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Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Saga Of A 4 Year Citizenship Search for Vietnam Veteran Tony Rose

Tony Rose recites the Pledge of Allegiance with some of his friends during his naturalization ceremony as a U.S. citizen in Hastings at the Veterans Home where he resides.  (Pioneer Press: Chris Polydoroff)

Editors Note:  After an over four-year battle with the Departments of Immigration, Homeland Security and Social Security, the U.S. government conceded Tony Rose, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam era and worked in this country for 40 years, in fact never left the country, is an American citizen and can draw his Social Security pension.


"Tony Rose said he now feels a sense of gratification.  And who can blame him? His over 4-year crusade for Social Security benefits is over — and he won.

Rose, a longtime chef and baker said things started to go his way because of Stella Mednik, a New York immigration attorney who  worked on his behalf at no charge for 17 months"


"At a ceremony at the Hastings Minnesota Veterans Home, where he lives, Rose, was presented with a naturalization certificate and, more important, he said, given the assurance that his benefits would begin.

"I know it took a long time, but congratulations,” Sharon Dooley, director of the St. Paul office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, said to Rose, shortly after she handed him the certificate.

“I’m glad it’s over and done with,” Rose replied.

The certificate, which lists his age and when he entered the United States, is the proof that will get the ball rolling with the St. Paul Social Security office, said staff assistant Jon Norberg, who attended the ceremony.

Rose, a Navy veteran, had been trying to get his benefits through the St. Paul office since 2005 — and getting nowhere.

Rose, who moved to Detroit from Canada in 1941 at age 6, said he initially was told the U.S. government had revoked his citizenship 42 years earlier because of a mysterious, unsigned memo that appeared in his immigration file. The typewritten memo states he voluntarily gave up his U.S. residency in 1963.

Social Security officials contend the memo played no role in the decision to deny Rose benefits.

Rose’s attorney, Stella Mednik, said she sent the St. Paul Social Security office several documents that proved his citizenship, including the visa papers from his entry into the U.S. from Canada and his Navy discharge record.

But it wasn’t enough.

She said Rose’s only mistake was not applying for a naturalization certificate when he was 16 years old, which he was required to do. But, she said that shouldn’t have affected his benefits because his father was a U.S. citizen.

Rose, who was born in England, couldn’t provide a copy of his birth certificate, which further compounded the problem, she said.

Even though Rose was considered a U.S. citizen because of his father, Dooley said, his citizenship status was not official because he was never sworn in.
“Those who are 14 and older have to take an oath,” she said. “That’s part of our procedure.”

The naturalization certificate is not mandatory for certain government benefits, she said. It only speeds up the process.

“We have seen there are a lot of agencies that won’t grant benefits without seeing it,” she said. “That’s the Catch-22.”

Indeed, Rose’s benefits claim was denied in 2005 because there was no evidence of his age and no evidence of U.S. citizenship status, Social Security officials told the Pioneer Press in December.

As to why it took five years to get answers, Dooley could only offer up this explanation: Rose was most likely the victim of poor record keeping.

Immigration files before 1956 are not kept in an electronic database, she said, and must be physically retrieved from storage.

“That can take a long time,” she said.

Mednik said Rose’s accrued benefits total at least $50,000.

Rose, a longtime chef and baker who now works at the Hastings YMCA, said things started to go his way because of Mednik, a New York immigration attorney who has worked on his behalf at no charge for the past 17 months.

“I don’t have the words to say what she has done,” Rose said, adding he wished she could have made the ceremony. “She is what a lawyer is supposed to be. I think she’s more excited than me.”

Veterans Home resident Kevin Johnson said he’s been impressed with how Rose has kept his sense of humor throughout the ordeal.

“It’s been a long time coming for him,” Johnson said. “He learned to be tolerable about the whole thing. Although if you need any bureaucracy jokes, he’ll tell you some.”

