Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Terror and hate

May we have a round of applause, please, for the marvelous job Sara Robinson has done filling in here for the past week and a half? I'm especially taken with her series on "Cracks in the Wall," carries some of the discussion begun here -- identifying the pathology of the discrete conservative movement -- to its next logical step, to wit: How do we confront it effectively?

But I also took special note of her most recent post on racial profiling, particularly since vigilante-style racism driven by such profiling is now apparently in vogue among the right-wing set.

Of course, a "defense" of racial profiling was also ostensibly what Michelle Malkin's fraudulent history of the Japanese American internment was all about, too. As we saw then, holding up the internment episode as an example of racial profiling actually demonstrates, in stark fashion, what a monumental failure it actually is:
[E]ven beyond its transparent unjustness, the damage to the integrity of the Constitution, and the dangerous precedents it set, the internment of the Japanese-Americans was an unfathomable waste. It demonstrably undermined the war effort, and proved not to be worth a penny of the billions of taxpayer dollars it wasted.

In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars the actual enterprise itself cost -- rounding up 120,000 people by rail car and shipping them first to “assembly centers”; building ten “relocation centers” in remote locales, and then shipping the evacuees into them; maintaining and administering the centers for another three years, which included overseeing programs to help internees find work outside the camps; feeding the entire population of internees during this time; and then helping them to relocate near their former homes once the camps closed -- there were millions more in initial reparations costs, and then hundreds of millions more in the later reparations approved by Congress in the 1980s

At the same time, the Japanese population on the Pacific Coast actually was responsible for the production of nearly half of all the fresh produce that was grown for consumption on the Coast (the Japanese also shipped out a great deal of produce to the Midwest and East). Indeed, Nikkei farms held virtual monopolies in a number of crops, including peas, green beans and strawberries, and a nearly 80 percent of the lettuce market.

When these farmers were rounded up and interned, a handful of enterprising whites decided to try running their farms with the hope of making a killing from the crops. But labor was so short that not one of these enterprises lasted beyond about five weeks, and none of them had a successful harvest. Nearly all of these farms lay fallow for the next four years. This major loss of production of fresh vegetables clearly harmed the national war effort, and played an important role in triggering the rationing that came during the war years.

When you look at the actual historical results of racial profiling, the conclusion by Canadian security officials that racial profiling is "fundamentally stupid" is really inescapable.

This is especially the case when you consider the chief strike against it, even beyond its sheer inefficacy: As a method of weeding out terrorists, it creates automatic blind spots that create more opportunities for terrorists to succeed. Once ethnic profiling is instituted, it becomes a much easier matter for terrorists to game the system. Not only is it grotesquely ineffective, it actually increases our vulnerability.

Terrorists -- the successful ones, anyway -- are smart. Once authorities begin profiling as a means of assessing security threats, they will respond by producing operatives who do not fit the profile. If Arabs and Muslims are the profile target, it is a relatively simple matter for them to identify, recruit, and employ operatives who are neither Arab nor Muslim.

When it comes to recognizing this aspect of the problem, most of the attention (particularly from the Malkin/LGF side of the blogosphere) has been on "white Muslims," whose presence in Al Qaeda cells has been recognized for some time. Somehow, it fails to cross their consciousnesses that their existence militates against racial profiling.

More to the point, there's another potential source of operatives who do not fit the profile: white supremacists.

After all, various neo-Nazis have at various times proclaimed their affinity with, and admiration for, the 9/11 terror attacks. They have also expressed at other times a wish to form alliances with Muslim terrorists, because their ends are so similar. Those coalitions have never, as far as we know, actually been formed, but racial profiling could provide Islamic radicals with even more incentive to do so.

Consider, for instance, the way that certain factions of white supremacists have been making overtures to Muslim radicals, most recently in Canada, as described in a Macleans piece by Nancy MacDonald:
Ontario MPP Kathleen Wynne's invitation to speak at the conference "Christians-Muslims Relationships in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective" came from a constituent she knew well. The event, hosted by the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, sounded promising. "I'm very interested in interfaith dialogue, between Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jews, all of us," says Wynne. She agreed to participate. Official invitations were sent out, with Wynne's name as well as that of keynote speaker William Baker. Then Wynne got a call tipping her off about Baker. He had written the anti-Israel book Theft of a Nation, and once chaired the U.S. Populist Party, which nominated former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke as its candidate in the 1988 presidential race. An occasional lecturer at the Crystal Cathedral -- the California mega-church from which televangelist Robert Schuller broadcasts the Hour of Power -- Baker resigned in 2002 after his neo-Nazi ties were publicized.

