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Politics America's blood chit: Is our promise worth the silk it's written on?

17:15  09 may  2021
17:15  09 may  2021 Source:   thehill.com

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I was first introduced to a "blood chit" as a young major at the Pentagon. My boss put a file on my desk filled with yellowed newspaper clippings describing how a Korean farmer helped an Air Force pilot downed behind enemy lines return to friendly territory. The farmer was killed by the North Koreans for "sympathizing" with Americans. The file also contained a request from the farmer's family for compensation based on the promises contained in the downed airman's "blood chit." My job as the legal advisor to the Joint Services Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) Agency was to adjudicate the claim based on the evidence available.

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a man wearing a suit and tie standing next to a fence: America's blood chit: Is our promise worth the silk it's written on? © Getty Images America's blood chit: Is our promise worth the silk it's written on?

A blood chit is a document, originally printed on silk and today printed on Tyvek, that contains a promise written in multiple languages. The most recent version's English text reads:

"I AM AN AMERICAN AND DO NOT SPEAK YOUR LANGUAGE. I NEED FOOD, SHELTER AND ASSISTANCE. I WILL NOT HARM YOU; I BEAR NO MALICE TOWARD YOUR PEOPLE. IF YOU HELP ME, MY GOvernment will reward you."

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The most famous blood chits were the ones used by the Flying Tigers in China during WWII. They were silk images of the American and Nationalist Chinese flags sewn onto the backs of aviators' leather jackets. Whether written on silk during WWII or Tyvek today, the promise is the same: "Help me return to friendly territory, and my government will reward you."

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The U.S. government paid the claim I reviewed - because to do otherwise would have broken a sacred promise. For American aviators carrying blood chits over enemy territory, those promises would have been worthless had our government lacked the credibility to keep them. Their lives depended on the willingness of enemy civilians to believe the promises those blood chits carried.

Today, America faces another "blood chit moment." With President Joe Biden's recent announcement of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, many Americans are asking whether we will protect the many Afghans who have helped us during our 20-year presence there.

A recent CNN story described the difficulties many of these Afghans have encountered navigating a U.S. immigration visa process that is apparently broken. A 21 April letter from bipartisan Members of Congress implored the president to address these challenges so that our promise to the Afghans who served us "with the understanding that the U.S. would stand by them and provide safe haven when and if necessary" might now be fulfilled. Without our protection, many Afghans and the Americans they served with now fear that the Taliban will regard them as "American sympathizers" and that they will suffer a fate similar to the Korean farmer who gave his life to help a downed American airman.

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Our credibility as a nation in battle has already been tarnished by former President Donald Trump's hasty withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. Leaving Syria meant leaving the Kurds, with whom we fought ISIS, without protection from the Syrian and Turkish forces intent on obliterating them. At the time, Trump's decision was met with a huge outcry from American veterans who served alongside the Kurds. We cannot afford another stain on our credibility as a nation.

If we keep abandoning the people who fight with us, at some point we will fight alone or not at all.

My message: When we leave any engagement - including Afghanistan - please don't abandon the "American sympathizers" whose lives will be at risk because they helped us. For them and for the sake of future generations of American service members whose safety behind enemy lines depends on the credibility of our "blood chit" promises, please keep the promises we made to the Afghans whose support over the past 20 years was instrumental to our military operations.

Steven J. Lepper is a retired Air Force major general and member of the American College of National Security Leaders. He served from 2010 to 2014 as Deputy Judge Advocate General of the Air Force. He was also Deputy Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the senior "crisis communicator" for the Department of the Air Force, and from 1991 to 1995 Legal Advisor to the Joint Services SERE Agency (now known as the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency).

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usr: 0
This is interesting!