Alyaa said she was the first woman in her neighborhood to sign up to work with the U.S. government after Saddam Hussein fell.

She used to stand shoulder to shoulder with an American soldier in front of the U.S. military’s Camp Scania in the Rashid section of Baghdad. As a translator, Alyaa, 24, talked to Iraqis who lined up at the entrance seeking compensation for dead relatives and destroyed homes.

Now, because of that work, her life is in danger and in limbo.

Alyaa, who asked that her last name be withheld out of fear for her safety, fled to Jordan with her cousin Shaimaa after insurgents killed an uncle and kidnapped Shaimaa and another cousin. Alyaa hoped to find a haven in the United States but discovered the State Department isn’t resettling refugees from Iraq. She’s lost her faith in the country she once loved.

“We gave them our friendship,” Alyaa said during a recent interview at an Amman restaurant, wearing jeans and smoking cigarettes. “We gave them our hard work. And they don’t even help us to have a new life.” Is it so hard, she asked, “for America to give a visa to Iraqis to have a new life that they took from them?”

Refugee aid workers and U.S. and U.N. officials said the United States had turned away Iraqi refugees because it was trying instead to create a democratic society from which no one had to flee, and was sacrificing plenty of American lives in the process. To succeed, it needs the talents of the very people who want to leave. ~Knight-Ridder Newspapers

It is hard not to feel sympathy for the disenchanted Iraqis who made the mistake of trusting in their hopes of what American “liberation” would mean. Any honourable imperialist would accept colonials seeking access to the home country, and under any other imperial regime the “metropole” might do just that. But while Washington is perfectly willing to let in every illegal immigrant to this country for various other reasons, it has no interest in an influx of people from its quasi-colonies. It is not simply ingratitude, though there may be some of that. It is necessary for maintaining the fiction that America is not an empire and that it has not just conquered Iraq to make it into its satellite: Iraqis shouldn’t want to become Americans, because Iraq is supposedly a sovereign country that needs their talents. There is supposedly no political bond connecting the two states, and so no privileged place for Iraqis who aided the occupation, but our government’s claim to determine the political future of Iraq makes a mockery of this. (Of course, there ought not be any political bond, as we properly have nothing to do with this country, but it is the height of arrogance and villainy for the hegemonists to destroy someone’s country, co-opt them into the new, imposed regime and then abandon them.)

Unlike European colonialism, there has never been any question of settling Americans in our colonies, which are really therefore not technically colonies but satellites and dependencies. Perhaps one day we will regularise the relationship with Iraq as we once did with Puerto Rico (the Commonwealth of Mesopotamia?)! Until then, Alyaa and others like her will suffer from the bitter legacy of the most perverse kind of imperialism, which seems to have as its goal not expanded commercial exchange, settlement, conversion, security or even simple access to resources, as all empires have sought before it, but for the most naked and cynical reasons of a grand strategy that has nothing to do with the national interests of the home country. It is an imperialism unlike any other, and it will generate a uniquely bitter resistance.