Fear and Loathing In D.C.

11 Mar

Yesterday, Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the House of Representatives and IRA Sympathizer Rep. Peter King (R, NY-3) held a Congressional hearing entitled “Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response”.

As the hearings began, Rep. King defended his decision to hold the hearings saying that the threat of neo-Nazis and lone mad men don’t compare to the threat which Al-Qaeda poses to American citizens. “Despite what passes for conventional wisdom in certain circles, there is nothing radical or un-American in holding these hearings,” he said.

During an interview on Wednesday, King said, “It makes no sense to talk about other types of extremism, when the main threat to the United States today is talking about Al-Qaeda,”

However, Rep. King could not be more wrong.  This was not a hearing about “homeland security”, it was a fear-based witch hunt targeting American Muslims.  There is also significant evidence to the contrary as to Rep. King’s claim that there is no greater threat to our security than Muslims.

As a January 2011 terrorism statistics report — compiled using publicly available data from the FBI and other crime agencies — from the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) shows, terrorism by Muslim Americans has only accounted for a minority of terror plots since 9/11.

In fact, right-wing extremist and white supremacist attacks plots alone outnumber plots by Muslims, with both groups being involved in 63 terror plots, 18 more plots than Muslim Americans have been involved in.

I look forward to Rep. King’s investigation into right wing extremist activities in America.

Additionally, King’s hearings come at a time when Muslim American terrorism and involvement in extremism has actually plummeted in the past couple years, according to a Duke University study put out last month. Moreover, nearly 4 in 10 Al-Qaida related plots in the United States have been broken up thanks to intelligence provided by the Muslim community themselves and 70 percent of recent terror plots in the United States have been foiled by help from Muslim Americans.

Tending the flames of Islamophobia in this country is a full time job and King was certainly glad to throw logs on the fire.  This hearing served one purpose and one purpose only, to define and conflate the Islamic American community as a perpetual enemy and to identify them as a group of “others” who need to be watched and “surveilled” while providing another election bogeyman for the Republican Party.

Yesterday’s hearing was a shameful display of Congressional power and a reminder of Sen. Joe McCarthy’s HUAC hearings in the 1950’s.  Just as McCarthy’s “Un-American Activities” language presupposed guilt for those brought forward to testify, the title of this event presupposed radicalization of an entire community of Americans.

Rep. John Dingell, (D, MI-15) spoke at the hearing to remind Rep. King that he once witnessed Sen. McCarthy’s hearings and warned against allowing history to repeat itself.


Rep Brian Higgins (D, NY-27) is a member of the Homeland Security Committee and was present at today’s hearing and I looked forward to his thoughtful take on the hearings.  Throughout the day, I checked his website, Twitter Feed and Facebook page for statements about today’s hearings and all I found was the following:

While I’m glad that Rep. Higgins is concerned with gas prices, visa waivers for Polish people, and something about ice skating, I was looking for some sort of feedback on what was a pretty important news story.  Proving that social media does actually work when a Congressman has a responsive staff, I quickly received a prompt and courteous reply to my requests for comment from Rep. Higgins’ Communications Director.

She provided me with his statement from Committee today which was not available online.

In the aftermath of 9/11, we were all taught that we are not at war as a nation with Islam, we were at war with those who hijacked that religion and used it to justify their murderous and cowardly acts.

From that a lot of relationships were developed between the law enforcement community, local, state and federal, with the muslim community to try to better understand one another.

I think we’re at a point where progress has been made but still much work needs to be done.  When I look at or hear the Sheriff from Los Angeles talk about the programs that have been developed in your community, it’s very similar to that of my community in Buffalo, New York.

A smaller city directly south of Buffalo is Lackawanna, an old steel city that was home to the Lackawanna Six. It was six muslim american men who were convicted of providing material support to al Qaeda by training in their camps in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

You know, there’s a lot of misunderstanding when you get into this issue and I think people get invested into their own emotional positions that don’t have a factual base. I’ll give you an example: in this nation we have not only a Christian-Judeo tradition, we have a Christian- Judeo-Islamic tradition in this nation.  But the basis of those religions are compassion, forgiveness, love, and tolerance. The prophet Mohamed is a prophet of mercy. In my Catholic religion I was raised by the Sisters of Mercy.

I think we all have a lot to learn from one another about this issue. We have a long way to go. The radicalization of Muslims in America is in large part influenced by the convergence of new technology that allows groups to communicate in ways they never were able to before. I think that provides a basis from which our nation, all our law enforcement agencies in each individual state and locality develop those relationships with the Muslim American community.

In the end we are all Americans and people don’t come to this country by and large (emphasis mine, CS) to create havoc. They come because they thirst for the freedom we have. That’s what they want for themselves and their families.

