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November 12, 2005

Veterans of Foreigner’s War


Is it just me, or was it dicey for Saturday’s LAT to run a front page shot of soldiers being sworn in as citizens?

Combine a controversial and thankless war, questions about coercive military recruiting practices, problems regarding skewed demographics in the armed services, as well simmering tensions surrounding the ethics and application of immigration policy, and you get one complex choice for a Veterans Day photo.

I usually don’t try to get into the head of the photo editor.  In this case, however, I’m really curious whether some irony was intended here.  (I really hope so.  Otherwise, to consume this photo at face value feels  a bit like collusion with the compromise of the American dream.)

For a look at the NYT Veteran’s Day coverage, and the continuing tonal shift in the MSM’s treatment of the war, see my latest piece “Snapshot Of Veterans Day” at HuffPo.)

(Caption: Now Serving As Citizens: U.S. sailors and Marines say the Pledge of Allegiance during a military naturalization ceremony aboard the aircraft carrier Midway, now a naval museum, in San Diego.  More than 100 military personnel from 48 countries became citizens during the Veterans Day event.)

(image: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images.  November 12, 2005. (Veterans Day.) San Diego. Los Angeles Times, p. A1.)

  • Hypatia

    This brings new meaning to the word “outsourcing.”

  • ummabdulla

    Well, at least these guys didn’t have to wait to be awarded citizenship posthumously, like some of their colleagues.

  • jonst

    Didn’t the Romans try this?

  • mad

    Good photo, great choice that LATimes made in running it on the front page, for the very reasons listed. Plus, there should be much more national discussion of why the all-volunteer army is running out of volunteers. And will this lead to the draft? (I hope that it does, that will put a stop to the Wars of Opportunity!!)
    Better to have these citizens as the soldiers “fighting for our freedom”, than the mercenaries that are being increasingly used in American wars.
    Either way, it is Imperial outreach.

  • readytoblowagasket

    If only a picture like this WOULD spark a national discussion, but unfortunately it won’t. If you don’t read the caption, you can’t immediately identify this as a naturalization ceremony. And because it’s Veterans Day, readers expect to see some sort of picture of the armed services, the flag, a parade, etc., on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers. But, if there’s no editorial story connected to the picture (was there a story? I checked online and couldn’t find one, anyway), the picture is wasted because it’ll likely get ignored. It would have been a dicey move if the paper had followed through with the editorial coverage. But instead I think it just shot a blank.

  • radish

    I think I have to go with readytoblowagasket’s take. This is a powerful shot, implicitly asking an important question, but it’s also an opportunity missed.
    Something I found interesting, and which I think is part of why it struck me as a powerful image, is how strangely, er, heterogenous these folks are. Military ceremonies are usually focused on uniformity (no pun intended). These guys are all over the map (no pun there either — that’s just how it’s coming out). Visually, this is more of a well-dressed but motley crew (dammit! sorry.) than a well-tuned fighting machine. I’d expect it to be associated either with a flowery ode to the role of the melting pot in the American Dream, or with a scathing indictment of the DoD’s approach to recruiting.
    With neither, it’s just, I dunno… haunting, but all too easy to ignore.

  • dus7

    Lol, radish’s puns.
    Nice photo. And what a deal – the ultimate gamble, citizenship for the survivors, and perhaps their families? Hope they realize the streets are not lined with gold, their vote may or may count, and the jobs they seek in civilian life may have meantime emigrated abroad, perhaps even to their homeland. But Welcome! to Amurrica…

  • Rafael

    Roll out the Imperial Legions! Like the Romans before them, neocons are using military service as proof of citizenship. Fight, kill and if you survive then you may become a citizen. Of course this makes no mention about spouses, non-naturilezed children, etc.

  • lemondloulou54

    My father-in-law is a German-Jew who escaped from Germany in 1939. He and his brother served in the U.S. Army and were naturalized citizens as part of their enlistment just like the folks in the photo. His brother actually liberated his own home town of Aachen.
    Nothing new here, really. We’ve been doing this for a long time.

  • Annoying Old Guy

    And just who is it that is making this war “thankless”?
    As lemondloulou54 points out, award citizenship for military service is a long standing policy. For some reason, however, you fell compelled to blame it on the “neo-cons”. Why is that, exactly? I would say that if there is one greatest failing of the analysis here, it is this obessive tendency to treat the current adminstration as uniquely evil and out of step with pre-existing American policy (such as here) when in most cases, (just like this) the policies in fact well pre-date this administration. That’s what tells me it’s not about the polices but far more of a visceral dislike that has nothing to do with the actual actions of the administration.
    Yes, the poor deluded fools, emigrating to America! How does the neo-con spin machine convince so many to do that, when they might instead go to workers’ paradises overflowing with economic opportunity, like Cuba or France?

