American Views Abroad

Monday, April 09, 2007
The New Yorker appears in Europe a week or two later than on newsstands in the US. The latest in is the March 26th issue and an article breathtaking in scope on the arrogance, ignorance and stupidity of invading a foreign country without any knowledge of its culture, language, customs, history is George Packer's Betrayed -- The Iraqis Who Trusted America the Most at It is gut-wrenching how many, though not all, Americans within the Green Zone in Baghdad treated their interpreters.

'Almost all the Iraqis who were hired became interpreters, and American soldiers call them 'terps' often giving them nicknames for convenience and, later, security. But what the Iraqis had to offer went well beyond linguistic ability: each of them was, potentially, a cultural adviser, an intelligence officer, a policy analyst. ....Interpreters assumed that their perspective would be valuable to foreigners who knew little or nothing of Iraq.'

One interpreter 'kept being confronted by fresh ironies: he had less authority than any of the Americans, although he knew more about Iraq; and the less that Americans knew about Iraq the less they wanted to hear from him, especially if they occupied high positions.'

'This story repeated itself across the country: Iraqi employees of the US military began to be kidnapped and killed in large numbers, and there was essentially no American response. ....It's as if the Americans never imagined that the intimidation and murder of interpreters by other Iraqis would undermine the larger American effort, by destroying the confidence of Iraqis who wanted to give it support. The problem was treated as managerial, nor moral or political.'

These sixteen pages online are worth reading.

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