American Samoans in Iraq

The Samoa News reports that 56 American Samoan reservists will be coming home after serving in Iraq for over a year, although it's not certain they'll arrive in time for Christmas. One member of their unit, Staff Sergeant Frank Tiai of Pago Pago village, won't be among them as he was killed while on patrol in July.

American Samoa's seven dead and 30 wounded in Iraq are the equivalent of the casualty rate for the top 10 U.S. states combined, when taken as a proportion of the population. Last month, American Samoa's non-voting congressman Faleomavaega Eni pointed out that the stated reasons for the U.S. intervention in Iraq had been falsified, and he said, "I believe it is time for us to win this conflict and bring our troops home."

With enrolments declining, the U.S. Army has been offering incentives worth thousands of dollars to persuade more islanders to enlist. In June Radio New Zealand International quoted American Samoa Army recruiter, Sgt. Levi Suiaunoa, as saying, "our recruiting command has been asked to increase the enlistees by 20,000 recruits." And American Samoans aren't the only South Pacific islanders being sent to Iraq. Hundreds of Fijian soldiers have been hired by a British security firm to act as mercenaries there. Several of them, and six Fijian members of the British Army have already died in Iraq.

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