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Two Decades of War Have Eroded the Morale of America’s Troops

Image:  USO - Hampton Roads and Central Virginia


"The military can’t set its own goals, can’t determine its own budget or which ideals it fights and dies for, and can’t decide how its losses will be honored, dishonored, or appropriated after the fact. 

So while America as a whole chooses to express its love for its military in gooey, substance-free displays, our military waits, perhaps hopelessly, for a coherent national policy that takes the country’s wars seriously."


"If the courage of young men and women in battle truly does depend on the nature and quality of our civic society, we should be very worried. We should expect to see a sickness spreading from our public life and into the hearts of the men and women who continue to risk their lives on behalf of a distracted nation. 

And when we look closely, that is exactly what we see: a sickness that all the ritualistic displays of support for our troops at sporting events and Veterans Day celebrations, and in the halls of Congress, can’t cure.

Our military is a major part of who we are as a country; it is the force that has undergirded the post–World War II international order. Being an American means being deeply implicated in that, for good or for ill. But as Wellman’s response to his war suggests, the solution to our current dead end doesn’t lie within the military itself. 

The military can’t set its own goals, can’t determine its own budget or which ideals it fights and dies for, and can’t decide how its losses will be honored, dishonored, or appropriated after the fact. So while America as a whole chooses to express its love for its military in gooey, substance-free displays, our military waits, perhaps hopelessly, for a coherent national policy that takes the country’s wars seriously.

What would such a thing look like?

It would probably look like rescinding the open-ended Authorization for the Use of Military Force and making the president regularly go before Congress to explain where and why he was putting troops in harm’s way, what resources the mission required, and what the terms of success were. 

It would look like every member of Congress carrying out his or her constitutionally mandated duty to provide oversight of our military adventures by debating and then voting on that plan. 

It would look like average Americans taking part in that debate, and scorning anyone who tried to tell them they couldn’t. It would look like average Americans rolling their eyes in disgust when our leaders tell us we’re not at war while American troops are risking their lives overseas, or claim that Americans must support the wars their country engages in if they want to support the troops, or when a press secretary argues that anyone who questions the success of a military raid in which a service member died “owes an apology” to that fallen soldier. 

It would look like our politicians letting the fallen rest in peace, rather than propping up their corpses for political cover. And when service members die overseas in unexpected places, such as the four killed in Niger last year, it would look like us eschewing the easy symbolic debates about whether our president is disrespecting our troops by inartfully offering condolences or whether liberals are disrespecting our troops by seizing upon those inartful condolences for political gain. It would look like us instead having a longer and harder conversation about the mission we are asking soldiers to perform, and whether we are doing them the honor of making sure it’s achievable.

In short, it would look like Americans as a whole doling out a lot fewer cheap, sentimental displays of love for our troops, and doubling down on something closer to Gunny Maxwell’s “tough love”—a love that means zeroing in on our country’s faults and failures.

if we don’t, then at some point the bottom will drop out. Morale is a hard thing to measure, but plenty of indicators suggest that it’s been falling. Ninety-one percent of troops called their quality of life good or excellent in a survey done by the Military Times back in 2009, when the downturn in violence in Iraq and a new strategy in Afghanistan still held out a promise of victory; by 2014 that had fallen to only 56 percent, with intentions to reenlist dropping from 72 to 63 percent. 

Recruiting is also down. For the past three decades, the military has generally accepted about 60 percent of applicants. In recent years that figure has been closer to 70 percent and is climbing. And the active-duty force is getting worn out. When I was in, I was impressed to meet guys with five deployments under their belts. Now I meet guys who have done eight, or nine, or 10. 

The situation is particularly bad within the Special Operations community. Last year Special Operations Command deployed troops to 149 countries; some operators cycled in and out of deployments at what General Raymond Thomas called the “unsustainable” pace of six months overseas, six months at home. I recently met an Army ranger who’d done seven deployments. He was on a stateside duty, and told me that when he and his wife realized that he’d be home for two years straight, it freaked them out a bit. They loved each other, and had three kids, but had never spent two solid years together without one of them going on a deployment. This is too much to ask, especially for ongoing wars with no end in sight. 

