By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, November 17, 2008; A01
BAGHDAD — The U.S. military has barred Iraqi interpreters working with American troops in Baghdad from wearing ski masks to disguise themselves, prompting some to resign and others to bare their faces even though they fear it could get them killed.
Many interpreters employed by the U.S. government and Western companies in Iraq do everything they can to avoid being recognized on the job because extremists have tortured and killed Iraqis accused of collaborating with the enemy.
“The terps are the number one wanted here,” said A.J., a 36-year-old military interpreter, using the shorthand for his profession. “More than the Americans. More than anyone.”
The interpreters have come to symbolize the bravery of Iraqis who have aided the American project in Iraq. About 300 U.S. military interpreters have been killed since 2003, said Kirk W. Johnson, a former official in Iraq with the U.S. Agency for International Development who has fought to make it easier for interpreters and other Iraqis to come to the United States.