Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The symbolism of a Veteran's Day ceremony in Baghdad honoring American soldiers seems fitting enough. But what if the ceremony is actually to administer the Oath of Allegiance because the American soldiers in question aren't yet American citizens? That's what happened this past Sunday when Harry Chertoff administered the oath to 178 of the estimated 40,000 soldiers now serving in the military in order to win a fast-track to American citizenship.
There's something particularly moving about the idea of men and women volunteering for military service in time of war for the chance to call themselves American. It says a lot about the attraction America still holds for the world. Of course a great deal of that attraction has to do with the relative economic opportunity here compared to many of these people's countries of origin. But I don't think there are that many countries that inspire the same sort of willingness to risk life and limb in order to gain citizenship.
On the other hand, at a time when the American military is stretched thin and immigration policy has been deadlocked by a vocal contingent of xenophobes, it also says a lot about this country that we're willing to hand these guys a rifle and ship them into a war zone based on the promise of a passport if they make it out alive.