US attacked over green card soldiers
Nearly 40,000 of America's frontline soldiers are not US citizens.
By James Gooder
09/01/03: (Aljazeera) Many of the troops on duty in Iraq do not count English as their first language and would prefer to take orders in their native tongue ... usually Spanish.
The revelation has prompted British MP George Galloway, one of the fiercest critics of the invasion of Iraq, to accuse the US of using its "green card" troops as cannon fodder.
Galloway went on to attack the US policy of putting its poor minorities and non-citizens in the frontline of its foreign wars.
In an exclusive interview he told Aljazeera.net that it was part of a long US tradition of using its underclass as cannon fodder.
The statistics, buried by White House spin doctors, reveal that a significant minority of troops fighting under the US banner are not in fact US citizens but residents hoping to speed up their citizenship.
Galloway said that this was typical of a government used to having the marginalised fight its battles.
"Nothing has changed since that last failed attempt to invade and determine the future of another country, Vietnam," he told Aljazeera.net from his holiday villa in Portugal.
"The proportion of blacks in the army was 40%, while in the US population the number of blacks was a quarter of that," he said
"Of course the underclass has now become increasingly more Hispanic than black."
This explains why a disproportionate number of the so-called US casualties in the invasion and occupation of Iraq have borne Latino names.
Galloway says that on a weekly Atlanta radio show in which he participates, the callers have repeatedly claimed that Blacks and Hispanics are the fodder army recruiters are after.
The Pentagon says that there are 37,401 non-US citizens on active duty, and that joining up has a special incentive for them - an American passport.
"The military services have processes and programmes in place to help service members expedite their citizenship," says a US Department of Defence spokesperson.
"The estimated time for the application is about six months."
Citizenship has been especially hard to come by due to the draconian immigration rules imposed by the US Department of Homeland Security since the 11 September 2001 attacks.
It can take several years to gain citizenship, for those lucky enough to get it. Signing up to the army can speed this up, provided the GI comes home alive.
Other incentives under the Montgomery GI Bill include the promises of a college fund of up to $50,000, post service employment and training.
But activist Carlos Mendes of the Latinos Against the War in Iraq coalition says that many soldiers have told him that these promises often fail to materialise.
The US military relies on volunteers, the Pentagon argues, and there is no official draft, therefore no pressure on anyone to sign up.
Yet in a country where further education is prohibitively expensive, and medical care privatised, these incentives deliberately target America's poor minorities, as well as those desperate for citizenship, freeing the sons and daughters of those with money and influence from service.
"The people who made the decisions never sent their sons to get hot, bloody and dirty on the battlefield," he said.
Even when there was a draft, the decision-makers stayed out of trouble. "The white sons of the rulers of America, including a certain George W Bush, have always found ways around the draft, in his case through his bogus service in the air auxiliary, while Dick Cheney took one course after another at university," he said.
Galloway, the Glasgow Kelvin MP who has consistently criticised US and British policy on Iraq, famously called Bush and Blair "wolves" over their war-like rhetoric leading up to the invasion.
He opposed UN sanctions imposed after the last Gulf War complaining that they inflicted huge suffering on ordinary Iraqis.
Mr Galloway has visited Iraq on numerous occasions and met the country's former president and major figures in the Baathist government.
But he was also a vigorous campaigner during the Thatcher years, picketing the Iraqi embassy in London, when the Conservative government supplied arms to Saddam Hussein.
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