Kirk W. Johnson: In Iraq, Abandoning Our Friends

Roundup: Historians' Take

Kirk W. Johnson, a former reconstruction coordinator in Iraq, founded the List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies.

ON the morning of May 6, 1783, Guy Carleton, the British commander charged with winding down the occupation of America, boarded the Perseverance and sailed up the Hudson River to meet George Washington and discuss the British withdrawal. Washington was furious to learn that Carleton had sent ships to Canada filled with Americans, including freed slaves, who had sided with Britain during the revolution.

Britain knew these loyalists were seen as traitors and had no future in America. A Patriot using the pen name “Brutus” had warned in local papers: “Flee then while it is in your power” or face “the just vengeance of the collected citizens.” And so Britain honored its moral obligation to rescue them by sending hundreds of ships to the harbors of New York, Charleston and Savannah. As the historian Maya Jasanoff has recounted, approximately 30,000 were evacuated from New York to Canada within months.

Two hundred and twenty-eight years later, President Obama is wrapping up our own long and messy war, but we have no Guy Carleton in Iraq. Despite yesterday’s announcement that America’s military mission in Iraq is over, no one is acting to ensure that we protect and resettle those who stood with us....

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