Leaving Behind Our Loyal Afghans
A very wise man, Harvard philosopher George Santayana, said more than a hundred years ago: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”A bit less famously, he also said: “A man’s feet should be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world.”Last Monday morning, I brought a copy of The New York Times to a government class at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism. I’m on the faculty there.There were, I thought, a couple of extraordinary stories I wanted the students to read and to talk about with me and a guest, Adam Nagourney, the Los Angeles bureau chief of the Times.One of the stories took me back to Santayana. A long piece beginning on the front page of Nagourney’s paper, my former paper, was headlined:“Afghan Interpreters for the U.S. Are Left Stranded and at Risk”More than 8,000 interpreters are employed by the United States military, and many thousands of other Afghans are working for the occupiers. And then there are the Afghans working for American newspapers and television networks. History tells us that when we leave the country, many of them will be executed by the Taliban — dozens, if not hundreds, have been executed already — just as the people who worked for us in Vietnam and Iraq have been killed or imprisoned if they were not lucky enough to survive in leaky fishing boats trying to find American warships off the coast.The focus of the story is an interpreter called “Sulaiman,” no last names are used, who has worked for us for 10 years. So far, he has survived three assassination attempts since July 2011. “His best hope,” says the story by Azam Ahmed, “is one that has remained beyond his grasp despite years of effort: an American visa. … As the American pullout hits full pace and bases across the country are shut down, hundreds of Afghans have suddenly found themselves without jobs, leaving them without military protection despite the continued risk of attack by the Taliban.”
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