Screwing our friends

When the United States precipitously departed from Vietnam, we left a lot of good friends in the lurch, subject to the reprisals and “re-education” camps of the conquering communists.

You would think we had learned our lesson, but apparently we haven’t. Since our invasion of Iraq in 2003, only 466 Iraqis have been permitted to settle in the United States. That’s disgraceful.

What’s especially disgraceful is our stingy assistance to the Iraqis who put their own and their families’ lives at risk by helping American forces, especially the translators. The Pentagon is only allowed to resettle 50 translators a year, and that includes both from Iraq and Afghanistan.

And there’s no lack of Iraqi refugees. The United Nations estimates that nearly 2 million have fled the country and that number is growing by anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 a month, with Jordan and Syria shouldering the bulk of the burden.

The U.S quota for refugees this year is 70,000, with the possibility that it could be expanded by 20,000 to accommodate the Iraqis. It’s little enough.

The United States, however, must be far more welcoming to the Iraqis who have helped us. The chance of a new life in the United States is a fair enough reward for people risking their lives on our behalf and, as a practical matter, it would encourage others to do likewise. To be even more calculating, it would increase our pool of Arab speakers and Mideast expertise.

Reportedly, the Department of Homeland Security, which is in charge of immigration now, fears that terrorists might slip into the country along with the refugees. Considering the enormous risks people are taking on our behalf — and public beheading constitutes a risk — it’s small enough risk for us to run.

A Senate Judiciary subcommittee is holding hearings on our lack of welcome for pro-U.S. Iraqis. The full-committee chairman, Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., says, “We should not repeat the tragic and immoral mistake from the Vietnam era and leave friends without a refuge and subject to violent reprisals.”

Then let’s not.