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Iraq War claims Caribbean lives

by Charles Arthur

The news that over 2,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed during the Iraq War
has been noted with shock and anguish in the United States. The fact that an
unknown number of those dead were originally from the Caribbean has attracted
less scrutiny.

The exact number of Caribbean immigrants in Iraq fighting in either the U.S.
or British military units remains unclear, but officials speculate the number
could be as high as several hundred. Although many of them were either born in
the United States or had become naturalized citizens before being shipped out
to the Persian Gulf, officials speculate that most are permanent residents or
green card holders.

Recent newspaper reports suggest that some of those who enlist for service in
the military are Caribbean immigrants attracted by the offer of citizenship,
and that a number of them are being killed while on active service in Iraq.

Legal permanent residents of the United States had been allowed to join the
military and seek citizenship after three years of active service. In July 2002
President Bush signed an executive order allowing anyone on active duty after
September 11, 2001, to immediately apply for citizenship.

Then, in July 2003, the U.S. government introduced the Riayan Tejeda Memorial
Act. The Act “authorizes naturalization without regard to specified
immigration and Nationality Act requirements for an alien who has served honorably in a
combat zone in connection with Operation Iraqi Freedom."

Riayan A. Tejeda was a 26-year old sergeant in the U.S. Marines who was
killed during combat operations in Baghdad on April 11, 2003. Tejeda was born in
Santiago, Dominican Republic, and had moved to New York when he was 11 years old.

One of those hoping to take advantage of the new law was Kendell K.
Frederick, from the U.S state of Maryland, who was killed near Tikrit on October 19,
2005, when a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle. Frederick, a 21-year-old
originally from Trinidad, was riding in a convoy to provide fingerprints
needed for the application process for U.S. citizenship when he was killed.
Frederick had been in the United States since 1999. He had been in Iraq for about 10

His mother, Michelle Murphy, tearfully told reporters, "I got a letter from
his commander stating the only reason he was on that convoy is because he was
on his way to do the fingerprints again, trying to become an American citizen,
and died doing it."

Murphy said she didn’t understand why the nation was at war in Iraq. She
described President Bush as "cold-hearted," saying she didn’t believe he had given
the nation a good reason for being in the war.

"I don’t believe a lot of the soldiers over there know why they’re over
there," she said. "My son didn’t know why he was over there."

Another recent casualty of the Iraq War was Guy Sanguinette, a 23-year old
sergeant in the U.S. Army National Guard, who was killed when a roadside bomb
detonated near his Humvee while he was on patrol in Baghdad on October 29. Guy
was born in Kingston, Jamaica, but became a U.S. citizen in July 2004. He had
joined the National Guard as a way to pay for his education.

His mother Donna Sanguinette said her son’s death was senseless. "I could
understand if my son had died on American soil or if he had died in Afghanistan.
But for my son to die in Baghdad ... All because of President Bush and his ego
trip," she said angrily.

Earlier this year, the British media gave extensive coverage to the fate of
Donal Meade, a 20-year old British soldier killed by a roadside bomb in
southern Iraq on 5 September. Meade had emigrated to Britain at the age of 10 when
his home on the Caribbean island of Montserrat was destroyed by the ash and
devastation of volcanic eruptions.

Referring to the numerous Caribbean nationals serving in the U.S. and British
armed forces in Iraq, Ralph Gonsalves the prime minister of St Vincent and
the Grenadines, said, “Our people are profoundly concerned about their fate. I
have been in touch with the British government, and they are keeping us
informed about the welfare of our nationals at war.”

The only Caribbean country to support the U.S. and British-led occupation of
Iraq by providing their own troops was the Dominican Republic. The several
hundred-strong Dominican force was attacked on numerous occasions but avoided any
fatal casualties, according to official reports. The last contingent of
Dominican troops were withdrawn from Iraq in April 2004.