While Higgins is not known for grandstanding in committee nor making broad-based statements of opinion on issues of import, this is a carefully parsed statement designed to neither grant legitimacy to the larger question about the nature of the hearings nor to appear weak on terrorism.  While the content of his response was expected, I am still saddened to see members of Congress and our community writ large fail to stand up to the type of patriotic bullying advanced by hypocritical blowhards like Rep. King.

Today’s hearing violated the spirit of the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment as the purpose of the hearing targeted a religious group by virtue of their religion.  Seemingly put together to smear Muslim American advocacy groups and cast aspersions on their relationships, acquaintances and governing principles, yesterday’s hearing was a case study in fear and loathing.

When injustice and fear-mongering go unchallenged, we do our nation a disservice.  Today, I feel as if an opportunity to fight back a tide of xenophobic ignorance was lost.

28 Responses to “Fear and Loathing In D.C.”

  1. Alan Bedenko March 11, 2011 at 6:20 am #

    Witch-hunts are as prominent in American history as baseball, apple pie, lemonade, and slavery. The irony here is that King himself supported and coddled a group of terrorists who indiscriminately murdered throughout Ireland and the UK over the course of three decades. He is a hypocritical disgrace who, should karma be a real thing, will be reincarnated as a worm.

  2. Brian March 11, 2011 at 6:23 am #

    If you’re murdered in America, odds are that it’ll be a “christian”™ doin’ the killin’.  Over 80% of those in prison in the U.S. are followers of the tacked up myth-god.

  3. Eric Saldanha March 11, 2011 at 8:07 am #

    I’m glad that Rep. King has determined there are no other domestic terrorist groups threatening us.

    Oh, whoops

  4. Brian Castner March 11, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    I suppose it depends on what you mean by “greater threat.” There are certainly more white supremacist conspirators. They have also killed significantly less people in the last 40 years than Al-Qaeda.

    Noting that it is a stated aim of Al-Qaeda to recruit local nationals in the west (Europe and the US), who have their home country’s passports and blend in easier, do you think hearings should be held at all? Or not just by Peter King? Or must falsely equivalent hearings on right-wing militias, who have a different goal, different methods, different threat profile, and require a different tactic to counter be held at the same time to make everyone feel better? After a wave of right wing attacks (the IED on MLK day, for instance) its right to investigate there. And if one Yemeni imam can convince Nidal Hasan to kill 12 and wound 31 at Fort Hood, maybe its okay to investigate that threat as well.

    • Alan Bedenko March 11, 2011 at 8:37 am #

      Peter King’s “hearings” aren’t about Qaeda recruitment of local nationals. It’s about destroying CAIR and smearing all American Muslims as unpatriotic sleeper agents who ought to rightly be interned in California’s central valley. Let’s not pretend it’s something benign.

      And that’s not to say, Brian, that there aren’t Muslim assholes who are easily influenced by other Muslim assholes who decide that murder is an acceptable religious exercise. But weak-minded and stupid assholes are often easily influenced by manipulative assholes. Waco, Hale-Bopp mass suicide, Jonestown, Moonies, Manson, Scientology – there are power-hungry and greedy motherfuckers hiding all throughout civilized society to control and make a buck off the unsuspecting. But just because David Koresh and Sun Myung Moon base/d their cults on Christianity doesn’t mean we should be holding congressional hearings on the growing radicalization of Christians.

  5. Ethan March 11, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    thank you, Alan.

  6. Brian Castner March 11, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    I’m not trying to pretend these “hearings” are anything. I’m trying to discuss what should happen, not what is happening.

    After David Koresh there were hearings on the growth of violent anti-government groups in compounds, because that was the key defining feature of their angst, organization and planning. If there was a violent group that used Christianity as the basis for killing thousands of Americans, we should have hearings on that too. But to leave the theoretical and move into reality, there are violent groups, seeking to recruit Americans, who use Islam, and not greed, or fascism, or the mysteries of comets, as their key defining organization feature. To dismiss them all as assholes and motherfuckers is trite, and fails to understand how they see themselves. Me, I’d like to identify the plans of my enemy, and what kind of Americans are suseptible to the message (see: Hasan). Frightened Americans who close their eyes like to call violent mass murderers “crazy,” because it makes them feel like all violence is senseless, or random. I’ll throw your thinking in another group – just call them all assholes, and lump them with assholes of every other variety, and then we can let our moral relativism trump our powers of rational reasoning. Its all the bad people in one group now, there will always be bad people, there is no way to understand who is bad or why, and we need to learn no more. I’d like to parse it a bit further, understand what Al-Qaeda wants to do and why, and not lump them in with a Hale-Bop suicide pact because it makes me feel better about myself.

