John Ashcroft’s New America

The Changed Lives of Arabs in the U.S.—And What a Declaration of War Would Really Mean

Such incidents should concern the Bush administration as much as they concern the Arab American community. "We are going to be entering into a major alliance with Arab states," notes Hussein Ibish of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. "America cannot be a society that abuses its Arab and Muslim members. Otherwise it will be seen as being motivated by anti-Arab racism towards Islam. And that will mean that it will have no hope of success. It is a moral and strategic issue."

• Liberals find themselves under attack these days, too. Right-wingers once described liberals as commie dupes. Now they're gleefully renewing the attack with cries of "unpatriotic" and "terrorist patsies." Criticism of Bush elicits attack. A Los Angeles Times reporter told NPR he got 900 critical e-mails after he called Bush "boyish." Because of its active support of immigrants, the ACLU was getting blamed for the attack, Strossen said. "We have received some hate mail. Security is very tight." Even in prison, anyone considered left-wing was singled out for special treatment. Phillip F. Berrigan, the antiwar activist who has three months left on his year's sentence for violating parole in connection with an antiwar demonstration, spent 10 days locked down at the federal correctional institution at Elkton, Maryland. Aides to Maryland senator Barbara Mikulski told Berrigan's wife, Elizabeth McAlister, that the Bureau of Prisons said he'd been segregated after the attacks on the WTC and Pentagon "for his own protection."

• The government is reportedly considering the possibility of a national identification card. Oracle, a West Coast technology firm that has worked with the FBI and CIA, offered to give the government the technology for such a card.

• According to TV reports in San Francisco, the military will use a technicality implemented during the Persian Gulf War to keep known homosexuals from serving in the military. The military can try to hold onto soldiers coming up for discharge with a stop-loss order, to avoid losing people during armed conflict. But this time gays will not be included. Navy commander Zoe Dunning, who successfully fought to remain in the military when she came out as a lesbian, told station KPIX that she thinks the policy is foolish. "Here we have a need for qualified service members to participate in this crisis, yet you're gonna continue to discharge fully qualified service members who violate 'Don't ask, don't tell.' "

• Don't count on Congress to protect your civil liberties. John Conyers, the Detroit Democrat who chaired the House Judiciary Committee during the Clinton era, recently described how efforts to beef up anti-terrorism laws after the Oklahoma City bombing ended up a confused mess, with sweeping new limits on habeas corpus for death-row and other prison inmates and limits on people seeking asylum. "I sat through the hearings on this legislation and did not hear a single shred of evidence that proved that a single terrorist act could be prevented by limiting the ability of persons convicted in state court to obtain relief from unconstitutional convictions or by denying immigrants their due process rights.

"Many laudable provisions were dropped from the 1996 legislation at the behest of the gun lobby," Conyers continued. "We tried to include a provision allowing for broader roving wiretaps, as has been recommended by Attorney General John Ashcroft, but the conservatives could not stomach this expansion of government power. We also failed in our efforts to ban dangerous 'cop killer' bullets, and to require that 'taggants' [tracer elements] be attached to explosive materials and that unregulated explosive material [such as the fertilizer used in Oklahoma City] be rendered inert. Instead, we were forced to settle for an ineffective study of these issues."

Additional reporting: Ariston-Lizabeth Anderson

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