ASKIAM and Saeed Shabazz Final Call Staffers
Despite wars and curtailing civil liberties, U.S. doesn’t feel secure on September 11 anniversary
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (FinalCall.com) – Cold War paranoia which has led to the rollback of many civil liberties, and three wars in Muslim countries, but there’s hardly a greater sense of safety among many Americans, 10 years after the September 11, 2001 attacks, because a feeling of vulnerability to another attack still remains throughout the society.
Meanwhile, more than half of Muslims in this country say government anti-terrorism policies single them out for increased surveillance and monitoring, and many report increased cases of name-calling, threats and harassment by airport security, law enforcement officers and others, according to a new poll.
Ironically, most Muslim-Americans say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. and rate their communities highly as places to live. The survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center, one of the most exhaustive ever of the country’s Muslims, finds no signs of rising alienation or anger among Muslim- Americans despite recent U.S. government concerns and congressional hearings about so-called “homegrown Islamic terrorism” and controversies over the building of mosques.
According to the Pew poll, in all, 52 percent of Muslims surveyed said their group is singled out by the government for terrorist surveillance. Almost as many–43 percent–reported they had personally experienced harassment in the past year. The Pew survey is based on telephone interviews with 1,033 Muslims in the U.S., conducted in English, Arabic, Farsi or Urdu from April 14 to July 22. Subjects were chosen at random, from a separate list of households including some with Muslim-sounding names, and from Muslim households that had answered previous surveys.
Meanwhile, the ongoing, official hostility toward Muslims flies in the face of the initial sympathy from Muslims worldwide–including from the Palestine Liberation Organization– in the wake of the 9-11 attacks.
By its “armed aggression,” on the other hand, “first against Afghanistan and then against Iraq, America wholly squandered this gain,” Simon Jenkins wrote for The London Guardian. “The aggression led to a tide of anti- Americanism and surge of support for fanatical Islamism across the Muslim world” he said.
The U.S. government has spent enormous sums to refresh the federal bureaucracy, to hunt down enemies, to strengthen airline security, to secure U.S. borders, and to reshape America’s image. Still, positive results have been sometimes slow in coming.
Dozens of new agencies have been born and some have already died in pursuit of homeland security, a phrase that wasn’t even used much before 9-11-2001. In 2004, the bipartisan Sept. 11 Commission produced a 585-page road map to create an America that is “safer, stronger, wiser.”
Many of the commission’s recommendations have been acted on. But in some cases, results haven’t lived up to expectations. Other proposals are simply awaiting implementation. The commission recommended a: “long-term commitment to a secure and stable Afghanistan,” so that country would not become a sanctuary for international crime and terrorism. But despite nearly 10 years of war there, tens of billions of dollars spent, and thousands of U.S. military lives lost, on top of tens of thousands of Afghan deaths, that country is far from “secure.”
Worldwide support for the U.S. after 9-11 splintered when the U.S. launched its questionable war against Iraq in order to rid that country of “weapons of mass destruction” which never existed there.
The 9-11 Commission recommended a new approach to the Muslim world, and soon after his inauguration, President Barack Obama sought to win friends there with a speech in Cairo. But since then, the image of U.S. meddling in events on the ground in Muslim countries during the so-called “Arab Spring” uprisings has caused U.S. allies to question the sincerity and the motives behind U.S. support.
Tensions boiled over last summer concerning plans to build a mosque near the Ground Zero site in New York City after critics assailed it as an insult to the victims of the attacks. Rep. Peter King, (R-N.Y.), held House hearings earlier this year to examine whether American Muslims are becoming “radicalized” to attack the U.S., declaring that U.S. Muslims are doing too little to fight terror.
Then, the Associated Press reported recently that with CIA guidance, the New York Police Department dispatched undercover officers into minority neighborhoods, scrutinized imams and gathered intelligence on cab drivers and food cart vendors, jobs often done by Muslims.
As a result, it is now common in U.S. mosques for speakers to preface their remarks by saying that they know the government is eavesdropping but Muslims have nothing to hide.
Among the general population, Americans are less willing today to allow the government to do whatever it thinks necessary to prevent terrorism than they were in the months after the attacks, a new USA Today/Gallup Poll shows.
