A Happy Ending (and Beginning) for a Brave Iraqi Friend

The two most dangerous jobs for Iraqis were probably journalist and interpreter. Bishop wanted to come to the United States. As a result, 1-4 Cav Commander, LTC James Crider, and some of the soldiers Bishop had worked with helped with the paperwork.

Just a small aside: LTC Crider and his battalion were serious contributors to success in Iraq. I got e-mails from LTC Crider about his struggles with Iraqi bureaucracy on behalf of Bishop, even after he went home to America. I'd seen this LTC Crider go to bat for Iraqis over and over again in Iraq. In just one example, Crider and his staff waded for months through the Iraqi legal labyrinth to try to free a man who had been wrongfully detained for a bombing he could not have committed; the bombing had never occurred. Crider and his battalion were welcome fixtures in that neighborhood, because he and his men had brought peace and serenity to a place that had previously been one of the most perilous places in Iraq. The last time I was there, I walked around with no body armor or helmet, and bought popcorn on the street. (I was just there again on about November 15; the progress continues without violence.)

I heard that many Iraqis cried when 1-4 redeployed to America. One captain had even been offered a home if he would come back to live in the neighborhood. The captain knew how to get things done, while still making the time to learn the names of every kid there. And he knew their mothers and fathers, too. But that was it; 1-4 went home and Bishop was left behind, with his family scattered by the war.

His father died in July 2007, his mother and two sisters still live in Baghdad, his brother in Kirkuk, and another sister in Syria.

LTC Crider and others struggled -- and struggled -- and finally succeeded. On November 6, 2008, Bishop emigrated to America, landing in Nolensville, Tennessee, along with his wife, Alyaa (who is carrying their second child), and their son, Mustafa. And the amazing 1-4 Cav keeps winning battles, without firing a shot, long after leaving the war.

So now, Bashar is no longer "Bishop," and he has begun an American life, with the many ups and downs we all have to face. His next fight is to find a job in our troubled economy and overcome a high-voltage dose of culture shock. He will come to understand that our culture is just as complicated as the one he left behind -- but without the violence, threats, and scars of war.

Many people have welcomed him to America. I think Bashar can be of particular value to America at this time, simply by getting on the radio stations and talking to reporters and telling his story -- the story of Iraq -- and showing people how it really is over here. (I write this from Iraq.) Perhaps he can explain why many of us think that it was all worth it. I asked Bashar if I could publish his e-mail address, and he agreed.

This is not just a happy ending, but a happy beginning. Please welcome this new family to America and pass this story to your local papers and radio stations. Ask them to talk with a real Iraqi who just got here. People need to know what happened in Iraq.

Bashar can be reached at: [email protected]