    • Alan Bedenko March 11, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

      Firstly, let’s circle back to what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about Congressional hearings. These are not law enforcement functions or military functions, they are a political function with a political purpose. You want to “identify the plans” of your enemy”? I don’t think a Congressional hearing of any sort is going to further reveal that to you. Ultimately, that work is performed by law enforcement – not Congressional staff, or by the military or our intelligence services. It is a legitimate function of the Congress to oversee our intelligence, military, and law enforcement functions as they pertain to the Dept of Homeland Security, but quite frankly that’s not what’s happening right now.

      So, therefore, I don’t understand what you’re arguing about. These King HUAC hearings are at best a needless political circle-jerk and at worst a persecution and witch-hunt. More the latter. Al Qaeda’s aims aren’t difficult to comprehend. They want to kill Americans. All done analysis. Now, the matter becomes one of law enforcement, military, and intelligence to find, stop, infiltrate, prosecute, etc. What Congress has to do with that, other than funding the relevant agencies involved and overseeing the work they do, is beyond me.

  7. Ethan March 11, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    Consider, for a second, what produces “Frightened Americans”  Oh, I know: sensationalized, Fox-ready, thinly veiled “hearings” on how scary them Muslims are.  These dog-and-pony shows will do nothing to reduce the real threats of terror but, will do lots towards creating new ones.  That’s in “The Real World”.  Also in “The Real World”, our foreign and domestic policies produce plenty of terror-recruits. I wonder if these ‘hearings’ will touch on, say, the role of The Carter Administration and Zbigniew Brzezinski in creating and supporting “Islamic” extremism?  mmmmm…. nope.

  8. Brian Castner March 11, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    What produces Frightened Americans? I think 3000 dead was a good start.

  9. Ethan March 11, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    You’re right; Brian- the fear and anger produced by 9/11 was absolutely parlayed into a needless and tangential attack on Iraq, a country which had nothing to do with the attacks of 9/11 but has certainly fueled Al Quada’s terror-recruitment efforts.  “Well-played, sir!”

  10. Brian Castner March 11, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    @ Ethan – Too true.

    @ Alan – I’m sure everyone working in law enforcement, intel and the military will be happy to hear the analysis is all done in 5 words. Gosh, that’s a load off. And here we thought there was more to it. When Congress wants to oversee something, anything, they hold hearings. That’s what Congress has to do with it, and what I am arguing about.

    • Alan Bedenko March 11, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

      Sorry – is there a deeper analysis that’s required? Seriously. “Me, I’d like to identify the plans of my enemy, and what kind of Americans are suseptible to the message (see: Hasan). Frightened Americans who close their eyes like to call violent mass murderers “crazy,” because it makes them feel like all violence is senseless, or random.” Well it’s almost always senseless, sometimes random. They are crazy, they are assholes, and they are motherfuckers. Everyone from Mohammed Atta to Muzzamil Hassan. You pretend like we just live in a Disneyland world and everybody in DHS isn’t dealing with this on a daily basis. Gosh, we weren’t safe until Pete King came to help us!

      I love the fantastical make-believe that suddenly al Qaeda is up to something not involving killing Americans. You’re right. Clearly, there’s much more thought that needs to go into it, and Peter King of New York’s 3rd Congressional District is just the guy who has the military, law enforcement, and intelligence experience and know-how to get to the bottom of this!

  11. Brian Castner March 11, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    If anyone knows we don’t live in Disneyland, its me. I do this for a living, after all. I think you are the naive one – there is a lot more to it than they just want to kill Americans. They aren’t crazy, but you’re entitled to feel that way if it makes you feel better. And as I said above, I’m talking about what the hearings should be, not what they were yesterday.

    • Alan Bedenko March 11, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

      And what I’m saying is that hearings aren’t needed. They’re opportunities for congresspeople to grandstand and get attention. And yes, anyone who wants to kill himself and a bunch of innocent people for Allah is crazy. Not because it condescendingly makes me “feel better”, but because it’s quite self-evidently true.

      But maybe I am naive. 20-something upper-class kids from the Arabian peninsula routinely volunteer to go and kill themselves and Americans or Israelis because they’re perfectly right in their mind.

  12. Ethan March 11, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    Alan- not naive, but appallingly simplistic.  To assume, as you are here, that all murderous thoughts or behaviors stem from psychopathology is, itself, crazy.  I believe even the law admits “justifiable homicide” exists.  I’m not interested in an ancillary debate on whether any terrorist’s actions can be so-justified–in my mind, they largely cannot–but only that we routinely acknowledge, implicitly and explicitly, that political violence is sometimes justified; see “American Revolution, The”

    • Alan Bedenko March 11, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

      Not appallingly simplistic, either. “Crazy” can have many meanings. So can “asshole” and “motherfucker”. They’re quite all-inclusive. And al Qaeda isn’t engaged in political violence, it’s engaged if anything in religious violence, which is absolutely never acceptable or justified, ever. Because their spaghetti monster is better than our spaghetti monster? = crazy asshole motherfuckers.

