Friday, March 07, 2003

The hounds of hate

Bush is apparently letting loose the dogs of the extremist right in a test run of sorts, threatening to target Mexicans if they don't toe the line in the U.N. Security Council. From Paul Krugman at the New York Times:

Let Them Hate as Long as They Fear
Last week The Economist quoted an American diplomat who warned that if Mexico didn't vote for a U.S. resolution it could "stir up feelings" against Mexicans in the United States. He compared the situation to that of Japanese-Americans who were interned after 1941, and wondered whether Mexico "wants to stir the fires of jingoism during a war."

Incredible stuff, but easy to dismiss as long as the diplomat was unidentified. Then came President Bush's Monday interview with Copley News Service. He alluded to the possibility of reprisals if Mexico didn't vote America's way, saying, "I don't expect there to be significant retribution from the government" — emphasizing the word "government." He then went on to suggest that there might, however, be a reaction from other quarters, citing "an interesting phenomena taking place here in America about the French . . . a backlash against the French, not stirred up by anybody except the people."

Krugman mostly analyzes this kind of talk in the context of international diplomacy, which of course is worth observing. But there's another important context as well: The way it again represents a gesture toward the extremist right.

I've been reporting irregularly on the phenomenon of the militia patrols on the U.S.-Mexico border (in fact, a news item about this was the very first post on this blog). A couple of weeks ago, Newsday filed a deeper report (no longer free on the Web) that explored just how volatile the situation is growing because of these extremists, in this case an Arizona militiaman named Chris Simcox, who's been organizing militia "border patrols":
It's just such [denigrating] terms [used by townspeople about Simcox] that worry people like Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, who says they are indicators of dangerous fanaticism. "I think he's a lunatic. At the same time, I think he's pouring more gasoline into a dangerous fire," said Potok, echoing human rights groups' worries that militia members will get carried away and start gunning down migrants in the desert, if they haven't already.

While no militia groups have been accused of crimes against migrants, over the past few years several migrants have been found dead for unexplained reasons and others are known to have been murdered. No arrests have been made. The U.S. Border Patrol says Mexican drug dealers and human smugglers are to blame. Human rights groups say the militias should be investigated for possible crimes against migrants.

"They're like little boys playing cowboys and Indians," said Burt Devere, a sixth-generation Tombstone native whose ranch is in the footpath of illegals heading for the highway out of town. Devere rejects Simcox's claims that illegal migrants are burgling homes, damaging property and freeing livestock by cutting barbed-wire fences as they cross private land. "We know it's not the Mexicans, but the Mexicans get blamed for it because they're not here to defend themselves."

Devere and his wife, Dorothy, say the real problem is Border Patrol agents and "local yokels" who rampage through private property in all-terrain vehicles, bust down fences, let livestock loose onto highways and use water towers for target practice. "Migrants have always come through here. If we didn't have them, who'd do the menial labor the Americans won't do?" said Devere, who cordially waves at the migrants he sees crossing his land.

Simcox, though, says most people support his idea of using tanks and soldiers to close the U.S.-Mexico border. They're simply scared to admit it, said Simcox, who claims to have had eight death threats as a result of his activities and who frequently wears a bulletproof vest under his shirt.

Bush's clear signal of approval for this kind of vigilante activity -- and especially his suggestion that the government can't control it or do anything about it -- is one of the most chilling gestures he's made in his tenure.

This kind of talk not only signals the border militiamen, it also sends a thumbs-up to the broader anti-immigrant agitators, particularly those like Michael Savage who are agitating for deporting all Muslim immigrants.

And just as important, it likewise sends a signal to the broader corps of Freeper/Patriots who are waiting in the wings to silence antiwar opponents -- winking and nudging at them, again, that thuggery in defense of the president's agenda may be an acceptable thing. And that, of course, has been an important subtopic of the fascism series -- one that I'll be exploring further very soon.

[Thanks to Daily Kos for the heads-up.]

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