Two Iraqi men in their 20s have been convicted of a bloody sex crime in Colorado that left the victim, a woman in her 50s, in need of immediate surgery and a colostomy bag. Three other Iraqi men, also in their 20s,were convicted on lesser charges as accessories.
Four points set this case apart. First, there is its brutality: Law enforcement officers describe the July 2012 assault as "rare" and "horrific" and "one of the worst in Colorado history." Second, all of these men once assisted U.S. military forces in Iraq as informants and interpreters. Third, every one of them received permanent residency status in the U.S., due in part to efforts made by U.S. military members on their behalf. Fourth, this extraordinary case and the ties that bind it to the U.S. military and the war in Iraq have received little coverage.
Most of what the public knows comes from The Colorado Springs Gazette. The Gazette has reported that one of Iraqi men used to live with a sergeant and his family on a North Dakota farm. Another received help with his visa from a U.S. colonel. Then there is the final defendant, whose case came to trial this month. His name is Jasim Ramadon, and he is the central character, known as "Steve-O," in a war memoir published in 2009 by 1st Sgt. Daniel Hendrex. The book's title is "A Soldier's Promise: The Heroic True Story of an American Soldier and an Iraqi Boy." Ramadon is that "Iraqi boy." Forever young and smiling on the book's cover and once a guest on "Oprah," Ramadon, the Gazette reported, racked up a record of violent behavior in the U.S. He was convicted this week of multiple counts of sexual assault, and faces up to life in prison.
We don't know what Hendrex, or that other sergeant, or that colonel, or the other unspecified military members who helped bring the Iraqis here now think of their proteges, but I wonder. I also wonder whether there are other veterans of Iraq (and Afghanistan) who are concerned about their own sponsorees.
Hendrex writes in his book that after Ramadon came to the U.S. in 2004, the teenager lived with Hendrex and his wife in Colorado Springs -- a few years later the scene of this crime. But then Ramadon went on to live with another family. Had there been trouble?