Tuesday, September 02, 2008

"a decent respect" PART II of III

“Oppress” entered English in about 1320 from the Old French oppresser from the Latin opprimere, meaning “to press against” or “to crush.” (In Late Latin, the same word was used to mean “to rape.”) Our modern understanding of “to oppress” is somewhat different; that is, “to subject to a burdensome or harsh exercise of authority or power.”

To press against. To crush. To subject to a burdensome exercise of power.

At least since 9/11, American citizens who are Muslims and/or of Middle Eastern descent have been objects of an oppression—pressed against, crushed, and subjected to a burdensome exercise of power. If not specifically organized or consciously planned (or admitted to) by American leaders this oppression is nonetheless real.

On August 10, 2006, President Bush stated, “…this nation is at war with Islamic fascists [emphasis added] who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom…” (1). The President was not the first to use that meaningless but highly charged term. For example, then Republican Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said at the National Press Club on July 20, 2006, that, “In World War II we fought Nazism and Japanese imperialism, today we are fighting Islamic fascism. They attacked us on Sept. 11, because we are the greatest obstacle in front of them to their openly declared mission of subjecting the entire world to their fanatical rule” (2).

The term is meaningless—or its meaning is purposefully and appallingly distorted. In the President’s parlance, its use is both linguistically and historically misleading. “Fascist” dates from about 1921 and comes from the Italian phrase partito nazionale facista, the anti-communist political movement begun by Benito Mussolini in Italy. Whatever else the President and the former Senator meant by using the word, they did not mean “anti-communist group.”

They intended to associate Muslims with the horrors of the right-wing socialist parties of the Second World War—and to give that association Presidential and Senatorial authority. Both men would have rushed to assure American citizens who are Muslim they did not intend willy-nilly to include American citizens in the category of Islamic fascists. Or did they?

Four months after 9/11, the President named the Holy Land Foundation, the largest Muslim charitable organization in the United States, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist organization and froze its assets. In July of 2004, the Foundation and its officers were indicted on charges of “providing material support” to an organization on the Treasury Department’s list of “foreign terrorist organizations.” The implied—no, the stated—reasoning was (and is) that the HLF was part of a world-wide web of “Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom.”

And who, besides the officers of the HLF, does this include? The thousands of American citizens who gave money to support the charitable work of the HLF. In the government’s formulation, through implication, through guilt by association, through the most heinous kind of oppression, all American citizens who happen to be Muslims are regarded as dangerously close to being terrorists.

This is not some isolated case. This is not some fluke of the workings of justice. This is not some grand payoff in the efforts of the FBI and the Justice Department to protect us from a group of “terrorists.” This is part of the systematic plan of a cadre of Americans—the cadre that has held power in the current American administration—forcefully to impose the American will as they see it on the rest of the world.

As is well-known, in September of 2000, before President Bush was elected, the Project for a New American Century published a manifesto titled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses Strategy: Forces and Resources For a New Century.” Among the members of the “Project” were:

Paul Wolfowitz, Undersecretary of State under Donald Rumsfeld and one of the principal architects of George W. Bush’s Iraq policy
I. Lewis Libby, Assistant to Vice President Cheney for National Security Affairs from 2001 to 2005, when he was convicted of perjury in the Valerie Plame matter
Robert Kagan, currently a foreign affairs advisor to John McCain, and one of the signers of a 1998 letter to President Clinton urging regime change in Iraq (militarily, if necessary)
William Kristol, the enormously influential conservative theoretician and editor of the Weekly Standard

The manifesto delineates “Four Essential Missions.” The first is:

Homeland Defense. America must defend its homeland. During the Cold War, nuclear deterrence was the key element in homeland defense; it remains essential. But the new century has brought with it new challenges. . . Of all the new and current missions for U.S. armed forces, this [homeland defense] must have priority. (3)

No American citizen, Christian, Buddhist, Jew, Muslim, or any other faith or belief will disagree. The homeland must be defended (it is interesting that, after 9/11, such defense was given over to the new Department of Homeland Security—the plan seems to have been waiting in the wings).

However, the justification for this Homeland Security, as laid out in the introduction to the manifesto, seems to be more than homeland defense. The (perhaps) forceful furtherance of a particular understanding of American interests throughout the world seems to be the salient reason for this “security.”

Today, the United States has an unprecedented strategic opportunity. It faces no immediate great-power challenge; it is blessed with wealthy, powerful and democratic allies in every part of the world… and its political and economic principles are almost universally embraced. At no time in history has the international security order been as conducive to American interests and ideals. (4)


The true cost of not meeting our defense requirements will be a lessened capacity for American global leadership and, ultimately, the loss of a global security order that is uniquely friendly to American principles and prosperity. (5)

The security of American principles and prosperity is the hope of every American citizen. The security of American principles and prosperity at the expense of others, especially at the expense of American citizens, is counter to the very principles we hope to secure. Oppression of American citizens is the essence of destroying our security.

The demeaning of Muslims in general and Arabs in particular by the American government (and all of the power structures of our country) is one of the consequences of our government’s current attitude of expansionism, legitimized by “…extension of its power, [and] the intention to constantly create and recreate discursively new domains of thought that justify certain interventions.” (6)

(1) http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/08/20060810-3.html
(2) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14304397/page/2/ Santorum was defeated in his bid for reelection in 2006
(3) Donnelly, Thomas, Principal Author. "REBUILDING AMERICA’S DEFENSES: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century." A Report of The Project for the New American Century, September 2000. p.5.
(4) Donnelly, iv.
(5) Donnelly, v.
(6) Islam, Saidul. “Muslims in the Capitalist Discourse : September 11 and its Aftermath.” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 25.1 (2005): 3-12. (Saidul Islam is a PhD candidate in Sociology at York University, Canada.)