Monday, March 24, 2008


"I’ve been a friend of America, and I’ve been its enemy. America betrays its friends. It sets them up and betrays them. I’d rather be America’s enemy."
~ Ahmed Chalabi.

You're not going to believe this one, from the WaPo:

During his nearly four years as a translator for U.S. forces in Iraq, Saman Kareem Ahmad was known for his bravery and hard work. "Sam put his life on the line with, and for, Coalition Forces on a daily basis," wrote Marine Capt. Trent A. Gibson.

Gibson's letter was part of a thick file of support -- including commendations from the secretary of the Navy and from then-Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus -- that helped Ahmad migrate to the United States in 2006, among an initial group of 50 Iraqi and Afghan translators admitted under a special visa program.

Last month, however, the U.S. government turned down Ahmad's application for permanent residence, known as a green card. His offense: Ahmad had once been part of the Kurdish Democratic Party, which U.S. immigration officials deemed an "undesignated terrorist organization" for having sought to overthrow former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Ahmad, a Kurd, once served in the KDP's military force, which is part of the new Iraqi army. A U.S. ally, the KDP is now part of the elected government of the Kurdish region and holds seats in the Iraqi parliament. After consulting public Web sites, however, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services determined that KDP forces "conducted full-scale armed attacks and helped incite rebellions against Hussein's regime, most notably during the Iran-Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom."

Ahmad's association with a group that had attempted to overthrow a government -- even as an ally in U.S.-led wars against Hussein -- rendered him "inadmissible," the agency concluded in a three-page letter dated Feb. 26.

[ . . . ]

Many of the thousands of Iraqis who have served as linguists for U.S. forces have been threatened in Iraq. Ahmad left the country after he was branded a "collaborator" from mosque pulpits in Anbar province and posters calling for his death began appearing there.

Under congressional pressure to allow such translators into the United States, the Bush administration in 2006 authorized 50 visas for them annually. That number was increased to 500 in fiscal 2008, and the quota will revert to 50 a year in fiscal 2009. In announcing the program, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) emphasized that it allows translators "to gain admission to the United States, apply for permanent residency and eventually acquire U.S. citizenship."

[ . . . ]

The second youngest of five children, Ahmad was away at college when Saddam Hussein, striking at rebellious Kurds, launched a chemical gas attack against Ahmad's home town, Halabja, in 1988. The infamous assault, in which more than 5,000 died, was often cited by the Bush administration as part of its justification for invading Iraq. It left Ahmad without a single living relative, as he has recounted to Americans many times over the past six years.

[ . . . ]

According to Human Rights First, a nonprofit that handles similar immigration cases, groups such as the KDP do not appear on U.S. government lists of designated terrorists. Instead, determinations of "undesignated terrorist organizations" are made, case by case, by the USCIS, part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Using definitions in the Immigration and Nationality Act, the USA Patriot Act and other legislation adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, it is up to USCIS officials to research an applicant's background and make a decision. According to Ahmad's denial letter, the information in his case was obtained from the Web site of the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, a DHS-funded nonprofit group.

The legislation contains waiver provisions -- by the secretary of state for foreign petitioners, and the secretary of homeland security for those who, like Ahmad, are already in this country. But there is no path for a denied individual to apply for a waiver.

Of course, I guess things could be worse; he could have gotten citizenship the hard way:

A young, ambitious immigrant from Guatemala who dreamed of becoming an architect. A Nigerian medic. A soldier from China who boasted he would one day become an American general. An Indian native whose headstone displays the first Khanda, emblem of the Sikh faith, to appear in Arlington National Cemetery.

These were among more than 100 foreign-born members of the U.S. military who earned American citizenship by dying in Iraq.

How's that for irony? . . . Talk about a nation of ingrates.

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