  • lemondloulou54

    From the US Army website, here’s what’s required of an Army enlistee:
    U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien
    17-34 years old (17-39 years old for Army Reserve)
    Healthy and in good physical condition
    In good moral standing
    High School or Equivalent Education

  • Torpedo 8

    Realize it takes dynamite to cut through the cynicism here, but consider for a moment there are still a lot of people in the world who would do whatever it takes to become an American. As several have noted, what’s recorded here is nothing new.
    And given the citizenship tests and basic training, these people are more American than most of the smug, self-satisfied leftists here who spend their idle hours parsing photos and engaging in collective mental masturbation.
    Have a great day!

  • readytoblowagasket

    Annoying Old Guy: The U.S. government is who is making this war thankless — by committing lives without committing the requisite equipment, protection, or wisdom about what the soldiers are up against and what exactly they are fighting for. Compare Gulf War #1 with Gulf War #2, and get back to us.
    Also, not sure why you chose Cuba and France, when there are worse places to live/work. Is it because any form of socialism is inherently evil? I’m confused. dus7 makes a valid point. Do you want to provide some real-life wage and housing statistics for immigrants to the U.S. to back up your Land of Opportunity for All premise?
    Torpedo 8: See above. Also, I think there are fewer people in the world who would rather be American these days. But maybe you haven’t noticed how our image has tarnished in the last 5 years. So take a closer look at who makes up The Coalition of the Willing.

  • mad

    I agree with Torpedo 8 that there are many people in the world that will do almost anything to become an American citizen. That is a good thing. And I think that achieving citizenship by being a soldier is a good deal for the military service, for the nation and for the new citizen.
    I think that is pretty amazing that some people, such as Torpedo 8, state that being a liberal is un-American, or maybe only half-American. In fact, I think that is a pretty foreign concept, and wonder where it comes from.
    Regarding immigrants achieving citizenship via military service: even though it is an old game in this country, I will guess that there have been as many of these deals in the past three years as in the previous fifty years.
    So the game has changed, and it is worth asking why.
    And why did the military make such a special effort to get 100 people from 48 countries? Will this be part of a sales promotion, the new Army of One marketing plan?

  • Asta

    I ditto RTBAG’s comment because I am too ill to contribute qualitatively at this time. Torpedo 8 sounds like a Free Republic Robot. AOG and T8 should get together for tea with two cubes of anger. With that said, I am taking some aspirin and heading for a good night’s sleep.

  • readytoblowagasket

    mad asks wisely: “And why did the military make such a special effort to get 100 people from 48 countries?”
    Maybe it was the only way for the Marines to meet their recruitment quota for the month.
    Asta: Feel better soon.

  • Rafael

    Ok, I’ll bite. Yes it has been going on for awhile and I find it, well, I find it troublesome. In the modern era, thier should be other ways to prove citizenship than military service. Those who suffer the most from American policies (and this goes for both Democrats and Republicans) are then turned away if they tried to make a better life in the states, except if they go somewhere else and fight. From the Roman Auxiliaries, to the Scottish Highlanders and the Buffalo Soldiers. All these men have earned thier place in history, but they end up killing and dying for ungrateful nations, who prefer to spend the life of foreigners rather than the lifes of their own citizens.
    As for the neocons, well they just happen to be the ones doing it this time around.

  • itwasntme

    I didn’t know that this type of recruitment was of long standing. I am of two minds about it: 1) it beats dying by crawling through the desert trying to enter illigally and 2) It’s a good way to get here legally and puts your life on the line for what America stands for – making you, possibly, a better candidate for citizenship than George Bush. Finally, it’s a decision for the indivudual and his family – free choice. I’m in favor of that.

  • donna

    Well, along with the military service, it also apparently costs $400 – at least, that’s what a woman whose husband had served and was trying to get citizenship told me…
    Not just your service, but your money is necessary, it seems.

  • jurassicpork

    Good catch, good post. Surfed on in from a comment made by someone else on C&Ls, btw.

  • jt from B.C.

