Iraqi Translators and AIG – New Revelations

The L.A. Times and the independent investigative news outlet ProPublica published an excellent piece on Friday by T. Christian Miller on Iraqis who worked as translators for the United States in Iraq through the defense contractor Titan Corp., now known L-3 Communications, and the appalling challenges they face in getting medical treatment for injuries suffered in service. The article states (verbatim quotes follow):

–At least 360 interpreters employed by Titan or its successor company were killed between March 2003 and March 2008, and more than 1,200 were injured. The death toll was greater than that suffered by the armed forces of any country in the American-led coalition, other than the U.S. Scores of translators assisting U.S. forces in Afghanistan have also been killed or wounded.

–Insurers [principally the American International Group Inc. or AIG] have delayed or denied claims for disability payments and death benefits, citing a lack of police reports or other documentary evidence that interpreters’ injuries or deaths were related to their work for the military. Critics, including some U.S. Army officers, say it is absurd to expect Iraqis or Afghans to be able to document the cause of injuries suffered in a war zone.

–Iraqi interpreters sent to neighboring Jordan for medical treatment say they were pressured to accept lump-sum settlements from insurers, rather than a stream of lifetime benefits potentially worth more, and were told that if they didn’t sign, they would be sent back to Iraq — a likely death sentence.

–Interpreters who have immigrated to America as refugees have ended up penniless, on food stamps or in menial jobs because their benefits under the U.S. insurance program are based on wages and living costs in their home countries, not in the United States. Payments intended to provide a decent standard of living in Iraq or Afghanistan leave the recipients below the poverty level in this country.

Since 2007, Human Rights First has advocated for a stronger U.S. response to the Iraqi refugee crisis. Last April, we published a report – Promises to the Persecuted – on U.S.-affiliated Iraqi refugees, like those described in the L.A. Times/ProPublica article. It includes recommendations to the U.S. government on ways to ensure that those who assisted the U.S. mission in Iraq are not abandoned – including increased Congressional oversight of programs designed to support U.S.-affiliated Iraqis. We’re thrilled that ProPublica and the LA Times undertook this investigation, and we urge Congress and the administration to look further into the serious problems it revealed.

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Published on December 22, 2009

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