Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Domestic Terrorists

Shortly after the bombing of the tube in London, I predicted that the terrorists would turn out to be residents of the UK in my blog Al Qaeda, The International Communist Conspiracy, and the Bogeyman. And now we have another domestic UK conspiracy, it seems, to blow airliners out of the sky. There are apparent connections between the British citizens involved back to Pakistan. That's no big surprise. I have an Indian doctor who travels to India to see his family on a quite regular basis. This is what immigrants do.

In 1970, my wife and I spent several months in Edinburgh and had rented a TV to sample the British fare. One night there was a news story on a White Brit who suffered from some disease that had turned his skin dark and he was suffering the slings and arrows of ethnic prejudice when out in public since his skin tone suggested to people that he was a "Paki" (a derogatory term for persons of Pakistani descent, possibly also used for those of Indian descent as well). He was even catching barbs from the people he had worked with even though they knew he was "white." The reporter said that his family had taken to driving about at night so he would not be visible. This passed on British TV as a "human interest" story on ethnic prejudice. I was stunned. The reporter could have randomly picked out a British citizen of Pakistani descent for a story on ethnic/racial prejudice. I think she/he didn't because no one would have cared about the plight of a genuine victim of ethnic/racial prejudice but they might care about a white person who was enduring the same thing. Back in the USA, human interest stories on racism against Blacks featured Blacks.

I don't mean this as an indictment of the Brits but to give you an idea why I was not surprised that the UK had a domestic terrorist problem. Years of ethnic/racial prejudice can lead to that. We are lucky in the US to have African-Americans who have not chosen to go that way. But, thanks to things I am now seeing and reading, I think we may not count on our domestic Muslims, especially the Shiite ones, being so patient with the dominant culture.

Last night, for the first time in some years, I was forced to channel surf on my cable TV system since my satellite reception was on the blink due to heavy rains and I saw a CNN Headline News channel show conducted by some sort of wild man who was determined, it seemed, to scare hell out of me and everyone else who is not Muslim and American by suggesting that we have an enemy in our midst. I believe his name is Glenn Beck. He was very exercised by recent demonstrations supporting Hezbollah (the signs in the crowd said "Hizbollah" I believe). His basic position was that at some point these Muslim Americans, who were mostly in Dearborn, Michigan, are going to have to choose sides and he said ominously that it seems that they already had. He got some female talking head who concurred. Of course, we were meant to draw the inference that they had decided to be anti-American and pro-Hezbollah.

I focused on the signs demonstrators were carrying as Mr. Beck showed us video of a recent demonstration. What I saw was anti-Israeli, pro-Hezbollah signs and signs urging the US to stop the warfare. I saw no anti-American signs but I understand that one sign in some demonstration said that there needed to be a Hezbollah in American. Now that is ominous but I suspect is more the work of a hothead than a serious person. Signs like these are a far cry from expressing an anti-American position. It was also ominously pointed out by the female talking head that the Dearborn Muslims are mostly Shiite. Actually, that suggested to me that these Americans were likely refugees from Lebanon, specifically from Southern Lebanon. This, rather than being an ominous fact, helps clear things up a bit.

One cannot expect American Muslims, especially expatriate Lebanese Shiite Muslims, to be pro-Israel. That would be like asking American Jews to be anti-Israel. And, though I tended to defend Israel somewhat given that their attack on Hezbollah was in response to a covert mission on Israeli soil by Hezbollah, I also agreed that it was an over-reaction in the sense that it went way beyond "an eye for an eye." In fact, as time passed, we saw the near total destruction of Southern Lebanon and I began to wonder about the future of Israel. Israel is in trouble militarily since it lacks the capacity to fight an anti-symmetrical war effectively. In fact, no one has figured out how to do that. Certainly, the Johnson and Nixon Administrations in Vietnam and the Bush Administration in Afghanistan and Iraq have proved that the US is incompetent to fight such a war.

In my opinion, it is perfectly reasonable for Dearborn Muslims to be outraged at what they were seeing on TV. In addition to this, American Muslims continue to experience much higher levels of discrimination in America since 9/11 than before it. I understand why. But I invite you to read the reaction by Americans in response to these demonstrations. One commenter said of the strong anti-Muslim statements, "This kind of stuff will end badly for all." He is right, of course.

In a NPR report, I found the following:
Osama Siblani runs the Arab-American News, America's largest such newspaper. He says the fighting is fueling anger in his community -- not at Hezbollah, but at the Bush administration.

"The anger that you see in the Arab community, you do not see in the eyes of the American community," says Siblani. "They're not viewing the same thing. And the perspective you get out of Jazeera or Arabiya, you do not get it out of Fox News or CNN."

Siblani says many in the community who opposed Hezbollah before the fighting have now changed their minds. The U.S. State Department has designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Siblani disagrees.

"The terrorist here is the Bush administration," he says.
I must say that I am pretty angry with the Bush administration myself. He is responsible for escalating anti-American feelings around the world including especially in the Muslim world by conducting this war in Iraq. And the devastation wreaked by Israel in Southern Lebanon has increased this sentiment. The scary thing is its effect on American Muslims.