    From Mission Accomplished : Scene Two,
    Presenting a cast of patriots from 48 countries shot on location–an aircraft carrier!)
    In order of appearance the lead role is played by a White Guy:
    we are directed to his military bearing, colourful ceremonial costume, metals, & the insignia of a non commissioned officer. (We know he cannot attain a higher rank as an immigrant soldier)we could believe he has achieved ‘The American Dream’ even before citizenship!
    He is framed by a Band of Brothers from south of the border, Army & Marine Corp grunts.
    So far so good, but wait ! the Navy reps seem out of place – just a composition oversight ? from which emerges a Mutt and Jeff image .. not comic relief surely, but to demonstrate little guys have a place in this outfit too.
    Where are the Air Force uniforms, how come no Black or Feminine faces.?
    Of the five men in the front line two are looking right, two straight ahead, one gazing left what’s happening here,? a similar pattern is being duplicated behind them as well.?
    Definitely not a confidence builder from a military discipline stand point.
    My Veteran friends would not be impressed with this on parade formation.
    The photographs intended purpose, meaning, significance or symbolism totally eludes me. I have looked at it frequently, but my first impressions & confusions remain..
    If this stunt took place in my country I would be embarrassed, it is phony in a way I can feel, but have difficulty in articulating. I feel a peculiar type of sadness for these new citizens who have survived the required probationary period .
    Watching 85 year old veterans marching proudly on November 11th I find inspiring – my loathing and hatred for war is temporarily put on hold in their dignified presence.
    In a cynical vein there’s that helicopter ready to be pushed over the side – boat people coming from foreign lands to be shipped back to fight other foreigners in other foreign lands.
    Standing on a docked museum ship they are still at sea.
    Here integrated within the services, on discharge however they will return to familiar, supportive ethnic communities ‘ within’ America.
    As the Middle Class America struggles to maintain a vestige of privilege these new citizen soldiers have a daunting task before them, I wish them luck in life and for lucky lottery numbers.
    The $400.00 signing fee is puzzling,$16,000 is spent on recruiting one soldier, $100,000 for basic training ($1 million for a pilot) Signing bonuses can range from $10,000-$50,000 with assistance for mortgages, university fees plus other perks for regular citizens who enlist.
    The death benefit has increased from $10,000 to $ 100,000 just recently
    Where do probationary immigrant/soldiers fit, do they qualify for any of these benefits ?? In particular does the death benefit apply for them.?

  • fotonique

    More details about the immigrant military are in the CNA Corporation’s research brief, Non-citizens in Today’s Military:

    Legal permanent residents of the United States have been eligible to enlist in the military since the Revolutionary War. Almost half of Army enlistees in the 1840s were immigrants, and between 1862 and 2000, more than 660,000 military veterans became citizens through naturalization. Today, about 35,000 noncitizens serve in the military and about 8,000 enlist every year.

    Top Ten Countries of Enlisted Non-Citizens
    1. Mexico
    2. Phillipines
    3. Jamaica
    4. Dominican Republic
    5. El Salvador
    6. Haiti
    7. Colombia
    8. South Korea
    9. Trinidad and Tobago
    10. Peru

    See also the text of The Armed Forces Naturalization Act of 2003. Among other stipulations, the application waiting period was reduced from three years to one and application fees were waived.
    It seems like a Catch-22, though. How can a non-U.S. citizen swear (in a military oath) to uphold the Constitution of the United States?
    War is no respecter of persons: black, white, brown, yellow, and even green are grist for the mill. Note the story of the Mexican War’s San Patricio Battalion:

    By the 1840s a significant proportion of the enlisted men in the United States Army were Catholic immigrants from Ireland and Germany. The Mexican government, aware of prejudice against immigrants to the United States, started a campaign after the Mexican War broke out to win the foreigners and Catholics to its cause. The Mexicans urged English and Irish alike to throw off the burden of fighting for the “Protestant tyrants” and join the Mexicans in driving the Yankees out of Mexico. Mexican propaganda insinuated that the United States intended to destroy Catholicism in Mexico, and if Catholic soldiers fought on the side of the Americans, they would be warring against their own religion. Using this approach, the Mexicans hoped to gain 3,000 soldiers from the United States Army. In November 1846 Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna organized American deserters with other foreigners in Mexico to form the San Patricio Battalion, or St. Patrick’s Company…

    [Strange bedfellows? Some right-wing commentators are not too distant from opinions expressed here.]