Theresa Whelan, the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security, recently told the House Armed Services Committee that the Special Operations community has “had to eat our young … [and] mortgaged our future” to keep going.

Day by day, that mortgaged future creeps closer. When it arrives, who is going to sign up for a vague and hopeless mission? How do you motivate men and women to fight and die for a cause many of them don’t believe in, and whose purpose they can’t articulate? What happens to the bonds between men and women in combat, and to the bonds between soldiers and the citizenry for whom they fight, when we fail as a nation to treat our wars as a collective responsibility, rather than the special mission of a self-selected few?

Without a political leadership that articulates and argues for a mission and objective worth dying for, it’s no surprise that soldiers sometimes stop caring about the mission altogether. A sergeant who deployed to the Korengal Valley, in Afghanistan, told me that by the end of his deployment, he had purposely adopted a defensive posture, sacrificing mission for safety at every opportunity he could. 

This is reminiscent of what one officer said of the later stages of the Vietnam War: “The gung-ho attitude that made our soldiers so effective in 1966, ’67, was replaced by the will to survive.” It’s not that those troops lacked courage, but that the ends shifted. “We fought for each other,” I’ve heard plenty of veterans claim about their time in service, and no wonder. 

If your country won’t even resource the wars with what its own generals say is necessary for long-term success, what else is there to fight for? But if you think the mission your country keeps sending you on is pointless or impossible and that you’re only deploying to protect your brothers and sisters in arms from danger, then it’s not the Taliban or al-Qaeda or isis that’s trying to kill you, it’s America."

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Have Americans Lost the Art of Independent Thinking Or Are We Misinformed?

                                                     Image:  Mission to Learn dot com

Americans have grown acclimated to viewing the world through media sound bites, opinionated, biased news financed by money driven politicians and lobbying firms that spend enormous amounts to influence our opinions.

As a result, we have very little trust because the product of this buzz portends negative, stagnated government, growing like a money- eating beast and putting generations in hock with unwarranted wars through a focus on big corporations and big business.

Has independent thinking by researching a personal perspective become a lost art in our day in age?

Are we just too busy to develop a credible opinion of our own due to the fast pace our social values demand?

 Or are we misinformed?


Trust is hard to establish in the modern era. We see very little true statesmanship in the good people we send to Washington who promptly become ground up in the huge machine there in order to survive. 

Communications and expectations are two vital elements in measuring trust.

To an extraordinary extent, the age in which we live is requiring us to redefine trust and the degree to which communication and expectations contribute to it.

Consider simpler times a few years past (say 50). Trust was necessary in many venues as a means of survival on a day-to-day basis. We relied on others extensively for our well being from our local store to our banker, from the policeman to the politician. And we knew them all better, we could reach out and touch them and we were not viewing them in sound bites and web sites, nor were we being bombarded with multiple forms of input to digest about them.


Mass marketing and communications has created expectations beyond reality in venues from romance web sites to building wealth and the role of nations.  We must come down to earth and become much more sophisticated in the manner with which we view all this input and sift it in a meaningful way to have true trust. If we do not we run a high risk of tyranny and that fact is inescapable.

To a very large degree this is a personal responsibility. We must become involved, make prudent judgments and think for ourselves. 


Charles Lewis’ Book, published before the current administration, Looks at the “Lies Your President Told You and Other Mistruths”.  Perhaps he will update it to include our experiences in the last 2 years. 


Author Charles Lewis

"The most disturbing discovery in my nine years of research and writing is this: leaders don't need to distort information and the truth. All they have to do now, in our fast-paced, short attention-span world, is just delay the truth, by years, months, and weeks. We still don't have key documents from the Iran-Contra scandal, the second biggest political scandal in the U.S. involving a White House since Watergate. That was a quarter century ago! Is that coincidental?  No." 

