Hispanic Soldiers Role in the War on Terrorism

An overwhelming majority of Latino voters believe that the warin Iraq is not worth fighting, and that Hispanics have suffered adisproportionate share of the causalities, according to a survey ofLatino voters conducted by The Washington Post, and the TomasRivera Policy Institute.  

The Armed Forces tries greatly to portrayitself as an organization that gives opportunity for advancementand equal opportunity for everyone. Unfortunately, studies haveshown that the military is an institution that discriminates on thebasis of racial and ethnic backgrounds.  Minorities facetougher disciplinary actions, and fewer opportunities and are alsomore likely to be killed in combat during wartime.

 Brain Gifford, a researcher with theRobert Wood Johnson Foundation at the University of California atBerkeley, told AP reporters, “”That this may be related toLatinos’ participation in the Marine Corps, which would increasetheir exposure to high-intensity combat situations, or perhaps itis due to Hispanics’ overrepresentation in the lowerranks.”

Last year, the Inter Press Service printed anarticle stating that Hispanic soldiers fighting in Iraq were dyingat higher rates, and were being lured into dangerous positions whenrecruited by the Armed Forces.

As American causalities in Iraq steadilyincrease, so does the apprehension in many of the nation’sLatino communities. The concern is that their children are dying atincredibly high numbers and that they are being lured intodangerous services by the Armed Forces. Overall, the community isworried that Hispanic men and women are being unjustly exposed torisky situations and sent to the front lines. One of the first U.S.soldiers to die in Iraq, Jose Gutierrez, was an orphan fromGuatemala and not even a citizen at the time of his death.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Latinosmake up 9.5 percent of the active enlistees in the armed forces;they are over-represented in the most dangerous assignments, suchas infantry, gun crews, and seamanship, and make up over 17.5percent of the front lines.

“Hispanic soldiers are higher thanexpected based on their service in the military and based on theirparticipation in combat arms specialties,” said Gifford to APreporters, who is studying the racial and ethnic makeup ofcausalities in Iraq. “Hispanics make up about 12 percent pfcausalities so far, but they only make up about nine percent ofactive-duty military.”

A tactic suspected of targeting Hispanics, isan executive order signed by the U.S. President George W. Bush in2002, which expedites naturalization for aliens and non-citizennationals who serve in active-duty status during the “war onterrorism.” The order allows non-citizens to apply forcitizenship immediately upon arrival at their first military base,rather than waiting the usual four years.

President Bush told AP reporters,”Persons serving honorably in active duty status in the ArmedForces, do a service to their new country so they should be grantedcitizenship more quickly than regular channels.” Departmentof Defense officials persistently deny that the order was targetedtoward the Hispanic population.

A Defense official told AP reporters thatwhile he was not “aware of any particular effort to recruitany particular ethnic group, there are programs that appeal tocertain groups.”

Jorge Mariscal, a professor at the Universityof California, San Diego, wrote in an April 2003 issue of”Counterpunch,” “That they (young Latino men)fought without knowing their enemy, played their role as pawns in ageopolitical chess game devised by arrogant bureaucrats, and diedsimply trying to get an education; trying to have a fair shot atthe American Dream that has eluded the vast majority of Latinos forover a century and a half.”