Hence, the idea of mounting an airlift to Guam. The effort wouldn't even have to be so massive. All 800 Iraqis on Kirk Johnson's list could be flown out on a half-dozen or so U.S. Air Force C-130 transport planes in the course of a single day.
The officials handling their cases in Guam would have to treat security concerns very carefully. The fear of jihadists getting a free ride onto American soil is a legitimate one. But it shouldn't be used as an excuse to deny sanctuary to those Iraqis—the vast majority of applicants—who have earned it. And at least in Guam, their appeals can be heard.
Some midlevel State Department officials, I'm told, are reviewing the records of the '96 evacuation and are mulling over the possibility of reprising the effort now.
But they're not likely to get far, because the real obstacle isn't bureaucratic blundering or lazy paper-pushers or even hyper-caution about security. The real obstacle is the president of the United States.
If the president wanted to cut through all the red tape, he could do so with a single declaration.
Here's why he probably won't make that declaration: Helping our Iraqi helpers leave the country would be to acknowledge implicitly that they're in danger because they've been helping us. And that would be an admission that many Iraqis still violently oppose our presence—that the insurgency is hardly defeated.
Helping them leave would also be an acknowledgment that Iraq holds no future for these people—some of whom are among the country's educated elite. And that would be tantamount to acknowledging that the war will not end in victory, at least not as the term was originally defined.
To save face—his face—Bush appears willing to sacrifice those Iraqis who served his cause at great risk and without whom American soldiers, diplomats, and aid workers would have wandered even more cluelessly in the dark. That is the deepest shame.