Yesterday, some disloyal Trump staffer who'll surely get a book deal one day leaked four upcoming executive orders. Chief among them was President Trump's much-feared Muslim immigration ban. Among other things, it pretty much shuts down any immigration to the United States from Iraq. This includes thousands of Iraqis who acted as interpreters for our soldiers. At the time, they were promised that if this whole "occupation" thing didn't work out, they'd be able to get a visa and move to the land of apple pie and Oxycontin. President Trump just slammed the door in their faces.
"Don't worry, the U.S. always honors its commitments. Mostly. A lot of the time."
Some of the men who fought alongside them are speaking out, including Chase Milsap. He's a former Marine officer, former Green Beret, and basically the guy that every schoolkid in America claimed to have as an uncle. He told me about the man who saved his life:
"I walked out on the line ... shots rang out over my head, and next thing I know, this guy pushes me down and runs toward the gunfire."
That guy was an Iraqi army lieutenant who'd gotten his start in Saddam's army. He and Chase struck up a friendship, and when Chase went back to Iraq as an advisor, the two formed a dynamic crimefighting duo. Like Batman and Robin with fewer cutoff tights, "That relationship ... is what really gave my team an operational effectiveness that other teams just didn't have."
Eventually Chase, like America, left Iraq. His friend stayed in the Iraqi Army, and around 2014 found himself caught up in a "perfect storm" of ISIS, "Factions within the Iraqi Army," and Shia militias, all of which wanted him dead. It turns out having a reputation as a friend to Americans doesn't make for a long life in Iraq. Go figure. He fled to Turkey, but he can't make a living there because the only jobs hiring involve manual labor, and he's now disabled. Because, during that war he helped us fight, he got hit by an IED ("and still kept fighting", Chase noted). This is what it did to the car:
He applied for a visa, Chase helped him "navigate the broken refugee admissions system", and the application moved along smoothly until, on November 9th, one day after the election, he received a letter saying, in essence, "We've stopped this visa because we think you're shady." Reminder: The United States trusted this guy with a gun around our soldiers for more than a decade, but we now don't trust him to buy salsa at a Trader Joe's. He and Chase were working on getting the process moving again, when yesterday, Mr. Trump's next executive order leaked.
"If that does come out, that effectively ends his ability to come here," Chase added, "I don't know how to tell him that we've abandoned him."
And the order's scope would even impact people who are much further along in the visa process than Chase's friend. Mica Varga, who works with Chase at the interpreter-rescuing charity No One Left Behind, told me, "We have guys who already have their visas in hand, who have already passed the strictest immigration background checks of any immigration category in the U.S. ... and the executive order today is likely going to mean even though they have flights scheduled, this will all just be abandoned."
There are roughly 13,000 people, Iraqis and Afghans, in this same position. And maybe you don't feel sorry for them, thinking, "A lot of sketchy stuff happens in that 'Iraq' place. Trump's not saying they can never come in. We've just got to vet them." But the thing is, we already fucking have. Haider Salman has been fighting alongside the U.S. in Iraq since Donald Trump was a reality television star: "[In 2007], I worked with first cav[alry]. 2008 with 101st airborne. 2009 with 25th Infantry division, [and in 2010] I worked with 25th infantry division and Oregon national guard." During that last posting, "I got hit by IED eight times ..." He started the application process for his visa back in 2012, and he admitted that the fact that it's taken so long "was my fault." See, he's had a little trouble completing each part of the process in a timely matter. His only excuse is the massive, bloody war against ISIS.
"Y'know how things are going in Iraq, you can't go freely everywhere you [want to] go. So to finish some document and stuff like that, it's pretty hard when you can't go freely out in the world, not with car bombs going off, you know?" No, we totally get it! We regularly drive with expired licenses, because shit, man, the DMV line's so loooong. Haider, on the other hand, spent the length of an Associate's Degree convincing the government he was trustworthy.
"Actually, I did my first interview in the embassy, it was 2014, and when I went in, my doc wasn't finished, so they gave me another date for new interview ..." But before that date came, "ISIS came in and took over most of Iraq, they came close to my town, but they didn't get my town. We defend the town, actually. So six months I cannot get out of town, because if I leave my town, I [will] be killed."
But Haider still got his visa. Even without the whole "under siege by ISIS" thing, he had a lot of hoops to jump, including a "background check and a couple recommendations from officers, the ones I was working with through the U.S. army." It was not a speedy process. "I did my interview on November 2015, so they tell me you're good, your paper is now in administrative processing ... it took over one year and one month to finish that process."
He bought a plane ticket as soon as he got his visa, and he was busy getting ready for his flight on February 9th, when this hit:
Iraq is one of those "Countries of Particular Concern." Haider isn't sure if he'll be sent back to Iraq as soon as he lands, because the wording of the EO is pretty broad and trying to find authoritative information on the internet today is like searching for an unopened condom in a landfill. "I went on Facebook and the media ... everyone say something, and you don't know what is the truth here."
And if Haider is stuck in Iraq, it'll be for another (minimum) 60 days. That's an eternity in "heavily armed militias want to kill you" time. He and Chase's anonymous friend and thousands of other interpreters who fought and risked their lives on this country's behalf just got a big orange middle finger from our 45th president. I guess we shouldn't be surprised that this guy ...
... is reneging on another debt.
If you want to help Haider, Chase's friend, and thousands of others like them, you can donate to No One Left Behind.Robert Evans is a Cracked editor, who listens to your stories and also has a silly book about drugs.
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