In December 2005, when the war in Iraq was intensifying, President George W. Bush insisted that that country could yet avoid civil war. Bush insisted that the United States must not abandon the Iraqi people in their hour of need.
Eight years later, Iraqis who put their lives on the line to help the United States are in their hour of need. They are waiting for a simple, promised act of gratitude, and it is urgent and necessary that it be provided.
These are the Iraqis who risked their lives to work for the United States as interpreters during the war. Congress passed legislation earmarking visas over five years for these Iraqis, and later for a similar group who helped in Afghanistan. But the application process has been cumbersome and tortuous for many. According to outside estimates, several thousand Iraqis are awaiting word.
The status of the Iraqi applicants has now become more parlous because the original legislation lapsed Monday night, the end of the fiscal year. This may be a procedural speed bump, but the House must not dally. The danger is that, if this law is allowed to lapse for a significant amount of time, all the pending Iraqi applications may be thrown into doubt. The Afghan legislation is valid for another year.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been fought with American blood and that of the Iraqi and Afghan peoples, including those who subscribed to the noble goals of democracy and freedom. They took it on faith that the United States meant what it said.