  13. Mr. F.N. Magoo March 11, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

    As has been said, I think that hearings in this case are simply armchair quarterbacking in the extreme. Peter King wanted publicity and got it in gobs. This whole charade has nothing more to do with the real business of Congress than steroids in baseball did. What the hearing “should be” is not held.
    And the number of people killed, while a terrible toll, isn’t a measure of the danger of future terrorism unless people think that white-supremacists and extreme militia members intend to hold the body count down because they’re concerned citizens rather than that they just haven’t worked the bugs out of their plans.

  14. Ethan March 11, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    “And al Qaeda isn’t engaged in political violence, it’s engaged if anything in religious violence,”

    The experts I read on that organization (and its goals) would not agree with you there.  They’re leveraging religion as a motivator, but they clearly have political goals.  

    • Alan Bedenko March 11, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

      Right. Because anything they might set up were they to create a state, would be a theocracy on a par with what the Taliban wants. It’s still got its root in religion and, if you’d like, a medieval form of Sharia-based theocratic feudalism.

      Or, one can use my shorthand term, which is “crazy asshole motherfuckers”. Either way.

  15. Ethan March 11, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

    The reason accuracy matters is that “crazy asshole motherfuckers” doesn’t really allow that there is any method to their madness, and so precludes any kind of strategy for dealing with them.  Bad policy.  Brian seems to be admitting that the King hearings serve little purpose outside of political theater; but the entire concept of preventing terrorism from being perpetrated against us–from any source–is a legitimate concern and will only succeed to the extent that we accurately characterize the threats.  So sure: crazy asshole motherfuckers they might be, but that’s not gonna help you much outside of a rhetorical device in a comment thread.  I assume your thinking is meant to extend beyond that.

    • Alan Bedenko March 11, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

      Ethan, my point is that it doesn’t make a damned bit of difference what label you affix to terrorists or terrorist groups, there is no nexus between “congressional hearings” and any of the things that Brian enumerates as being desired information.

      What Brian wants is being done on a daily basis by myriad governmental entities that don’t rely on getting elected to be hired. Congressional hearings, therefore, regardless of the earnestness of their purpose or the fairness of their conduct, won’t do a damn thing to better “understand” terrorists or terrorist groups.

      Seriously, is this thing on? Am I writing in English? Potato, potahto, Congressional hearings aren’t gonna solve it.

  16. Eric Saldanha March 11, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    It should be noted that AQ also targets moderate Muslims whom they consider apostates (i.e. not sufficiently extreme in their interpretation of the Koran).

    Would that Rep. King and his crowd had shown similar concern and interest a decade ago when President Bush and his team ignored repeated advisements and warnings of AQ’s desire to kill Americans in America.

  17. Ethan March 11, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    “Congressional hearings aren’t gonna solve it.”

    None of the three of us disagree on that, obviously.  Moreover, the agencies that are trying to ‘solve it’ hopefully don’t begin and and their analysis of the threats with “crazy asshole motherfuckers.” 

    • Alan Bedenko March 12, 2011 at 8:11 am #

      No, Ethan, I’m sure they don’t. Perhaps that’s why I don’t work for the NSA or the CIA, for fuck’s sake.

  18. Mr. F.N. Magoo March 11, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    And life serves up softballs. http://www.adn.com/2011/03/10/1748613/man-who-threatened-judge.html

  19. Christopher Smith March 11, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

    The House Select Committee on Intelligence, on which Mr. King sits is certainly tasked with oversight and analysis of our law enforcement and intelligence activities as they pertain to Al-Qaeda and active operations and investigations.  Those meetings are closed to the public when classified information is discussed, but I’m quite certain that’s where “hearings” of actual import happen.

    There was no need for yesterday’s hearings because there are other entities handling these issues in much greater depth.  The Homeland Security Committee is ostensibly tasked with oversight of the Homeland Security Department of the United States and its functions, not active, politically motivated “hearings” which trample upon the spirit of the fourteenth amendment.  

    What happened yesterday was a travesty for many reasons, most notably that anyone thinks it was necessary to begin with.  It was a shameful display of partisan fear mongering.

  20. Lorne Marr March 12, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

    What really concerns me is the fact that King doesn’t provide any possible solutions to the problem but instead he exploits the issue in order to gain more support among those citizens who are in favor of more radical policies toward the Muslim community.

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