Wynne acted quickly. She refused to share the stage with Baker. He was dropped from the conference, to be held on July 16. Another Toronto event at which Baker was to speak this month -- the 18th Annual Islamic Dawah Conference -- appeared to follow suit.

Baker has been stepping up his visibility on the Muslim speaking circuit, and it's classic right-wing fearmongering, complete with anti-Semitic conspiracies:
In Toronto, Tarek Fatah, communications director for the Muslim Canadian Congress, was first to sound the alarm about Baker within his community. Fatah had heard Baker speak at a U.S. mosque and was "appalled." "It was the whole notion that there's a conspiracy against Muslims, and Muslims should face up," he says. He counts Baker among the pretenders who "act as though they're friends of the Muslim community, but come from the Christian right and use the community to propagate their own point of view."

I recently picked up a copy of George Michael's The Enemy of My Enemy: The Alarming Convergence of Militant Islam and the Extreme Right, in no small part because the possibility of this convergence has always underscored my ongoing thesis regarding the nature of terrorism, both domestic and international, as arising from nearly identical wellsprings (namely, extreme alienation from modern society).

Michael's book is provocative, but when all is said and done, it's abundantly clear that the convergence described in the title is mostly, to date, a potentiality and not a reality -- and I think Michael would agree with this assessment. There is a thorough analysis of David Duke's international recruitment work, particularly in the Muslim world. But so far there is little if any evidence of any operational convergence between far-right terrorists and Islamist radicals.

MacDonald interviewed Michael for the Macleans piece, and what he said was noteworthy:
In any case, George Michael, a professor with the University of Virginia's College at Wise who studies the convergence of militant Islam and the extreme right, sees greater cause for alarm elsewhere. Revisionist history has found an outlet in parts of the Middle East -- as have Klan proselytizers like Duke, who in 2002 presented a lecture in Bahrain on "Israeli Involvement in September 11." President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has called the Holocaust "a myth." So has Muhammad Mehdi Akef, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. In March, Syrian President Bashar Assad told PBS, "If you ask many people in the region, they would say the West exaggerated the Holocaust."

Still, rhetoric aside, there's little to indicate any real operational alliances, says Mark Potok, intelligence director for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama, a watchdog that monitors organized hate. "When all is said and done, for American neo-Nazis, Muslims are, quote, 'mud people.' It's hard to get beyond that." At the end of the day, the enemy of my enemy is still my enemy. "Last night," says Kreis, "I spent two hours talking to a Palestinian, out of Canada, and yes, I'd invite him into my home." He pauses, then adds: "As long as he doesn't try to marry my daughter."

The possibility that Al Qaeda cells in Canada were recruiting white operatives in Canada arose during the recent spate of terror arrests there. White supremacists offer a special advantage: they can blend in, and they can be used somewhat disposably.

It's also worth remembering that there's a historical precedent for this: In the early 1940s, during the runup to the outbreak of war, Japan's diplomatic offices became centers of espionage activity, coordinating intelligence gathering and helping build a stateside network of spies. Many of these were Japanese nationals operating under diplomatic cover; but they also actively recruited a network of domestic spies.

This recruitment plan was uncovered in the so-called "MAGIC" decrypts -- diplomatic cables intercepted and decoded by American intelligence agencies -- which are often touted by revisionists like Malkin, rather groundlessly, as evidence of the propriety of the decision to evacuate and incarcerate Japanese Americans from the Pacific Coast.

One of the "MAGIC" decrypts often cited by these revisionists actually prioritizes the recruitment effort by the Japanese agencies involved in a telling fashion: Highest on its list are African Americans; next come white supremacists, particularly William Dudley Pelley's Silvershirts. At the bottom of the list are Japanese Americans, who were in fact widely mistrusted as "traitors" by the militarists in Tokyo.

Pelley's white supremacists, in fact, had a special relationship with Tokyo. According to Tetsuden Kashima, in his definitive text Judgment without Trial: Japanese American Imprisonment during World War II, other "MAGIC" decrypts revealed even more extensive activity:
A few of these messages dealt with intelligence agents. Few Japanese names are mentioned: one is "Iwasaki," who "had been in touch with William Dudley Pelley, leader of the Silver Shirts, a fascist organization in the United States." Iwasaki was apparently an agent sent by Japan who returned home prior to December 7; he was not a permanent resident Issei.

Pelley and the Silvershirts, as I've explored in a broader context, represent a long historical strain in the fabric of the American right, particularly in their melding of religious fervor and racial hatredunder the rubric of politics, one that remains very much with us today.

The reality is, of course, that far-right extremists have always been, at heart, profoundly anti-American and deliberately opposed to democracy and equality -- genuinely traitors in our midst. It was true during World War II, and it remains true now.

Any kind of profiling that ignores their presence is innately useless.

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