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Dec-06-2008 10:56printcomments

U.S. Needs to Protect Iraqi Interpreters (VIDEO)

Despite the fact that more than 300 interpreters working with U.S. troops have been killed since 2003, the DoD started to enforce a ban on face masks in September.

Photo of Afghan interpreter in Kabul
Photo of Afghan interpreter in Kabul. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, interpreters are at great risk among local populations. 2007 photo by Tim King

(SALEM, Ore.) - Military interpreters in Iraq and Afghanistan have many challenges. While some have little or no family living in the country, most do. Exposing their identities from terrorists is essential and a serious no-brainer.

Still, the U.S. government recently decided that the Iraqi "terps" could no longer conceal their appearances with face masks. People all over Iraq and Afghanistan keep their faces covered; it is part of their culture.

I learned quickly in both countries that "terps" have to be protected. Our forces rely on them with everything they've got and destabilizing the lives of these brave Iraqi's is senseless and without justification.

Below is a statement from U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on the Pentagon’s decision to again allow Iraqi interpreters working with U.S. troops to protect their identities with masks.

Despite the fact that more than 300 interpreters working with U.S. troops have been killed since 2003, the DoD started to enforce its ban on masks in September. Last month, Senator Wyden led a bipartisan group of Members of Congress asking Defense Secretary Gates to rescind the ban.

"Iraqi translators save American lives. They advise our servicemen and women on local customs, defuse misunderstandings and warn our troops when they are in harm's way. In an ideal world, these brave Iraqis and their families would not be targets, but as long as their lives are in danger, the U.S Government owes it to them to protect their identities. The Department of Defense made the right decision, and I thank them for reconsidering. This was a life or death decision," Wyden said.

This is the letter Wyden sent to Robert M. Gates, the Secretary of Defense.

Robert M. Gates
Secretary of Defense
1300 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1300

We are writing to express our serious concerns with reports of a policy that prohibits Iraqi interpreters from wearing ski masks to disguise their identities while working with U.S. troops.

Preventing interpreters from concealing their identities puts their lives, as well as the lives of their families at grave risk. The heightened threat could also reduce the number of interpreters available in Iraq, die to death and resignations, and put American service members and their missions in danger.

As you know, since the beginning of operations in Iraq, the United States military has relied on cooperative Iraqi's to help stabilize the country. Interpreters have been a critical help in this regard. Along with interpreting, they've helped our troops develop a clearer and more comprehensive understanding of the history and vulture of Iraq, and they're provided a counterweight to extremism by promoting reconciliation among the warring factions. They've put their lives at risk in an effort to secure peace and prosperity in their beloved country. The successes our military has had in the conduct of this war have been due in part to the unique skills of these interpreters.

These brave interpreters don't benefit from around-the-clock security; they must go home to their communities and their families where they are targeted by assassins. So they wear masks to conceal their identities while assisting American forces.

Over 300 interpreters have been killed since 2003. This is no accident as extremists on both sides target them to destabilize the country for tehir own benefits. We know that the Mahdi Army, for example, distributes photos of interpreters in order to target and kill them and their families.

The current policy preventing interpreters from concealing their identities is seemingly based on appearances. While we appreciate the military's desire to appear professional, we do not believe that the goal of maintaining appearances overrides the very real life and death risks that could come as a result of this policy.

With few operational benefits to this policy, and such obvious and severe negative consequences, we believe that you should rescind it as soon as possible.

I find it shocking that this has to even be discussed. We seem bent on proving to the world that the United States is really a danger to people, rather than a liberator.

Any U.S. politician who thinks we should force interpreters to expose their faces should be leading point on combat patrols in Iraq.

Some Iraqi interpreters are OK with having their image shown. I spoke with a man named Jakope Al Salim in the Anbar Province, about his role working with U.S. Marines:

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor.
Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 in Afghanistan with Oregon troops. Tim recently returned from Iraq where he covered the war there while embedded with an Oregon Guard aviation unit. Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated with Google News and several other major search engines and news aggregators.
You can send Tim an email at this address:

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arsal/translat June 5, 2010 12:22 am (Pacific time)

إظهار التحويل إلى الحروف اللاتينية Hello greeting fragrant and short I am a citizen of the Republic of Iraq to serve as a translator with the U.S. military in all sections of 3 years and also my brother with me, but missing from the 11.01.2010 and to this day I have all the archives picture of leaves treatment at U.S. military hospital but has recovered and identities cloned and out the form contract at titan Translation U.S. and Alchdat honorary of the victory we have achieved with the U.S. military please provide me with the book after me, air travel and work with the U.S. military in Afghanistan by any U.S. force, whether military or intrusion within our province city of Babylon, and after your reply I will send you by e-all archives provide me with my e-mail news and efficiency in that and you have my name and address: Mr. Hqscm hard Chalaie. Housing: Gmehoerp Iraq - Babil province - the city center near the headquarters of the U.S. intrusion in Babylon, Hilla, located beside the River Important Note: Important work between the Americans only, gentlemen of the presence of elements impeding the work and takes malformations and wait for your response within 24 hours / ally of the United States

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