Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Racial Profiling Encouraged--Another Bush & Co Outrage

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."- George Orwell, 1945

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness ... Declaration of Independence as originally written by Thomas Jefferson, 1776.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame, "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she with silent lips.
"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Those are the words written on the Statue of Liberty. The racial profiling taken place in this nation since Bush/Cheney & Co have occupied the seat of power, has rendered those words meaningless. Now, today, those that are not “white” are looked upon as objects of hate. Actually, that has always existed in this country but now has been elevated to entirely new levels. In this country “…all men are created equal…” should read, “…all men are created equal but some are created more equal than others, especially if they are white…” Welcome to America and the New World Order as articulated by Bush/Cheney & Co. After reading the below article “Profiles Encouraged,” read this by Anwaar Hussain, “
The Menezes Syndrome” as it deals with the very same topic.--Jack

Profiles Encouraged
It's once again "bold" for conservatives to call for racial profiling. But it doesn't take much to realize how impossible -- and pointless -- that really is.
Matthew Yglesias
Web Exclusive: 08.02.05

Every once in a long while, there comes along a brave white person -- employed by other white persons, writing primarily for an audience of white people, in a country dominated by white people -- with the courage to demand that national policy be shifted in a manner more favorable to the interests of white people. To wit, The Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer who last Friday took a bold stance in favor of racial profiling for terrorism: We could start with a little age pruning -- no one under, say, 13, and no one over, say, 60. Then we could exempt whole ethnic populations, a list that could immediately start with Hispanics, Scandinavians, and East Asians.

The goal, of course, is to better focus our attention on "young Muslim men of North African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian origin." As is often the case with conservative punditry, the thing that leaps out immediately is the ignorance on display and the impracticality of the suggestion. Here is a photo of some Iranians. The women are helpfully wearing traditional Iranian attire, and the boy has an Iranian flag painted on his cheek. But ignore that and they look like, well, white people. These gentlemen are from Kyrgyzstan and look like East Asians to me. One of my best friends is of Mexican ancestry but lives in a neighborhood with a large population of South Asian descendents; he tells me that South Asians themselves often mistake him for one of his own. My neighborhood contains a lot of immigrants from East Africa, many of whom, if clothing is any indication, are Muslims. Absent the distinctive garb, a highly trained professional could, perhaps, tell them apart from America's native-born black population, primarily descended from West Africa, but I certainly can't.

We're left, then, with the possibility that we could, perhaps, exempt blond-haired people from heightened scrutiny. On the other hand, my hair was blond for a while, and dyes are widely available in America's drug stores and hair salons, so we'd have to have the nation's bag checkers peering close to the scalp for any sign of the telltale brown roots that might give a potential terrorist away.

More realistically, we could dump the whole idea as un-American and unlikely to do any good. Someone probably knows how to tell a Chechen from an Armenian, or a Malaysian from a Thai on sight, but it sure isn't me, and it almost certainly isn't your local cop, either. And if you can't see why the idea of law-enforcement personnel spending their times consulting old phrenology texts to pick up on the fine-grained differences, you must be brain-dead. Leaving 8-year-olds out of strip searches is probably a good idea, but in my experience, airport security personnel, at a minimum, do this to anyone.

But Krauthammer's idea was hardly meant seriously. It doesn't withstand even cursory scrutiny. This was just a little twitting of liberal sensibilities, the old right-wing game of épater les intellectuels designed to position conservatism on the side of common sense and basic decency, not a real effort to debate anyone or change minds. Seen in that light, David Gelertner's Los Angeles Times effort on the same day on the same topic was by far the greater success for including the outlandish contention that "you might argue that dark-skinned people are a special case, given the way the United States has treated them. I agree -- we have treated them so solicitously, and worked so hard to suppress racial prejudice, that dark-skinned people owe their country the benefit of the doubt." I'm shocked – shocked -- that Republicans have a hard time getting black people to vote for them.

Thursday's New York Times contained yet another piece of profiling advocacy, and I'd be very curious to know who sent the memo around suggesting that conservative columnists start raising the issue. The ostensible pretext for all this is the recent subway bombings in London. If anything, though, those attacks should lead us to the reverse conclusion. For one thing, the British police wound up shooting and killing an innocent Brazilian man, apparently because he fit the "brownish" profile. More to the point, while the deaths in England were tragic, like all innocent loss of life, it should be obvious that murder on this scale is not a serious threat to the security of stable, prosperous, wealthy, powerful nations. The only way pinpricks of this sort could undermine the American way of life would be for us to freak out and adopt security measures that do more harm than good, either by dissuading people from using transportation facilities or by violating the basic principles of equality by which our nation is governed.

The truth of the matter is that security-wise, conventional terrorism is a red herring. This the Bush administration, rhetoric to the contrary, agrees with, and in its official National Security Strategy, lumps terrorism with "international fora" and "judicial processes" as "weapons of the weak" used to challenge "our strength as a nation state." To the right, in other words, the real threats come from rogue states that might use terrorism as one of several tools to diminish our freedom of action. The solution, of course, is regime change. The trouble is that there is a real threat from terrorist groups -- the threat that they will detonate a nuclear bomb in one of our cities. The trouble, as Drake Bennett argued two years ago in the Prospect and as Peter Scoblic reiterates in this week's New Republic, is that the emphasis on regime change is radically counterproductive to meeting the challenge of nuclear terrorism.

This would be a debate worth having. Should the country be more worried that a terrorist will destroy lower Manhattan with a nuclear bomb, or should we be more worried that judicial processes will make it harder for us to invade Syria? The former seems right to me, and I think the American people would agree were it put to them squarely. So instead, the right prefers a debate about a fantasy version of racial profiling, where clairvoyant cops play "spot the Muslim." And if the worst does happen, Krauthammer et al. will no doubt fault law enforcement's insufficient attention rather than their own radically misguided policy agenda. After all, if George W. Bush has taught us anything, it's that being a neocon means never having to admit a mistake.

Matthew Yglesias is a Prospect staff writer. Copyright © 2005 by The American Prospect, Inc. Preferred Citation: Matthew Yglesias, "Profiles Encouraged", The American Prospect Online, Aug 2, 2005.


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