When a war-weary America withdrew from an Iraq we thought we’d pacified in 2010, we left behind a legion of locals who had helped us—often quite publicly. They were, we thought, the foundations of a new Iraq; now they’re on the run. A profile in the Wall Street Journal today illustrates the person cost of geopolitics:
Like other U.S. military officers and diplomats who got information, support and even friendship from Iraqis during the war, Mr. Weston feels helpless and guilty about those left behind. He was political adviser to the Marines in Fallujah from 2004 to 2007—and remembers the promises made to win Iraqi cooperation. They helped turn the tide in Fallujah and elsewhere.“We wanted them to believe that we wouldn’t abandon them,” says Mr. Weston, 42 years old.No one knows how many allies of America’s former fighting force in Iraq have been killed by Islamic State, which uses press clippings and U.S. military studies to track down Iraqis who stood side-by-side with American troops and officials.
Unfortunately, this is not a new story in American history. Following the fall of South Vietnam, savage reprisals were visited on those who trusted America to have their backs—and on their families.Unlike in Vietnam, however, America still has interests in Iraq. Whether we’re looking for local leaders to fight ISIS and rebuild Iraq or to recruit and retain intelligence assets, the legacy of a promise withdrawn surely bears a continuing cost.