October 29, 2002
2:29 PM   Subscribe

Recently, the armed forces announced that it would seek the approval of congress to begin recruiting non-citizens, specifically arabs, into the special forces. Seems reasonable enough, we all know the army is lacking native Arab speakers. Meanwhile, the Federal government is firing every non-citizen from their job as airport bag checkers (1200 in San Francisco alone - mostly Filipino). An interesting paradox in our war against terrorism? An unfortunate cost to enure security? A cruel injustice to working men and women? Who could do more damage, a Delta Force member, armed to the teeth and trained to kill acting as forward observer for air and artillery strikes? Or the guy checking your shaving kit?
posted by pejamo (20 comments total)
I know this is newsy and I debated whether or not to post it. Eventually, I decided it was an apect to the story of our new security regime that wasn't being reported and I'd like to see what MeFi users thought. If you're sick of war stories, sorry. Move along, nothin' to see here.
posted by pejamo at 2:34 PM on October 29, 2002

Double standards indeed, just because you are not american doesn't mean your any more or less likely to commit an act of terrorism against US citizens, as seen with the Washington sniper case. That is why terrorism is so difficult to fight, the terrorist can be anyone regardless of race, faith or skin colour.
posted by JonnyX at 2:39 PM on October 29, 2002

While the terrorist can be anyone, I think we all know who the terrorist is more likely to be...

Not saying I agree with the decisions above, just making a point....
posted by jonson at 2:54 PM on October 29, 2002

Also, I suspect the screening process for special forces is a little more comprehensive than the token training airport security drones receive.

And yeah, re: what JonnyX said -- only this past month, we've seen incidents of former US soldiers "losing it" and shooting people and whatnot.
posted by donkeyschlong at 2:56 PM on October 29, 2002

I'm afraid that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Every little nuance about September 11th has been blown so far out of proportion it's just rediculous.

No nail cutters on planes? Guards with machine guns in airports? Firing any non-citizen bag checker?

It's all just for show. It's a big waste of money, it's dim-witted, and it's not making us any safer at all. I think it makes most people feel safer, but it ain't foolin' me.

Our political structure is set up so that what you do doesn't matter, it's what it looks like you're doing.

9/11? -- Put guys with guns in airports.

Enron? -- Drag Martha Stewart through the mud for insider trading.

Florida debacle? -- Sign a bill for billions to "Help America Vote."

It's all just PR these days. The fact of the matter is, we are just as vulnerable today as we were on September 10th, 2001, corporate executives are still screwing blue collar workers, and our voting infrastructure is a mess, (not to mention that racism is still a VERY real problem in many parts of our country.)

The first step is admitting you have a problem. We're at step zero...
posted by zekinskia at 3:00 PM on October 29, 2002

It is my understanding we have 50,000 Filipino citizens serving in the US Navy at any given time.

Any Navy men out there who can help me with this info?
posted by thomcatspike at 3:32 PM on October 29, 2002

I can't help you with the accuracy of you stats, but, yes, the U.S. Navy has quite a few people of Filipino ancestry.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 3:44 PM on October 29, 2002

Wow, 50,000 non-citizens working for the US Navy? If this is true, then I stand even more astonished at the firing of airport employees.
posted by pejamo at 3:49 PM on October 29, 2002

I'm not saying Filipino descent, to clarify per my brother(Unable to speak to him at this time) who is in the US Navy. He told me this some time back that the US Navy employees Filipinos from the Philippines. I think he mentioned they run the engine rooms. And they are not enlisted from the United States.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:14 PM on October 29, 2002

thom, according to this page (Google's cache):

"The US Navy stopped recruiting Filipino nationals at the end of 1992, ending a unique program under which tens of thousands of Filipinos served in the Navy since the Spanish-American War when the Philippines became a US colony. The recruitment of Filipino Sailors was formalized in 1947, when the US and the Philippines signed an agreement on military bases. The agreement allowed the US to maintain military bases in the Philippines. The end of Filipino recruitment resulted partly from the end of the base agreement and partly from the reduction in the military. Filipinos were the only foreign nationals allowed to enlist in the US Armed Forces without immigrating to this country and the Navy was the only military branch they could join"
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:28 PM on October 29, 2002

Thanks, mr crash I'll have to update my bro. He has been land locked in Germany literally too long.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:46 PM on October 29, 2002

One suspects that the screening process for potential Delta Force members is a wee bit more stringent than the screening process for potential airport security workers.
posted by sexualchocolate at 4:55 PM on October 29, 2002

Why not simply hire Hessian soldiers, as the Brits did during the American Revolution? The pay is not very good for our G.I.'s but for foreign folks, this would be a nice salary. And then we can get rid of women in the service and replace them with foreigners. And don't forget the gays. Perhaps the time is come to rethink our military.

