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February 26, 2007

Perfidious Columbia Watch

One day in late February 2004, a 30-year-old Iraqi Christian named Jourj found a note stuck to the windshield of his friend's car: "Be cautious, your day is approaching, oh traitors of Iraq and slaves of dollar," the message warned in Arabic. It was addressed to Jourj, his younger brother Tony, and the car's owner, Munir, all of whom were working as contractors at a U.S. military base south of Baghdad. A tall man with a broad smile, Jourj has a wife and two sons, now nine and four. He had gotten work as a satellite technician on the base through his uncle Danny, an Iraqi-American who served as a translator for U.S. forces. Now he was earning an average of $2,000 per month--more than he had made before the invasion.

But the warning from Iraqi insurgents was clear: Cut ties with the Americans or face retribution. Jourj consulted Tony and Munir. "I showed them the note and we agreed that we cannot simply stop working for the Americans," he recalls. "We had all sorts of commitments. I took an advance to do maintenance of the bathrooms, and tent after tent of soldiers wanted to have the decoder installed to watch Fox News and other American channels on television."

As Anna Husarka's piece in the latest New Republic continues:

Two weeks later, on the evening of March 5, Jourj and Tony piled into Munir's Opel and headed home from the base via a mostly deserted highway. Jourj was exhausted, so he took the back seat, where he slumped into a half-sleep; Tony sat on the passenger side in the front. Munir was going about 120 kilometers per hour, but suddenly he looked in his rearview mirror and noticed a car quickly gaining ground on them. "This is trouble," he murmured. "May God protect us." As the vehicle overtook them, bullets sprayed into Munir's car. Jourj was relatively unharmed; Munir was shot in the shoulder but survived. Tony, however, was killed.

Jourj, seeking to fulfill his commitment to the Americans, returned to work after burying his brother. After a phone call made it clear that his attackers weren't going to stop until they finished the job, he, his wife and their sons fled into Jordan. Next stop, Detroit (there's a huge Iraqi Christian community there).

Um, no.

Even though you would think that a man targeted for death because he had worked for the U.S. would be a shoo-in for refugee status, Jourj's admission into the U.S. is by no means a sure thing. As Husarka put it, "their futures" and the futures of many other Iraqi Christians who worked with the Americans, "are in limbo." Jourj and others, who cannot legally work in Jordan, face the very real prospect of being deported back to Iraq.

In a Kafkaesque twist, the entry into the United States of American allies in the war on terror are being delayed and even denied by regulations put into place to fight -- you guessed it -- terrorism. Even if Jourj clears the administrative hurdles, it may not be in time to keep him and his family from being sent back into Iraq, back into the hands of those who want him dead for cooperating with the same government that kept him out.

We don't have many friends in the world. If this how we treat the few we do have, the wonder is that we have any at all.

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This is outrageous. I am disappointed that our government wouldn't take better care of such people. I'll be praying that Jourj and his family make it to safety.


Someone I know writes on his blog with some frequency: "beware the wrath of the legions"

They do remember how the government treats their national buddies.

The fallout from that sort of thing, if it happens too much, isn't something that we want.

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