After "them" comes us


I went to my brother’s house in Connecticut today. His 2-1/2-year-old granddaughter was running around minimally clothed. The temperature was in the upper 60s. One of his trees is starting to bud.

So, I cannot blame the weather for the chill I felt watching the first story on “60 Minutes” tonight. It was about what has been happening to some Arab Americans and what some government officials think about it. It was the latter I found most chilling.

On the basis of the identities of the 19 hijackers who died in the crashes on September 11, those officials think it is okay to single out Arab Americans for special investigative treatment. According to one, they may live in America, but their hearts are in the Middle East. Isn’t that akin to what was said to justify putting Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II?

It certainly appears to be true that all 19 of the September 11 terrorists were Arab — not Arab American, just Arab. It is also true that all 19 of them are dead.

The FBI’s Ten Most-Wanted List has just one Arab on it, Osama (they use “Usama”) bin Laden. It also has one Jamaican and one Mexican. The other seven are all American, one of them black and the others white. The list (appropriately, I think) has no information about religion, but not one of the names, other than Usama bin Laden’s, sounds remotely Arab or Muslim.

Judge for yourself. These are, as of 10 pm Eastern time on November 25, the ten people the FBI would most like to apprehend (in alphabetical order): Ramon Eduardo Arellano-Felix, Usama Bin Laden, Hopeton Eric Brown, James J. Bulger, Victor Manuel Gerena, Glen Stewart Godwin, Eric Robert Rudolph, Felix Summers, Clayton Lee Waagner, and Donald Eugene Webb. Based on that list, there is absolutely no justification to single-out Arab Americans for any special scrutiny.

The Rewards for Justice Program of the Diplomatic Security Service of the Department of State is the one offering $25 million for information leading to the capture of Osama bin Laden. They offer large rewards for many known individual suspects and some unknown.

The longest campaign of terrorism on their list is in the unknown-names category. It spans 22 years, and it all took place in Greece (against Americans). They offer no reason to suspect that any Arabs were involved.

In the known-suspects category, the nationality with the most names (13) is Rwandan. There are also two Serbs, two Kenyans, one Comoros Islander, one Tanzanian, one Japanese, and one American. And, yes, there are seven Egyptians, four Saudis, three Lebanese, one Libyan, and one Kuwaiti. I’ll do the math for you. There are 16 Arabs on the State Department’s “Rewards for Justice Program” list and 21 non-Arabs.

The third story on “60 Minutes” tonight related to Cuba. The gist was that Cuban-American hearts really are in Cuba, at least to the extent that money sent to Cuban family members by Cuban Americans turns out to be the Cuban government’s second-largest source of income. Even anti-Castro, pro-embargo Cuban Americans send money to Cuba that ends up supporting Cuba’s government.

According to the State Department, “Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, North Korea, Cuba, and Sudan remain the seven governments that the US Secretary of State has designated as state sponsors of international terrorism.” So, will we single out Cuban Americans for special treatment, detaining them and questioning them to help us attack international terrorism?

Timothy McVeigh was raised a Catholic. Did we round up Catholics for questioning after the Oklahoma City bombing?

As of November 3, we had detained 1147 people in connection with the September 11 attacks. I don’t know how many are currently detained because the government stopped releasing that information as of November 3.

What little information we have comes, in some cases, from those who have been released. Today’s New York Times mentions Ali al-Maqtari, married to a National Guard member who enlisted in the Army but was urged to take an honorable discharge after her husband was arrested. Two months after being jailed, he was told, “You’re free to go.”

In the story, reporter Jodi Wilgoren writes about another freed person who faced no charges. “An Egyptian antiques dealer from Arkansas named Hady Hassan Omar made plane reservations on a Kinko’s computer around the same time one of the hijackers did so at the same place; he spent two months in jail before being released on Friday.”

Then there was Nacer Fathi Mustafa, born in the U.S.A. He had an arrest record. Perhaps as a result, he was jailed for more than two months before being released uncharged.

Others in the story DID face charges, always related to immigration-law violations. But their violations involved some form of working while here on a visa that prohibits employment. Yes, it’s against the law. So is not declaring gifts and prizes on your income taxes. So is driving even one mile per hour over the speed limit.

According to Randall Hamud, a lawyer representing three of the detainees (one released), “People don’t want to step forward to help with bail. They’re afraid if they give money, they’ll be put on an F.B.I. hit list.”

Wilgoren’s story says, “The F.B.I. has so far denied a Freedom of Information Act request filed by a coalition of 21 Arab-American and human rights groups demanding a list of who is jailed, where and why. Earlier this month, six members of Congress made a similar request.” The information is reportedly not being released because cases have been “sealed.”

It’s possible that some of the detainees might actually have something to do with the September 11 attacks. “But,” according to Wilgoren, “a senior law enforcement official said for the first time last week that just 10 to 15 of the detainees are suspected as Al Qaeda sympathizers, and that the government has yet to find evidence indicating that any of them had knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks or acted as accomplices.”

Zacarias Moussaoui, a citizen of France, was arrested on August 17 in Minneapolis. Reportedly, he wanted to learn how to fly jets. The Times says “senior Bush administration officials” are considering trying him in a military tribunal instead of a civilian court. According to the story, no charges have been filed.

The State Department says one of the reasons Cuba is considered a sponsor of international terrorism is that “A number of Basque ETA terrorists who gained sanctuary in Cuba some years ago continued to live on the island….” ETA terrorism continues in Spain to this day. The country is well acquainted with terrorism and has made stopping it a priority.

Spain has arrested eight people it says were involved with the September 11 attacks. We have not yet asked for them to be extradited, but Spain has already informed us that they won’t — not unless we agree to try them in a civilian court and not a military tribunal.

What’s wrong with a military tribunal? According to Spain, among other things, it is the inability of the suspects to select their lawyers, evidence being kept secret even from the defense, the secrecy of the whole proceedings, and the potential bias of the officers involved, who are, after all, subject to orders from (and review by) their superiors. A European Union official said the United Kingdom and Ireland would also have a problem with the admissibility of hearsay evidence in such tribunals.

Horrible terrorist attacks occurred on September 11. I don’t fear their repetition. I DO fear what we have done since and what we have threatened to do in the future.

TTFN, Mark