The White House's executive order banning Iraqis from entry into the United States is not only bad policy, it's a betrayal.
I returned from Iraq on March 1, 2005. I was returning from a year-long tour as an adviser to the 1st Iraqi Army battalion, built, trained, and led in combat by the U.S. military. Our undertaking was historic – no American had ever built or led in combat an Arab army. The last westerner to train and lead an Arab army in combat was T.E Lawrence, commonly known as Lawrence of Arabia.
It would be difficult to overstate the hardship and dangers the first American advisory team lived through. Our Iraqi soldiers shared the danger. Our combat included the 2nd Battle of Fallujah in November – December 2004. Several of our Iraqi soldiers were abducted and tortured. Several were assassinated, including by beheading. And their families were subject to the same atrocities.
The glue that held us together, the sine qua non without which our mission accomplishment would not have been possible – indeed, those who likely kept all of us American advisers from being betrayed and handed over to Al Qaeda in Iraq – were the Iraqi interpreters. Iraqi insurgents considered them traitors and apostate to the faith; average Iraqi civilians considered them collaborators, and treated them and their families that way. Our interpreters soon learned not to reveal what they were doing or for whom they were working. They developed elaborate cover stories and false IDs to hide their true identities and protect their families. Theirs was an experience all their own, and their story has not yet been told.
Nonetheless, they were tracked and assaulted by Al Qaeda. One of our team's interpreters was assassinated in front of his family a year after I left – in March 2006. He had survived two previous assassination attempts. His name was Arkan Abdul-razaq. He was a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war. He was taken prisoner in the early months of the war, and spent 8+ years as a Prisoner of War in Iran. He was an accomplished linguist, speaking Farsi, Arabic, English, and Russian. He was murdered in front of his young son, in his own apartment in Baghdad. He dreamed of coming to America, and often spoke to me of his dreams. He hoped to bequeath to his son an American future. He believed that helping the Americans bring democracy would earn him passage to the United States.