  • tracy

    (1) I don’t see why a non-citizen cannot uphold the U.S. Constitution. You don’t have to be religious to adhere to the Ten Commandments. (2) (a) General Shalishkavili: He became the first foreign-born chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he was named to that post in 1993. He served until his retirement in 1997. (b) I guess Colin Powell would be the second foreign-born chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. If Powell and Shalishkavili were not citizens when they enlisted, they could have become citizens while serving. (3) Wilhelm Augustus von Steuben attained the rank of Lieutenant General, and was sent to serve with General George Washington at Valley Forge. He became an American citizen by act of Pennsylvania legislature in March 1784 (and later by the New York authorities in July 1786). He was discharged from the military with honor on March 24, 1784 (4) Captain Stubing . . . nevermind, that was the “Love Boat.”

  • readytoblowagasket

    fotonique said: “Strange bedfellows? Some right-wing commentators are not too distant from opinions expressed here.”
    At first I thought you might be right about this, but then I reread everyone’s post AND the odious Michelle Malkin and Mark Krikorian you linked to, and I have to object to your comment because it’s dead wrong. What BnN posters are articulating has to do with the government’s exploitation of these new American citizens (simply because it can exploit them). What Malkin and Krikorian articulate is that these new citizens are somehow 1) inferior to “real” American citizens (“real” Americans being those who are not originally from Mexico) and 2) illegally sucking up taxpayer dollars. Malkin and Krikorian both express a racist point of view. I don’t read anyone’s comments above as racist.

  • jt from B.C.

    thanks for responding to my previous query, I am in full agreement with your answer ( war graves depicting ‘the fallen’ ) however some final questions for your consideration and comment.
    Was the American MSM part of ‘the fallen’ in its analysing and reporting on pre war intelligence ?
    With few exceptions were they accessories and boosters of the Administration’s pre emptive invasion of Iraq ?
    Should they be relied upon for fair, objective and balanced reporting ?
    It appears they are now finally (arisen) raising critical questions that previously were so obviously lacking in the run-up to the Invasion of Iraq.
    Was it you observation that the fourth estate in ‘friendly countries’, presented a more comprehensive picture and provided greater in-depth investigative journalism ?
    Did they simply interrupt ‘the facts’ from a different point of objectivity ?

  • jt from B.C.

    could atheists or agnostics follow these commandments?
    I am the Lord your God.
    You shall have no other gods besides Me
    Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
    As a foreign observer of the U.S.MSM I have wondered why foreign born or those from minority groups have their origins constantly referenced, when they receive high office or status. Am I being overly cynical in thinking that this may have something to do with PR for “The American Dream” .
    With all do respect to Tiger Woods or Colin Powell being referred to as Black has also puzzled me.
    I have no difficulty with immigrants becoming citizens while soldiering.

  • ummabdulla

    I think that a German Jew joining the American army to liberate Jews is a very different situation; one can certainly understand their motivation and the benefits that they could bring to the Army in this case.
    But what about the list of countries above? None of these people have any particular reason to go and fight Iraqis.
    And if the war was about liberating Iraq, you’d think that Iraqis would be joining up in droves. THAT would be the equivalent of the German Jew in WWII.

  • Torpedo 8

    Asta – If it helps to think of anyone with opposing views as a robot, follow your dream. At least then you won’t be troubled by any introspection or doubts about your one true cause. Oh but wait, you’re the open-minded one, right? Not me. I’m the robot. At least I don’t need aspirin.
    Mad thinks I said being a liberal is un-American, or maybe only half-American. Interesting. I clearly said LEFTIST. Same thing, Mad? Aside from the fact I said nothing of the sort about liberals, my point was – these newly minted soldiers study civics and American history and actually know the form of government practiced in the USA, know how many Senators and Representatives there are in Congress and can give a pretty good interpretation of the Ninth Amendment – as opposed to your average American, who knows more about the people lost on the island they do about their own Senators and is blissfully unaware of current events, save for the tidbits they glean here so they can parrot them to their friends.

  • Torpedo 8

    j.t. from BC notes: “Of the five men in the front line two are looking right, two straight ahead, one gazing left what’s happening here,? a similar pattern is being duplicated behind them as well? Definitely not a confidence builder from a military discipline stand point.
    My Veteran friends would not be impressed with this on parade formation.”
    It’s called a fish-eye lens, j.t. The men are standing in a straight line, the photographer’s trying to capture as much of the front line from as close a vantage point as possible.
    How would your Veteran friends feel about your cluelessness?

