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

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