Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
Subscribe for Full Access

From emails exchanged by employees of the U.S. State Department, an anonymous Iraqi man known here by the pseudonym Omar, and Omar’s brother. In 2011, Omar, who had worked as a forklift operator at the U.S. Army’s Forward Operating Base Warrior, in Kirkuk, Iraq, filed an application for immigration to the United States that listed ten American supervisors. The emails are included in To Be a Friend Is Fatal: The Fight to Save the Iraqis America Left Behind, by Kirk W. Johnson, out this month from Scribner.

june 28, 2011

Greetings to those of you working in the immigration office. I ask your help in considering my request . . . I need a speedy solution to my situation, which is filled with persistent threats. My fear is that they’ll be carried out: people want to kill me because I worked with the U.S. Army. Please help me come to America. Attached are some of the certificates and records of my work.


october 9

Dear Applicant,

Please be informed that your application is in process but we still need a VALID official email address for a supervisor or HR officer who can identify you and verify your employment and a copy of the CONTRACT between your company of employment and the U.S. Government through an official contract or agreement.

If you could not provide us with the required contract number please print and read the attached form carefully and then sign it, scan it, and send it back to us, so that we may be able to help by trying to contact your former employer. Please reply directly to this email and do NOT change the subject line.

february 16, 2012

Peace and respect to you all. I’d like to explain some of the critical developments that have happened to me in Kirkuk. I feel that I’m in a very critical situation. My security situation isn’t good, and I’m seeking your guidance.

I fear for my life and the life of my family, and I’m asking for you to help me by transferring my case to a neighboring country. If you were able to transfer my file to Turkey, then my family and I will go to finish the visa process there.

I await your speedy reply, God Willing.

march 11

Dear Sir/Ma’am,

Kindly be informed that we checked your case and found that it is in processing pending verifying your employment documents. Once it is completed we will move forward with your case. Your patience does assist us in accelerating the process.

april 9

Peace and greetings, my brothers. Now that you have the official email address, I’m wondering whether my file might be transferred to Jordan. Are there any steps left that I need to do?

I need resolution: the time is passing here. I don’t own anything. I don’t work. I’m moving from house to house, from here to there. I beg you to find a solution. Please call me.

april 17

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your email. We have checked your case and found that it’s in processing pending your employment verification. Please understand that the process is lengthy and might need a long period of time. Your patience does assist us in accelerating the process.

june 17

I am Omar’s brother. Because of the numerous and continuing threats against him, he asked you to expedite or transfer his case. But because of your delays, he was murdered a week ago at the hands of an unknown group.

june 21

Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for your email. Please provide us with your brother’s death certificate. Kind regards.


| View All Issues |

September 2013

“An unexpectedly excellent magazine that stands out amid a homogenized media landscape.” —the New York Times
Subscribe now