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American Diplomacy
Opinion
September 2015

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Shame—On Both Sides of the Atlantic
Leave None Behind
by Thomas R. Hutson, U.S. Consul General (ret.)

Everyone who knows anything about it agrees.

It is shameful.  No two ways about it.  On both sides of the Atlantic,

Our vaunted, noble goal on the battlefield to LEAVE NONE BEHIND  does not apply to translators/interpreters, or “terps”.

Sure, there is a provision of law that covers them from our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But, I challenge anyone interested so ask the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a status report on the clearances that they must have before final issuance of a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV).

A seemingly hopeless, interminable backlog.

So, the intent of Congress is clear and the numbers have been increased in recent years to encompass the demand which, given the increasing peril in either country, is only increasing. 

Having launched a seat-of-the pants effort more than a year ago, it has  borne no fruit. 

Everyone at State points the bureaucratic fingers in some other direction.

And, apparently, no one wants to take on DHS or the FBI.

At the British Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mazar-e-Sharif (northern Afghanistan), we had a half-dozen “terps,” with backgrounds as physicians, university students or just young men with a smattering of English who put their lives on the line for US.  Admittedly, we were helping them help their country; but, their loyalties were not to Kabul or to Karzai.  They were loyal to US or to the UK.

As if our administration of this legal means of coming to the U.S.A. were not bad enough; in a recent Daily Telegraph, writer Tim Collins chastised the British government for failing to help even David Cameron’s “terp”.

Being an unabashed Anglophile, albeit uncomfortable with the glut of true refugees being thwarted from doing anything other than subsisting near Calais, I wonder whether these  programs are being administered jointly and darned effectively—if the purpose is to thwart their hopes and dreams.

Having questioned the wisdom of President George W. Bush’s ill-fated decision to invade Iraq (in  Omaha World-Herald op-ed in January 2003) I was spared being sent to Ramallah in the first phalanx of PRT leaders.  Indeed, when the piece appeared, I was happily ensconced in Tashkent for six months at the U.S. Embassy as Consular Officer, only to be fired summarily after only one month– the last time I got a contract as a consular officer.

In hoping to bring greater firepower o the effort, only The Academy of American Diplomacy his stepped forward, led by former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann.  Our union, AFSA, even under a new administration apparently intent on being known as its predecessor as a do-nothing union, has not even replied to a query from a near-50-year dues-paying member.  The Association of Diplomatic Studies and Training has demurred, fearing it might be seen as “lobbying” which seems ludicrous.  Even the Council on Public Diplomacy has not responded to requests for support.

As a veteran of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha, in Nebraska which has been a warm and welcoming home to many Afghans, our experience has been entirely positive—although the FBI once started an investigation of my possible use of property in Nebraska’s desolate Sand Hills as a training center for Afghan and Iranian refugees.

This piece needs more information about the situation with Iraqi “terps,” and I hope that others who know more will share their knowledge.

So, I close with two words that continue to come to mind: 

Shameful.

And, now shameless….
          

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Author Thomas R. Hutson was born in Omaha, grew up in Red Cloud, graduated from UNL in 1962, served as a Russian-speaking Army Intelligence Officer for five years and then spent the next 40 years in and out of the Foreign Service with tours of duty in more than 40 countries. He is currently President and CEO of CONSULTIMATE, LLC, and CONSULTIMATE International, Inc., and works assiduously in memory of his daughter on Bessie’s PEACE , trying to help schoolgirls in peril in such places as Nigeria, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Malawi and other countries. Twenty-nine year old Elizabeth Maren "Bessie" Hutson, was brutally gunned down by a madman with a shotgun as she was walking her dogs near her home in the historic Mt. Pleasant part of Washington, D.C.

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