Friday, December 16, 2005

American War on Terrorism more a war on minorities and others

When fear rather than common sense drive policies
(C) Arab American Media Services
All Rights Reserved, 12-16-05
By Ray Hanania

I had no hesitation to follow in the footsteps of my father, George, and his brother, Moses.
Dad served in the 5th Army and Uncle Moses served in the Navy, both for more than four years during World War II. I have a brother who served in the Marines, and when my draft number was up for service during the Vietnam War, even though I opposed the war itself, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in early 1973.

I spent two years at an F-111 base. The jet fighter was one of the best instruments of terrorism I have seen. It could fly low, and destroy entire Vietnamese villages without ever jeopardizing the pilot. Thousands of civilians were among the casualties as America fought to impose its view of the world order on Southeast Asia.

But hey, my job was to serve and I did. I didn’t have to like the war and my assignment made it easy to accept the assignment, working in the medical clinic. Military service in your adopted country of choice was essential and I didn’t shy away.

There were only two other Arabs serving with me in the unit. The "Asi" brothers. Twins who enlisted and served with me. My two best friends were Jewish, Mitchell from Los Angeles and Michael from New York.

My first year, I wrote a book called "The Palestine Irredentist," about you know what. The Arab-Israeli conflict. More than 500 pages trying to assert define the "moderate" position, a calling I have followed my whole life.

When the October 1973, the base commander called in the Asi brothers and myself, one at a time and asked us if we would have "problems" if the base fighter jets were sent to defend Israel.

I remember my answer was that I did not nit pick about events. I believed the Palestinians had rights and that both sides should compromise.

My base commander accepted my response and even read my manuscript. He suggested I send out to get published. Arnaud de Borchgrave, the Newsweek Middle East correspondent read it and loved it. And so did Palestinian civil rights champion Ibrahim Abu-Lughod.

Abu-Lughod loved it so much that when the Vietnam war came to an ugly end in 1975, he invited me to serve as a spokesman of the Arab American Congress for Palestine.

The Air Force allowed me to trade in my two remaining years of service for four years of service in the Illinois Air National Guard, where I served nearly a decade more.

It wasn’t until years later that I discovered the ugly truth, that the New York publishing establishment was so anti-Arab and hateful that getting a balanced book about the conflict published was near impossible.

I was proud, though, that I had served and so many others had not.

Yet, the day I left military service, because I was "Arab," the U.S. Government assigned several FBI agents who followed me around for more than two years, investigating the assertion that I was a "terrorist."

It was amazing to me that having served two years in active duty and while still in the National Guard, the FBI would waste so much money.

I had a security clearance in the service. What was it that made them think I was a terrorist?

They targeted anyone who was "Arab," or who expressed a view critical of American foreign policy. They wasted hundreds of millions of dollars in resources on needless investigations that were unjustified and that led nowhere. They did nothing to make this a safer country.

And course, in the past 30 years, little has changed.

President Bush has authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on thousands of Americans – on as many as 500 people at any given time – in his so-far unsuccessful "War on Terrorism."

I am sure they are wasting their time listening to me and monitoring my comings, goings, writings and private conversations.

The point is, with no real evidence to suggest someone is engaged in terrorism, why waste your time and money? It’s like buying a lottery ticket. The real way to earn money is to work hard and diligently and with professionalism. The real way to identify the terrorists is through professional criminal investigations based on evidence.

Not based on ethnicity, religion or even political views.

Of course, that would mean admitting that this country’s actions are failures and that we lost more than 2,100 American soldiers for absolutely nothing.

Politically, that is not what America is about to do. So, President Bush and his government would prefer to just pretend they are doing a good job of fighting the terrorists.

Better that, than to admit failure, I guess.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American journalist and author. He can be reached at

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Al-Arian acquittal an indictment of failed US War on Terrorism

al-Arian vindication an indictment of U.S. Government
Dec. 07, 2005
By Ray Hanania

Anyone who knew Ghassan Ballut and Hatem Fariz knew they could not be the terrorist the Justice Department made them out to be.

I knew both men, two of four co-defendants in a trial touted as a showcase of the Bush Administration’s "War on Terrorism" but that most Arab Americans have known is a sham. Their co-defendants are Sameeh Hammouda and Sami al-Arian.

The acquittal of the "Tampa Four" on all 51 indictments this week proves that you can’t take twist international causes that are unrelated to the War against al-Qaeda and turn them into proof of terrorist activity.

Ballut and Fariz were members of the National Arab American Journalists Association which I helped found back in the late 1990s. We had more than 145 members across the United States.

Palestinian Muslims, Ballut and Fariz were based here in Chicago. And they wore their politics on their shoulders, but in a respectful manner.

Both writers were "Islamicists" in the positive sense. They believed strongly in their Islamic faith and they also believed just as strongly that Israel was guilty injustices against the Palestinian people.

They often spoke harshly of Israel, maybe more harshly than myself and others, but they never at any time denounced, criticized or spoke in threatening ways against the United States, their adopted country.

And that is where the Justice Department continues to go wrong. Desperate to prove they are effectively fighting the War on Terrorism, President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft have charged anyone who is Arab and has sad harsh words about anything.

But the conflict against Israel and the attacks of Sept. 11 are not related, just as the War in Iraq has more to do with oil and Bush family vengeance than with protecting this nation from another terrorist assault.

Too many innocent people who have spoken out against Israel are either in jail or are being charged unfairly like Ballut and Fariz. That's not to say there isn't terrorism against Israel or that suicide bombings are justified. Suicide bombings are immoral and wrong. But criticizing Israel is not the same as supporting international terrorism.

There is Mohammad Salah also in Chicago. Salah was arrested in Israel in 1992 and charged with supporting Hamas. He was forced to sign under torture a confession in Hebrew, a language he does not speak or read. He served five years in an Israeli jail where he claims the torture continued and he was released by Israel in 1997.

Salah and his attorneys were about to conclude a deal that would allow him, his wife and three children to live the rest of their lives here in peace when Sept. 11 happened. Ashcroft immediately turned to Salah as the "poster boy" of his misguided "War on Terrorism."

In the past four years, the U.S. Government has harassed, intimidated and persecuted Salah. The family lives in the basement of a small apartment, barely able to make ends meet. All of their possessions and money confiscated. Friends who want to help have been threatened with imprisonment, too, for contributing to the defense of an alleged terrorist.

Like Ballut and Fariz, Salah often spoke harshly against Israel. But he never said a bad word against the United States, the American people nor did he ever say anything that would suggest he supported violence.

I do not know al-Arian, though I have read some of his public quotes that have earned him a nickname as a firebrand Islamicists. Nor do I know Hammoudeh. But I do know Ballut and Fariz. I was included on the defense witness list, prepared to testify on their behalf during the trial if called but was never called.

Clearly, Americans should be concerned by this jury verdict. Concerned not that four suspected terrorists are now free and may pursue further acts of violence.

No. We should be concerned that our government is ineffectively fighting the "War on Terrorism."

We should be concerned that all the Bush administration lies, the distortions, the arrests of the innocent, the weakening of our Constitutional Rights under the Patriot Act and the atmosphere of profiling have made this country more vulnerable to terrorist attack.

These politically motivated prosecutions intended to veil the Bush Administrations failure to fight the real "War on Terrorism" are making this country less and less safe.

While we focus on the wrong front, the real terrorists like Osama Bin Laden remain at large plotting, planning and waiting for the moment to strike again.

The acquittal of the "Tampa Four" sends a loud and clear message that we need to change how we define the "War on Terrorism" and re-examine what this country is really doing.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian journalist and author. He can be reached at