 Here’s the question you have to ask yourself before reading Charles Lewis’ new book, 

"935 Lies The Future of Truth and the Decline of America's Moral Integrity" 

Are we as a country so jaded that we’ve come to accept untruths and    
misinformation from our government as just the cost of living in a democracy?

Lewis, who teaches journalism at American University and who founded  the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), does his best to remind us that we can and should expect more from our leaders. 935 Lies expands upon a CPI project that tracked the number of false statements that the President George W. Bush administration told in the two-year build up to the war in Iraq. The lies were aimed at persuading Americans that Iraq posed a threat to our national security.

Deceit, however, is bipartisan, as Lewis shows.

POGO: What is the big-picture effect of the public being repeatedly lied to by our leaders?

Lewis: Over time—many years which have become decades—persistent prevarications by those in power leads to cynicism, distrust and citizen disengagement. Which, you may have noticed, we substantially have had now for decades. Distrust and disapproval of Congress, for example, is at unprecedented, historic levels. Voter participation in elections has been woeful for years. Etc.

POGO: You describe the problem of misinformation as endemic to our society-- why did you choose to focus on lies told during the Bush administration? Of course they’ve continued since then.

Lewis: The "935 lies" mentioned in the Prologue of my book, regarding the false and erroneous statements by President  George W. Bush and either other top administration officials between 9/11/01 and 9/11/03, were compiled in a 380,000-word database and  published by the Center for Public Integrity in Iraq: The War Card in January 2008, near the five-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

That prompted me to examine the extent to which this had occurred before, over time, since approximately 1950 to today. And of course, the Johnson administration misrepresentations about the Gulf of Tonkin and the U.S. involvement in Vietnam more broadly, pre-dated the Bush/Iraq war by 40 years.

It also demonstrates the extent of what J. William Fulbright called "the arrogance of power" and the fact that lying by those in power is bipartisan. My book also examines untruths in the Obama administration and others, and "mortally consequential" lies by corporations dating back to the 1940s.

POGO: What should a leader’s punishment be for intentionally lying to the public? Should he lose his job—or worse?

Lewis: A leader's accountability should be directly related to the seriousness of what he/she has lied about. In real life, whether a leader should lose his job depends on the circumstances of the moment, and obviously, the political will of the people.

Unfortunately, we generally don't punish our politicians for lying, as we seem to have  a bifurcated, bipartisan perception of "truth" in the United States, to the extent that in one poll, four years after George W. Bush's second term had ended, more than 60 percent of Republicans still believed there were weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq.

We, as a society, have become increasingly confused, unable to discern the difference between truth and falsehood. And as Hannah Arendt  and others have noted, that is a dangerous state of affairs, when we no longer can ascertain what is factual and what is not, who to believe  and who NOT to believe.

We live in a society that doesn't have "real-time truth" about those in power. How can a democracy predicated upon an informed citizenry and  self-government exist successfully if the people don't know the facts about those in power?

As some point, I hope the public decides to get angry and demand more truth, but getting there from here is an enormous specter to imagine.  First of all, there is no longer a "general public" but instead numerous  carefully studied, dissected electorally and commercially micro-publics  throughout the United States.

Marketing, advertising and high-tech wizardry by those in politics have rendered the concept of "the public"  less meaningful and media political advertising has become a huge source    of revenue for that industry and fanned the fires of fractious, vituperative partisanship during and between election cycles.

We are the only advanced democracy in the world without free air time for politicians during election time.

The only way the McCain-Feingold  campaign finance law could be passed by Congress years ago was when McCain and Feingold agreed to take out the "free air time for    politicians" section of their bill—then the National Association of Broadcasters and others backed off their opposition to the legislation and it passed, among other concessions made. The broadcasters now make a billion dollars per election cycle from political ads...

It is a grim situation which has been deteriorating in many ways for decades. And it will take years, decades, to ameliorate."