“An Unpaid Debt to Afghan Interpreters”

On February 4, The New York Times published an opinion piece asking Secretary of State John Kerry to address a new regulation that will require additional documentation in the visa applications of Afghan interpreters. American veterans are outraged by one more roadblock in the chronically delayed visa process.

In a letter to the editor published by the Times on February 16, ATA added its support to the demand for action. Calling the bureaucratic hurdles facing the Afghan and Iraqi interpreters embarrassing, ATA President David Rumsey stated, “These brave people deserve our respect, not our disregard.”

2 Responses to "“An Unpaid Debt to Afghan Interpreters”"

  1. Heather W. says:

    I believe that the ATA needs to let the government do its job without all these politically charged ‘demands for action’. None of the ATA members who are making these demands have been to Afghanistan. None of them have the full picture. In the current global security climate or lack there of, it would be best that the ATA stick to what it does best, upholding the standards of translators and interpreters. Had the ATA been more proactive in this regard from the beginning of the wars (whether one agrees or does not agree about the policy), such action might have prevented the absolute disasters in the field that have been witnessed in both Iraq and Afghanistan as far as so called ‘interpreters’. Had the ATA been more involved in setting realistic standards by which companies (or the government) could hire qualified so called linguists, vs. pulling anyone off the street which was the most common method of hiring people for the very sensitive mission of interpreting in a war zone, many of the disasters that directly resulted from bad translations in life and death situations would have been avoided.

    1. Inge M. says:

      Heather, I do not see a problem with David’s letter. On the contrary, I think it was courageous and very much to the point. There ought to be no debate about the importance of living up to promises (verbal contracts). It’s a moral issue as well as a legal one. Clearly, in the run-up to the invasion, the government/DOD forgot about the importance of communication in their fight against the enemy. I find it very strange, however, that the ATA or any of its representatives should have been able to foresee the problem, thereby helping to avoid this shameful breach of trust. I for one do not think they are guilty of any failure on that front.

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