One of the worst things about the Bush war in Iraq is that it has distracted us from the war on terrorism to the degree that we aren't funding Homeland Security priorities properly and are letting politics determine where the available money goes. Of course, it is not going to New York, Chicago, and LA, the most likely terrorist targets, in proportion to the threat. Its going all over the country to places where Senators and members of the House are demanding that it goes for purely political reasons. A shocking thing to me is that the Bush administration did not force airports and airlines to implement the ban on liquids on airplanes years ago, for it seems to have been known for some time that mixing otherwise harmless and easily hidden liquids together on an airplane to create a bomb is a live option for terrorists. Fortunately, the Brits aren't asleep at the wheel they way Bush and his administration is and so we didn't have to learn about this problem the 9/11 way. Actually, the plan was that the planes would blow up over the ocean with the debris falling into the ocean making it impossible for us to determine that liquid explosives were involved. The Bush Administration is too occupied with trying to figure out how to get out of Iraq while seeming to have achieved his goals.

One reason the Brits weren't asleep is that they know they have disaffected Muslim communities that are actively involved in terrorist plots. They have earned this Muslim hostility the old fashioned way -- they have discriminated against people of Pakistani descent for decades. What concerns me is that we here in America are creating the same sort of disaffected communities as a result of fighting against Muslims in Iraq (I am happy to take the fall out for our fighting in Afghanistan where OBL was training terrorists) and providing one-sided support to Israel. If we really care about Israel we will focus as much on the needs of Israel's enemies as on Israel itself. If we really care about ourselves, we will get our butts out of Iraq and put more troops in Afghanistan, and go to work on fighting against anti-Muslim sentiment in America and fighting terrorism in the only really effective way possible -- with good police work.

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Blogger Mr K said...

In our defence, Britain is far less racist than it used to be, although there is of course a problem, which has really only been increased by 9/11. I'm really not sure of what the solution is, although I'm pretty sure it's not increased faith schools, as some have suggested...

I'm not sure whether it's really practical to ban all liquids being carried on a plane... I suppose most people can put most of their liquids in the main luggage to take home, but not even allowing a bottle of water for a journey seems harsh... hmm, I do not know, the balance is an interesting one in this case...

2:21 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Mr. K, the UK got a bad start in regard to its minorities since they all came from colonies and though they wanted to be in the UK or they wouldn't have come, they have the memory of the experience or have heard about it from elders. And then there was the superiority complex the Brits had to have to subjugate others. That's a lot to overcome.

We have our terrible history of slavery and long years of discrimination against Hispanic to overcome. Our history with each minority group coming in hasn't always been pretty. Still, I have more respect for countries like the UK and US that have quite serious racial/ethnic issues and try to deal with them than holier than though countries that have tended toward racial "purity." I won't name names.

We definitely need leadership in the US that keeps the Muslim minority in mind when it makes policy no less than the Jewish minority.

3:47 PM

Blogger Le vent fripon said...

Hi LG, hope it doesn't seem like I'm jumping out of the shadows to make overly critical comments, especially since I mostly agree with your views on the war, but I don't think you are really being fair to the poor Brits:

"The reporter could have randomly picked out a British citizen of Pakistani descent for a story on ethnic/racial prejudice. I think she/he didn't because no one would have cared about the plight of a genuine victim of ethnic/racial prejudice"

Someone who was effectively white before, and now has become a minority, has reacted much more extremely to slurs and such (driving around at night) than an immigrant would. This illustrates just how belittling prejudice can be. A Pakistani himself, who hasn't had a chance to be a non-minority in Britain, is much more likely to be simply resigned to his fate, so that, he/she just doesn't fulfill this pedagogic purpose.

An analogous case is that of Tiresias in Greek Mythology. As a woman who had been a man, only he is able to confirm Zeus’s assertion that women have more fun in bed.

4:43 AM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

LG, I have to say I'm with le vent fripon here. If they had interviewed an actual Pakistani, people could just dismiss it as paranoia, or a perception of racism that isn't there. The guy they interviewed gives a much more credible picture of racism since he has, to an extent, seen it from both sides.

And you sure used the word "ominous" a lot here.

11:30 AM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

LG, I still don't think you understand.

Say I wanted to do an expose on racism against black people in America. If I interviewed an actual black person, people can easily dismiss it. They might think it's just a perception of racism, or that it's the way they act that makes other people treat them that way.

If, instead, I hired some Hollywood makeup artist to make me look black, and I went out in the world, I could attest to my own experiences. It's more credible because I've seen what it's like to be white and to be black.

10:50 AM

Blogger Sean said...

Well, I'm fairly sure that LG understands his own statements, Kelly, unless he's very very drunk, and he may be, I don't know him very well, but I doubt it. Not only that, but I seem to understand perfectly well what he was trying to say about the UK news story. I may be very very drunk too, but I'm pretty sure I'm not.

11:25 AM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

I keep saying that I am going to ignore you but you continue to nip at my heels. In fact, the UK has a long history of racism directed at persons of Pakistani descent. Also, there had to be some sort of breeding ground for creating a disaffected youth who would commit such attrocities against civilians of his own country and I submit that it was this racism. And, your killer's claim says "all over the world" and that would include the UK, where the disaffected youth grew up. Moreover, one would expect such a statement to be stated in grandiose terms and his expanding beyond the borders of the UK is just that. But the fact is that UK citizens were killed. Not Americans or Germans or Frenchmen. His anger was directed quite specifically even if his language is stated generally.

In any event, my prediction was correct -- UK citizens were involved. That's pretty good considering most people were talking about Al Quida. I think I get a little credit for that. But that you won't give me.

7:39 PM


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