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Should Arab-Americans volunteer for US armed forces?

Reader comment on item: Jihad and the Professors

Submitted by Ted Rose (Israel), Nov 4, 2002 at 02:28

Should Arab-Americans volunteer for US armed forces the way Japanese-Americans did during WWII?
As you well know, Japanese-Americans on the American West Coast were arrested and interned in "relocation camps" during WWII. Much of their property was confiscated and not returned after the war. There were various economic and cultural reasons for this interment - racial prejuidice, general fear and panic, the competition the Japanese-American produce growers and distributors in California gave to the local produce market, etc. A formal apology was not issued by the American government for some 50 years after WWII, if I remember correctly.

Instead of bemoaning their fate, a large number of Nisei (2nd generation Japanese-Americans)volunteered to fight in the US armed forces. They were sent to Europe, as a combat unit, and became one of the most-decorated combat units in the European theater. I believe their sacrifice convinced rank-and-file Americans that Japanese-American citizens were no threat to the Union. (Not that the gov't listened.)

Anyway, my point is this. What if Arab-Americans were to do the same: volunteer in significant numbers for the American armed forces? No, they do not have to. But it would sure show that they are loyal citizens of their adopted or home country (if born in America) and would go a long way to silencing their critics. I believe that much of the "discriminiation" felt by Arabs in the US is made-up, but there is no question that some hotheads (who hate everybody)are beating up on isolated groups of Arabs, especially women, everybody's favorite target. Seeing Arab-Americans in American GI green would silence those who complain about Arab-American "dual_loyalty", and would be a tremendous propoganda ploy for the American armed forces in Afghanistan and/or Iraq. Can you imagine putting some of these guys on WorldCom (??), the global State Dep't. TV network, and have the interviews being run in Arabic? Explaining why they are fighting for America and against Osama bin Laden? Dropping paper and video tape copies of these interviews over major population centers for people to see for themselves?

There would be other benefits. According to Reuel Marc Gererecht, the US lacks significant numbers of Arabic-spaeaking, native-born interrogators and interpreters. Sure, we could ask our allies for help (all two of them), but then they get the intelligence before we do. (Yeah, I know I write "we" and "our" when speaking of America even though I have lived in Israel for over 20 years now. But I still feel like an American. I am proud of it, and it will never leave me. Enough digression.) It would be better for the American armed forces to have their own interpreters, and not depend on others, or some high-tech gadget translators they are developing. (See wired.com for some articles about this.)

I relaize it would be difficult for the Pentagon to "vet" many of these volunteers, but I suspect that should be a negotiable problem. Perhaps the British should do the same. Put Arabic-speaking British in uniform to explain why binLaden and Iraq must be fought.

Does my idea make any sense to you? Or is 2002 just not 1942? A different time, a different generation, etc. Has 60 years made such a difference in America and Americans, that they are not ready to fight for their adopted country? Your thoughts, please.

As always, I wish you good luck and success in your mission, and ask that you watch your back. You do have enemies, and they are not nice people.

Ted Rose
Beer Sheva, Israel
trose@netvision.net.il
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