The Hill | Aug. 3, 2018
In May of 2016, Navy Seal Charlie Keating was embedded with Kurdish Peshmerga forces in an area of Northern Iraq known as the Nineveh Plain. Christians, Yazidis, and the Shabak sect of Shia Islam all call the area home, forming a unique cultural mosaic, a centuries-old tapestry of religious diversity. ISIS targeted these communities for genocidal extermination. In a battle to regain control of the ancient Christian village of Teleskof, Charlie and his team were ambushed by ISIS. Charlie fell to a sniper’s bullet.
At this point, America has given so much, lost so much in Iraq, it’s hard to understand why engagement is ongoing and necessary. Much is at stake, especially for beleaguered minorities hanging on for their very survival. Christians in Iraq used to total 1.5 million. Now, in the wake of ISIS, only a few hundred thousand remain. Approximately 400,000 Yazidis are now internally displaced persons living in tent structures.
Last year, three Christian Patriarchs traveled from the Middle East to meet with Vice President Pence and respectfully appeal to the collective conscience of America. Their words were formal and dignified, yet tinged with sadness, given the devastation. As a participant in the meeting, I watched the vice president listen intently, take personal notes, and express his deep solidarity with the suffering of the people. He has since been clear. The administration will prioritize direct American assistance.