pm

so dsquared, if those collaborators in latin america were facing the prospect of retributory death squads you would want to get them out?

Yes. I don’t know why you would think that this is anything other than an unbelievably cut and dried case. International law is not exactly ambiguous on this subject. Lots of commenters here seem to want (or pretend to want, I think is just as likely) a version of international law that makes invasions of countries illegal, but then packs up and fucks off home again. These people are refugees, they are in the most imminent danger of any class of refugees, ergo they deserve immediate asylum. They have an obvious connection to the UK, so they deserve asylum in the UK.

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roy belmont 07.25.07 at 2:41 am

Firstly, I think anyone trying hard to help anyone else, and especially and specifically in the context from which this plea emerged, deserves praise, financial assistance, and some good beer at the end of the day.
This – “…trying to pretend that Saddam Hussein represented the legitimate government…(which is the only way that you can get to the conclusion that the Iraqis in question are “collaborators”…”, however, no.
You can have more than one asshole in a fight, in fact they can all be wrong, bad, whatever; one being a certified asshole doesn’t get the other one off that particular hook.
Saddam – bad; U.S. (at least its semi-visible policy-shaping hands) – also bad.
Collaborators aren’t legitimated by the moral flaws of what got replaced by the thing they’re collaborating with.
Again, helping get your boys out is fine and good, not weak, not wrong – worth doing and quick.
It’s incomplete ethically though, I think, to a degree that coupled with the urgency of the moment makes that worth pointing out.
The images of families who were and are neither “insurgents” nor “collaborationnistes” yet are bombed and broken by the same force you’re urging responsibility on, or for, makes it a harder question for me.

105

abb1 07.25.07 at 7:28 am

Well, when one is presented with soap opera Loyal Helpless Servants Betrayed And Left To Die, it’s only natural that responses will follow the genre. We all appreciate good melodrama.

On the other hand, this morning I feel that I got carried away again here. After all, this is a good impulse, even if (imho) somewhat misguided. I apologize.

106

Joshua W. Burton 07.25.07 at 7:33 am

This isn’t hard, people. You take them in, give them citizenship, and a relocation package, at the very least. If Arik bloody Sharon could see the plain moral obligation (in the wake of a withdrawal authored, managed and botched by his political foe, at that), does the UK dare do less?

(Former UK citizens in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the PRC should probably not reply, or at least not with traceable email addresses.)

107

minneapolitan 07.25.07 at 11:56 am

In thinking this over, I’ve realized that perhaps my first comment focused too heavily on citizenship, which was then taken up as one of the main questions, when in fact, it’s immaterial to me. I’m not operating under the rubric “collaborators=traitors”, frankly, I couldn’t care less if people “betray” “their” country. I see this as “collaborators=snitches, scabs, stool-pigeons and bloodhounds” i.e. people betraying their friends and neighbors.

Also, the various references to “suspected collaborators” betray a breathtaking level of intellectual dishonesty. There’s no “suspected” in this situation. Or is the argument that anyone in Iraq who’s been “bad-jacketed” deserves expatriation?

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dsquared 07.25.07 at 12:05 pm

I see this as “collaborators=snitches, scabs, stool-pigeons and bloodhounds” i.e. people betraying their friends and neighbors.

So like Abb1, you’re plucking charges out of thin air and then concluding that a death sentence without trial is appropriate? Be serious.

109

abb1 07.25.07 at 12:30 pm

Now, that’s gross misrepresentation; where did I do any of that? All I argued was that people should be given asylum based on necessity as determined on the case-by-case basis, as opposed to whether they used to fry hamburgers for British or Baathist mess-hall.

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Mark Johnston 07.25.07 at 1:59 pm

Abb1, I think you are a bit naive about the potential for a truly sound case-by-case assessment of appropriate asylum in a refugee crisis of the scale of one in Iraq. However, I think their is a very important plank to you position: getting the people out who worked with the coalition would only begin to capture the vast class of people who have been placed at grave risk by the war. That class may be the majority of the Iraqi population. Now, I don’t think that a refugee program that accommodates the majority of Iraqis is even remotely possible, but I have a crazy hope that there might be a very large program pulling hundreds of thousands out of the grinder over the next few years, like there was after the war in Vietnam. A successful campaign to remind the public and the coalition governments of the most basic obligations to refugees might be a way towards a more broad tolerance of such a large scale program. Whatever you might think of it, the point about looking after people who have worked with you, especially if that work has been at their increased risk, is a point that most people relate to instinctively and it might be a way to get people to think positively about refugees and break down their fear of Iraqis in general. And fear is surely the biggest obstacle to popular acceptance of a large scale refugee program.

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abb1 07.26.07 at 8:47 am

AI press release provides the context…

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