Jewish World Review June 12, 2002 / 2 Tamuz, 5762
But their rage should be directed at the 19 young Middle Eastern, Muslim men who killed 3,000 innocent Americans, and those Middle Eastern Muslims who in any way whatsoever continue to back or support such terrorist atrocities against the United States. These men have no right to be angry at law-abiding Americans, including of course so many of Arab descent, who simply do not want their planes blown up.
America is not at war against terrorism. We are at war against Middle Eastern terrorism. We certainly don't like terrorist groups like the Irish Republican Army or Aum Shinrikyo in Japan, but we have no national security beef with them. It's not Chilean school teachers who have said their goal is to kill as many Americans as possible by infiltrating our country, our communities, our very neighborhoods. It is certain young, Middle Eastern, Muslim men.
Which means that for a time young, Middle Eastern, Muslim men in the United States, most particularly those who are not American citizens, may well be looked at suspiciously. To suggest that a ballet dancer from Cleveland be given the same airport security screening as a male university student from Syria isn't just politically correct. It's utterly reckless and irresponsible.
To go along with the "don't dare ethnically profile" dictum of Transportation Secretary Mineta is a total abrogation of an airline's responsibility to its passengers. (While in some cases the airlines may be looking at Middle Eastern men more closely, it's just as clear that many screening personnel are overtly avoiding scrutinizing such men for fear of charges of racial profiling.)
On the other hand just this week the administration announced it will require high risk "visitors" from certain Middle Eastern countries like Iran, Iraq and Syria to be fingerprinted and, if they plan to stay here more than 30 days, to register with our government. Once again there is the usual gnashing of teeth and ridiculous chorus of "if we trample on civil rights they win" outrage.
What I wonder is - why the heck are we letting "high risk" people from countries which sponsor terrorism in here at all?
Anyway, in the course of all this, is America really in danger of fundamentally curtailing civil rights, and over the long term? Not at all. Civil War historian Jay Winik explains that many times in American history presidents, right or wrong, have dramatically curtailed civil liberties - and it was always temporary.
For example there was John Adams, our second president, and his Alien and Sedition acts which during a growing fear of war with France allowed the government to expel any foreigner (never actually invoked) and to essentially quell dissent. There was Lincoln, who suspended writs of habeas corpus and other fundamental constitutional guarantees, and sent troops to keep the state legislators of Maryland from voting to secede from the Union.
During World War I Congress gave the postmaster general the power to keep anti-war material from going through the mail, and the Sabotage and Sedition acts allowed the federal government to punish any expression of opinion "disloyal, profane, scurrilous or abusive." But that was nothing compared to World War II and the terrible internment of Japanese-American citizens (which was not controversial until a generation later) along with other draconian curbs on civil liberties.
As outrageous or downright unconstitutional as many of these moves clearly appear in retrospect, Adams, Lincoln, Wilson and Roosevelt are considered heroes in our pantheon of defenders of freedom and, more important, in each case when the threat had passed the liberties were restored.
Some 750 million passengers fly on U.S. airlines every year. And yet
the activists at the anti-discrimination committee report a grand
total of some 60 formal complaints of discrimination by airlines
against Middle Easterners since Sept. 11. Yes there are surely other
grievances as well. Still the real story here, unparalleled anywhere
else in the world, isn't a few cases of so-called racial profiling. It's
that in the face of arguably the most serious domestic security
threat the United States has ever faced, America has been so
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