Marine’s Kin Defends Son to Fellow Arabs

Well, just when you thought this one couldn’t get any stranger:

AP –Marine’s Kin Defends Son to Fellow Arabs

Relatives of a U.S. Marine who surfaced in Beirut nearly three weeks after an apparent kidnapping in Iraq appealed for understanding from fellow Arabs on Saturday, saying the Lebanese-born man emigrated and joined the Marines for financial reasons. . . . In Hassoun’s native city of Tripoli, his family issued a statement saying he was forced to go to the United States and join the Marines because of the deteriorating economic situation caused by Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war.

The statement appeared aimed at countering criticism by some fundamentalist Sunni Muslims in Tripoli who accused Hassoun’s family of being “American agents and collaborators.” It stressed the family’s Arab and Islamic ties, and its loyalty to Lebanon. “We are a family of Lebanese Arab Muslims. We are not seeking to defend ourselves,” the Hassoun family’s statement said. “But we would like to thank the Lebanese for sympathizing with one of their sons (Hassoun) who was pushed by the difficult living conditions in their home country to emigrate and forced to work in a position that they may not like.” The statement said Hassoun, 24, was “driven by the lure of a good life to emigrate, (but he) might have made a mistake by choosing to sign a four-year contract with the U.S. Navy, which expires by the end of 2005.”

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On Thursday, two people were killed and three others wounded in a Tripoli gunbattle between members of the Hassoun clan and business rivals who taunted them as being American collaborators. The Hassoun clan, estimated at about 4,000 people, lives mostly in Tripoli and Dinniyah, northern areas where anti-American fundamentalist Sunni Muslim groups are dominant.


Baldilocks
has some comments on this development that I can’t read because blogrolling.com won’t load and thus neither will her post, entitled “Loyal to Whom.” Charles Johnson finds it “utterly contemptible;” his commenters feel somewhat more strongly.

The loyalty question is indeed a fair one when we have non-citizens in our armed forces, especially when we send them to assignments where there is an obvious conflict. We had an incident earlier in the war where a Muslim soldier murdered several of his comrades with a grenade and, certainly, Hassoun’s fidelity is in question here.

Questions of divided loyalty has always been a fact of life for American soldiers. Certainly, there were Tory spies in the colonial army during the War for Independence; after all, it was the Patriots who were committing an act of treason against the Crown. Certainly, there were Southerners who fought for the Union and northerners who faught for the Confederacy during the Civil War. American soldiers of German, Italian, and Japanese descent who fought in WWII and those of Russian and East European extraction who served during the Cold War.

One would think that Muslim soldiers, especially those who were born in the Middle East, would be subject to more strenous security checks than their native-born counterparts. (Hell, I get a more thorough going-over because my mother was born in Germany.) Still, there are undeniably risks involved. Those risks, however, would seem to be greatly outweighed by the linguistic skills and cultural understanding that these troops bring to the table. Operations in Haiti and Somalia during the 1990s simply couldn’t have been undertaken without the help of recent immigrants serving in our armed forces who brought language skills that were otherwise virtually absent. Likewise, we’re in desperate need for Arab linguists. The more native speakers we can recruit–properly screened, to be sure–the fewer we have to train.

FILED UNDER: Terrorism
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.