Belmont Club

Who was that masked man?

Iraqi interpreters working for Americans can no longer conceal their identities. The Washington Post reports:

BAGHDAD – The U.S. military has barred Iraqi interpreters working with American troops in Baghdad from wearing ski masks to disguise themselves, prompting some to resign and others to bare their faces even though they fear it could get them killed.

Many interpreters employed by the U.S. government and Western companies in Iraq do everything they can to avoid being recognized on the job because extremists have tortured and killed Iraqis accused of collaborating with the enemy. …

“We are a professional Army and professional units don’t conceal their identity by wearing masks,” Lt. Col. Steve Stover, a spokesman for the U.S. military, wrote in an e-mail. He expressed appreciation for the service and sacrifice of the interpreters but said those dissatisfied with the new policy “can seek alternative employment.”

During years of active combat and widespread violence, interpreters have helped U.S. soldiers make sense of Iraq’s streets, politics and history. These guides have been killed by snipers on foot patrols, blasted to shreds in roadside bombings and vilified by extremists as traitors.

Is this a good or a bad thing? On the one hand, it prevents Iraqis from fearing they are being condemned by a man whose face they can’t even see. On the other hand, it has chilling effect on people who may be risking their lives in American service. My own guess is that some bad guys and some good guys will “seek alternative employment”. Whether there will be more of the former than the latter is the question. Open thread.