The War in Context

   Alternative Perspectives on the "War on Terrorism" and the Middle East Conflict
US government recruiting terrorists
Editorial, The War in Context, December 20, 2002

While PR guru and undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, Charlotte Beers, is still working on new ways to win the hearts of Muslims outside America, the Justice Department is recruiting terrorists here in the homeland. This is not some ludicrous conspiracy theory, but rather a description of what appears to be an historical inevitability.

This week, the INS arrested - en masse - Muslims, mostly Iranians, who were dutifully complying with new immigration regulations. Since 9-11, Muslims living in America have had to endure being treated with suspicion - even though George Bush asserts that America is not at war with Islam. Now anyone from the Middle East has ample reason to fear becoming an object of government persecution.

Did John Ashcroft or his officers in the INS really imagine that they had cast out a dragnet that promised to catch terrorists? Were any members of Al-Qaeda already present in the US likely to put their plans on hold while they took time to register at the local office of the immigration service?

What was almost certainly going to be a useless method for nabbing terrorists, may well turn out to be a very effective means for creating them.

There is no terrorist gene, nor any nationality that precludes anyone from becoming a terrorist. But history tells us that there is a very potent cocktail for creating a terrorist.

First make him feel marginalized, an inferior member of society who really belongs some place else. Then deprive him of a voice in the political process or through the popular media. Then take away his legal rights and treat him as guilty before being proven innocent.

This week, as families were ripped apart, as Middle Eastern men lost jobs, businesses, friends and homes, seeds were being planted in just a few minds suggesting that violence might be the only recourse for those facing injustice.

Of course the vast majority of Muslim Americans and Muslim immigrants living in America are law-abiding peaceable people. But the threat of terrorism is and always will be that it only takes a handful of individuals to claim as their right a path of vengeance for a people who have been wronged - irrespective of whether those people invite, condone or support such violence.

While it troubles many Americans to witness their own government's foreign policy galvanizing hostility towards the US in most quarters of the globe, the greatest threat to "homeland security" undoubtedly lies deep inside these borders. Yet through its ham-fisted immigration policy, a government that sees its mission as protecting the safety of Americans is yet again undermining the security that it hopes to defend.

©2002 Paul Woodward