How Not To Win Hearts And Minds

One of the largest reasons why we are not doing as well as we could or should be doing in Iraq right now can be linked to a grotesque failure to win hearts and minds every step of the way.

Let’s start from the beginning.  According to the movie No End In Sight, the actual invasion didn’t hurt us to terribly bad.  Iraqi’s hopeful that things would start to look up now that the dictatorial Saddam Hussein was out of the picture actually did hold some hope that their new friends in the USA would help them on their way to a better life.

Man were they wrong!

Collateral damage, de-ba’athification, firing the Iraqi army, failing to maintain law and order, protecting the oil ministry while museums that held thousands of years worth of Iraqi culture were gutted, and failing to restore the Iraqi infrstructure was a great start, if you wanted to  undermine your efforts in Iraq.

Then, just yesterday, we go and take into custody seven people who were trying to do what we weren’t doing, and help restore power to the Iraqis solely because they were Iranian.  They should have known; the Iraqi infrastructure is for American contractors to get overpaid for and subsequently fuck up, not for Iranians.  Silly rabbit.

So we couldn’t possibly do any worse in the arena of alienating an entire nation’s people, right?  Oh gosh would you be wrong if you bought that.

Now, imagine this.  You live in Iraq, as an Iraqi.  Most people who live there hate America.  We’re talking severe, seething, hate their guts, will kill anyone who helps them kinda hate over here.

But somehow, you think helping America is still the right thing to do.  You do so at great personal risk, knowing that if you were found out, you would suffer dire consequences, most of which involving death.

Now, let’s say you finally thought it got too hot, and you needed out.  You’ve worked as a vital interpreter, or contractor, or what have you and you just can’t take the stress anymore, so you would expect the Americans, whom you’ve helped at great personal risk to help you out, right?  Right?!

Unfortunately, not so much:

Despite a stepped-up commitment from the United States to take in Iraqis who are in danger because they worked for the American government and military, very few are signing up to go, resettlement officials say.

The reason, Iraqis say, is that they are not allowed to apply in Iraq, requiring them to make a costly and uncertain journey to countries like Syria or Jordan, where they may be turned away by border officials already overwhelmed by fleeing Iraqis.

*snip*

To that end, the administration has set up a special program for a small number of Iraqis, which gives preferential treatment to full-time employees of the American Embassy, about 125 in Baghdad, and to 500 interpreters by allowing them to skip the lengthy United Nations refugee process once they leave Iraq.

But thousands more Iraqis work for the United States through contractors like Titan, a subsidiary of L-3 Communications; DynCorp International; Parsons Corporation; and Triple Canopy, and their subcontractors.

In all, 69,000 Iraqis work on contracts with the Department of Defense through Iraqi and foreign companies, according to the American military. They are cleaners, construction workers, drivers and security guards, to name a few, and though they face the same reprisals as anyone working more directly with the American government they do not fall into the special category.

A spokesman for the United States Embassy here said all Iraqis who had worked for the United States would have their refugee applications sped up once they fled Iraq and reached neighboring countries like Jordan or Syria.

“The big question mark is for those who can’t reach us here,” said Rafiq A. Tschannen, chief of the Iraq mission for the International Organization for Migration in Amman, Jordan.

So, more simply put.  We’re trying, but for the most part we are forcing those who have helped us to engage on their own pilgrimmage out of the country, risking life and limb just getting across the borders so that they can wait in a long line of refugees already there.

No wonder Iraqi’s think we’re assholes… because we really are!

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