The refugee crisis in Iraq is among the biggest humanitarian emergencies in the world. Millions of Iraqis have fled the war, many marked for death because they worked for the United States. They were translators, office workers, many other things, but now the enemy has branded them as collaborators.
When that happened in Vietnam, the U.S. brought more than 100,000 refugees to the states. But today, the U.S. government, which was so desperate for Iraqi workers, is not so eager to help them now.
As correspondent Scott Pelley reports, one young American named Kirk Johnson has jumped into this breach. All he wanted to do was rescue one of his Iraqi co-workers. When he did, a thousand more pleaded for help and Johnson began "the list."
"The people on my list have been tortured, they've been raped, they've lost body limbs. There's one guy on my list who's been thrown out of a moving vehicle. And all of this because they helped us. They came every single day to try to pitch in, in our efforts there," Johnson tells Pelley.
Johnson says we owe these Iraqis "speedy resettlement" in the United States.
The U.S. failed to grant that speedy resettlement. So Johnson has taken it upon himself to plead the cases of some of an estimated 100,000 Iraqis who worked for America.
"These are the names, the supporting documents, the recommendation letters, the cell phones, every bit of information that we could compile to help the government live up to their obligation to these people and help resettle them," he says.
A binder holds the list of nearly 1,000 Iraqis Johnson is trying to get into the U.S. He gets Iraqis free lawyers, helps them navigate the system, and pleads their cases to the State Department, with praise from their former American employers.
And the binder is filled with the threats written by the enemy that make life in Iraq impossible.
"In the name of Allah, who kills the tyrants. This is your last warning," Pelley reads from one warning.
"Yeah, 'And to all those who work or cooperate with the pagan occupation forces we are running out of patience and our hearts are full of hatred,'" Johnson adds.
Threats like that have pushed four million Iraqis from their homes. About a million of them are hiding in neighboring Jordan, where 60 Minutes traveled to meet some of the people sending Johnson desperate e-mails by the thousands.
"The most common subject line that I get is simply 'Help,'" Johnson says.
"You know, I wonder how you feel when someone sends you an e-mail that says 'My life is in your hands,'" Pelley asks.
"What can you do? All I can do is…," he replies as his phone rings.
His cell phone number was new. But, within hours, word spread that the keeper of the list was in town and the phone kept ringing. Johnson is something like what Oskar Schindler was to Jews in Nazi Germany.
"All these people who are calling you, they seem so desperate, almost as if just seeing you would better their chance somehow," Pelley remarks.
"Yeah and I wish that were the case. I'm already doing everything I can," Johnson says.
"But you're all they've got," Pelley says.
"It's pretty sad," Johnson says. "I still hope that that's not the case. I have to believe that they have the power of the U.S. government living up to its word."