Question: why should we ever need a draft in the future if we can fill the ranks with people willing to serve for the paycheck?
posted by Postroad at 4:59 PM on October 29, 2002

Great idea! If they're good enough to make our shoes, they're good enough to do our killing. I can see it now--recruitment tables set up all along the Rio Grande....
posted by rushmc at 5:36 PM on October 29, 2002

Are you absolutely certain that you have to be a citizen of the US to serve in the US military?

"Citizenship. While there is a statutory requirement that only a United States Citizen may become a commissioned officer, this is not true for enlistment. Certain non-citizens can enlist in the United States Armed Forces." (source)

The reason I thought this was the case is that I had the pleasure of going through AIT with a Jordanian man. Nice guy, although I got the feeling his political connections were why he was there.
posted by revbrian at 5:51 PM on October 29, 2002

No, you don't have to be a citizen to serve in the U.S. Military, although you have to be one to serve as an officer.

Hmmmm, I think the U.S.'s policy of allowing foreigners in the service is a good one. It ensures them a very speedy and dependable way to immigrate if they wish and ensures that they have a more or less permanent job Stateside. True, there are some jobs that require citizenship (nuclear operator for one) but you won't find a policy like that anywhere else in the world. (I don't think. Tell me if I'm wrong on that)
posted by Lord Chancellor at 6:56 PM on October 29, 2002

One of the symptoms of the decline of the Roman Empire was an increasing reliance on foreign mercenaries.

Not that the US is a declining empire or anything.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:01 PM on October 29, 2002

This post implies non-citizen baggage screeners have been targeted as untrustworthy, further evidence of the reactionary zealots in the administration and the United States' decline into xenophobia and racism. In reality, the potential loss of jobs is merely a side-effect of the federalization of airport security and existing laws, which restrict non-citizens from being federal employees, as alluded to in the SFGate.com article.

"That's when the country's 28,000 airport security screeners become federal employees. As such, they must be U.S. citizens or lose their jobs."

The article also notes two proposals in Congress, one by Sen. Feinstein and the other by Rep. Lofgren, to address the issue.

This post is also misleading as to the status potential use of non-citizens of Middle Eastern origin in the Special Forces, since the proposal is still in draft stage, and, according to the linked article, "has not yet been endorsed by top Army leaders or the Pentagon".
posted by chazw at 7:32 AM on October 30, 2002

Hmm. Well, neither the TSA nor the Special Forces are entitlements -- they're jobs, and filling them has nothing to do with fairness. For one thing, the rules about the TSA have a lot more to do with reassuring air passengers than anything else.

The US has a proud tradition of offering citizenship to its soldiers, especially those who serve in times of war. One in 50 soldiers, in fact, is a non-citizen. Among other restrictions (read the article), they must have at minimum a green card to enlist, and may not become officers or serve in sensitive positions. In the current global war on terrorism, the role of special operations (which includes, for example, the Rangers, as well as the special forces) is greatly enhanced, and troops in those units are stretched thin; budget increases of around 10% are expected to help, but it takes time to recruit and train, and it's not clear how many more troops will be acquired. Still, there's no question that these soldiers are ready and willing to go to war. Morale is much higher than in the regular army units, because of the steep training curve and selective recruitment. You can't get into the Special Forces unless you first make it into Airborne, then make it through Ranger school, then get asked to join the SF training program (and you have to know at least one foreign language) -- all of which have high wash-out rates. Even so, they manage to remain operationally ready. So it's not a matter of having too few troops, it's a matter of having certain specialties that for all their work, they can't fill, because the combination of specialty skill and military capability is so rare.
posted by dhartung at 8:55 AM on October 30, 2002

dhartung - I appreciate the thoughtful reply. I have no problem with the US military seeking non-citizens to serve. Anything that bolsters our ability to win the fight, and does not violate the constitution, international law, or human rights can and should be done. I strongly disagree with the apparent double standard of allowing non-citizens to serve in the UNIFORM of our country but not allowing them to x-ray our toothpaste. (especially when you consider the perfunctory nature of these searches. Say what you will about Special Forces but it is anything but perfunctory). I find this to be xenophobic and believe it causes undo hardship on people who make working wages. It appears to me that the requirements the military has for non-citizens to serve are the same as any non-citizen would need to legally work in the US.
posted by pejamo at 10:15 AM on October 30, 2002

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