  • readytoblowagasket

    Torpedo 8: What you clearly said was “the SMUG, SELF-SATISFIED leftists here who spend their IDLE hours parsing photos and engaging in collective MENTAL MASTURBATION.” So don’t get all WHINY when people think you’re an ASSHOLE.

  • jt from B.C.

    Torpedo, thanks for a basic lesson in photography, as a novice I appreciate this information, My Veteran friends if knowledgeable would also inform me, but not consider me clueless, simply as unskilled in this field. They might even say “Give a wise man instruction and he is wiser”, for those who have been most brutalised by war I have found demonstrate an inordinate amount of sensitivity, patience and humility. This was my experience as a child after the war and with few exceptions, sixty years later it still is.

  • tracy

    Hi, jt from B.C.
    I guess you got me on the first point; I was thinking more along the lines of the Commandments against lying, cheating and stealing.
    Yes, I think you are being overly cynical in thinking that the constant references in the U.S. MSM to a prominent person’s foreign-born or minority status “may have something to do with PR for The American Dream.” First, I think it’s “constant” only when the person first comes into prominence, so the references are broadly made rather than constantly made. When was the last time any MSM outlet mentioned that Shalishkavili was foreign-born? (When was the last time anyone mentioned that Powell was foreign-born? Well, the first time and the last time was my above, erroneous post. Although his parents were Jamaican, Colin Powell was born in NYC. [/Tracy mumbles “Wikipedia is my friend, Wikipedia is my friend,” as face turns red].) Second, to the extent it’s either widespread or constant, I think it’s just a lack of thought and imagination on the part of reporters rather than knowing participation in a PR scheme. Also, the prominent individual may be the one who is pushing the Abe Lincoln theme. Bill Clinton is the so-called boy from Hope, but although he was born there, he was actually raised in Little Rock. Justice Clarence Thomas likes it to be known that he was born in humble Pin Point, Georgia, but he was actually raised in Savannah. George Bush, brush-clearer extraordinaire, likes to portray himself as the salt of the earth and a man of the people when he’s actually . . . not. Third, I’m not surprised the Los Angeles Times ran this picture. There are probably way more than 48 different languages spoken by Los Angeles school children, so the picture would be of interest to the paper’s readers.
    As far as Tiger Woods and Colin Powell are concerned, here again, I don’t think there’s much in the news about their racial backgrounds. A headline like “Colin Powell, the African-American former Secretary of State, said in a news conference today . . . .” just doesn’t happen, and if Powell’s race were relevant for some reason, it would be reported that he is black because he says he’s black. MSM will defer to the individual’s self-definition. It can be argued that it’s obvious that Powell’s background is not solely African and that in the U.S. he has no choice about how to define himself, but that has nothing to do with the MSM. I doubt that the MSM refers to Tiger Woods, who is a Rainbow Coalition all by his lonesome, as black. When he was reported to be the first black person to win the golf tournament that he won (The Masters?), he explained that he had made up an ethnic name for himself: “Cablinasian,” which stands for Caucasian, Black, Indian, and Asian. If racial background were relevant in a story about him, he would probably be referred to as mixed race.
    Anyway, I think the gist of your comments is that you have conflicting feelings about the citizenship-military service quid pro quo. I share the mixed emotions although I’m not sure those new citizens do. Peace out.

  • jt from B.C.

    I’m a closet Wikipedia adventurer (addict actually) as well, a good part of today was spent reviewing issues surrounding race, ethnicity and other factors used for purposes of identity. In reviewing the US census criteria its based on self selection (as you pointed out in another context) probably as good a method as any. I monitor a few TV programs for the flavour of the day of whats being reported on or ignored. Cabalasian was a new classification until you mentioned it.(maybe not sound bite material)but Tiger scored a hole in one with this unique identity description. Ethnicity references decreases somewhat as the famous step out of the limelight, Talk shows and Cable networks I find frequently use ethnic sound bites more than print media. I hadn’t thought specifically about The L.A. Times and the population diversity, good point. Having travelled in Latin American I can grasp all to well why patriotism may not be the first thought of those who choose to enlist as a means of obtaining citizenship. I wasn’t out to get you on the 10 C’s as an non believer I was just putting my oar in the water, for reasons of self defense or assertion of rights. One of those other C’s would be a greater personal challenge for the soldiering buisness, but many Christians are challenged by it as well I suspect.

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