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We have to choose who and what we want to be!

January 28th, 2005

Written by Jamal S. Baadani


I wanted to personally reflect on, and share my thoughts with you about issues that affect Arab Americans in America – specifically, as to how we (Arab Americans serving in the military) are perceived by some in our own communities. 


Most recently, APAAM has sent out articles and letters regarding subject matter relating to Arab Americans in the military, whether it is related to the desertion of Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun, or the loss of Arab American lives, or injury of those brave soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines serving in Iraq .  The criticisms to our e-mailings that have been received have been greater than any other period since the founding of APAAM shortly after 9/11.  


We have received so many hateful comments and so much negative criticism by Arab Americans living among us in our communities.  I am amazed at the extent of “hate” and “anger” that is directed towards us by those who are displeased and angry with Bush Administration’s Middle East and Iraq Policy.  The specific criticism directed towards the death of Sergeant Rostum, and the injury of Lance Corporal Al-Thaibani, while serving in Iraq , is in my view wrong and crosses the line of citizenry. 


“Sgt Rostum’s and LCpl Al-Thaibani’s sacrifice is a testament to their courage under fire, responsibility of duty to both their country and the Arab American Communities in America .”  Their sacrifice reflects the true sentiment of the majority in our communities.  However, to those within our community who criticize our “Duty”, I say to them….,


We have to choose who and what we want to be!


I’ve always said this and will continue to say this to my fellow Arab Americans and others of differing ethnicities in America--   “If you live in America , and you want to prosper in America , then you have to contribute to America .”  “Duty” is an obligation that is required of everyone who is a citizen of this great country.  Duty, as an obligation, dates back to the earliest historical days of mankind.  Those who serve in the military could have chosen to be fireman, policeman, members of the Peace Corps, America Corps, or civil servants, as their “Duty” to our country.   But they didn’t.  They chose to serve in the military, recognizing that the ultimate sacrifice is to serve in the defense of freedom for one’s own country.  As an example of the ultimate sacrifice, 228 years ago, a young Arab American Syrian Immigrant to the American Colonies understood the obligation of “Duty” to country by joining the 18th Continental Army; he helped fight for and win freedom for America from the tyranny of England-- Nathan Badeen gave his life in the revolutionary war so we could be free today.


Those serving in the military don’t always agree with the policies of the administration that guides our country, but do support the obligation of “Duty” to their country.  The policies are left to the citizens of this country.  Those who don’t agree with the current administration’s policies have a chance to affect change at the voting booth every two years.  I serve my country on behalf of Arab American communities, honorably and faithfully, as a US Marine.  I’ve served for the Reagan, Bush I, Clinton , and Bush II administrations.  There have been numerous policies throughout my service in the military, yet the following has remained constant – that I volunteered to serve in the US Military and that I swore to uphold the constitution of the United States . 


I know what it is to live abroad in a third world country, because I was born and raised in the Middle East .  I immigrated to America at age 10.  I am proud of my Arab culture and am proud of my heritage and Muslim religion.  But that doesn’t excuse me from military service just because the US is engaged in war in the Middle East .  Nor does it excuse me from military service because the US , for the past 25 years, has been engaged in some type of military operation in a Muslim country.  I served in Beirut , Lebanon to help ensure peace of passage for the Palestinians in Lebanon in the early 80’s.  I have served in operations to provide humanitarian assistance to citizens of Algeria and Tunisia , as well as serving in the Persian Gulf in 1988 to protect world-wide shipping from bombings and attack by Iran .  Most recently, I served in the Global War on Terrorism, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, to help rid the world of terrorism - terrorism that threatens everyone in the world, even those who criticize us for serving in the military.


In the 90’s, the US Military helped give freedom to Muslims in Kosovo and conducted humanitarian operations in Bangladesh – a Muslim country - when it was hit hard by a catastrophic typhoon.  Today, the US military is involved in helping the victims of the Pacific Tsunami providing the largest humanitarian operation the world has ever known.


Semper Fidelis!












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