In January 2002, 47 percent of respondents said they were willing to have the government violate their “basic civil liberties” in the effort to prevent additional acts of terrorism. When asked last month, only 25 percent said they favored such a tradeoff.
Most such polls have a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
The 2004 9/11 Commission Report, while recommending greater authority for the government to fight terrorism, also said, “This shift of power and authority to the government calls for an enhanced system of checks and balances to protect the precious liberties that are vital to our way of life.”
Ben Stone, director of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, expressed hope that the 10th anniversary of the attacks brings renewed consideration of the balance between civil liberties and security. “We really need to take the opportunity of this anniversary to think about what kind of society we want to live in,” Mr. Stone said, according to the DesMoinesRegister.com.
“Do we want to live in a community in which privacy is disregarded right and left and the rule of law is enforced just on the occasions that our leaders want to enforce them?” he asked.
But for most people in this country, intrusive airport security remains perhaps the greatest ongoing frustration stemming from post-Sept. 11 security upgrades.
Ten years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed over 3,000 Americans in New York City, Washington, D.C., the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, analysts agree the attacks were a watershed moment for U.S. foreign policy, as the nation measured its response to the unprecedented assault.
Dealing directly with the issue of foreign policy, the administration of the former president George W. Bush, who was in office on 9-11, the watershed moment was the launching of a “global war on terror,” which focused on a so-called worldwide terrorist threat.
According to the NYC-based conservative think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations this meant “attacking non-state actors and the regions that harbored them.”
Defense expenditures skyrocketed from $304 billion in 2001 to $616 billion in 2008, according to the Congressional Research Service. The Bush administration immediately attacked Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and in 2003 launched a war to topple Iraq’s president Saddam Hussein. The CRC estimates the cost of the protracted wars has now reached $1.3 trillion and is mounting.
Lawrence Hamm, chairman of the Newark-based Peoples Organization for Progress, called the war budget “a demonic suction tube that was taking needed funds from the war on poverty, jobs, health care and education.”
Mr. Hamm, speaking to The Final Call after his organization’s Labor Day rally and march in Newark for jobs, peace, equality and justice, added that he feared the U.S. was in a permanent war economy.
The “industrial military complex” has become so intertwined with other aspects of our society that the lines of demarcation are now completely blurred, he said. “Clearly the spending on wars is not only killing Iraqis and Afghanis, it’s killing us. Look at what FEMA said last week concerning running out of emergency disaster funds; and President Barak Obama admitted that funds for past disasters would be diverted to help the victims of Hurricane Irene,” said Mr. Hamm.
However, there has been a greater cost to Americans that cannot be measured in dollars and cents that is America’s moral standing in the Muslim world. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan during his Sept. 16 press conference, warned Mr. Bush that the response to what the Muslim leader called “these wicked attacks” must not be motivated by “anger and wounded pride.”
Min. Farrakhan, in his December 1, 2001 letter to Mr. Bush warned the president that the U.S. war response “will unite the Muslim world in hostility against America.”
The answer to the mistrust in the Muslim world is a growing movement of contempt by some Americans, called “Islamaphobia.” Over the past 10 years the movement has actually spread to the political fabric of 23 states that have used their legislative bodies to call for laws protecting Americans from the non-existent threat of the Sharia law, or law based on the religion of Islam. So far, Sharia law bans exist in South Carolina, Texas and Alaska.
There is also a band of misinformation experts broadcasting what many see as a kind of hatred against Islam: Bridgette Gabrielle’s ACT! For America, Pam Geller’s Stop Islamization of America, David Horowitz’s Freedom Center and America Family Association and the Eagle Forum. The groups deny any anti-Islam bent, saying they want the country safe. But the group of so-called experts travel across the nation, often testifying before state legislators saying mosques in the U.S. harbor Islamist terrorists and their sympathizers.
“There is an enormous amount of money being spent on this campaign of hatred; and the corporate media is fueling it,” claims Sara Flounders, co-founder of the International Action Center. IAC has called for a rally (Unity, Respect, Jobs and Justice) in front of City Hall in NYC on Sept. 11.
“The hate campaign is consciously being cultivated to justify the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” argues Ms. Flounders. She added that Muslims are also being criminalized to justify the wars.
Activists such as Ms. Flounders say that the Obama administration given this backdrop continues making enemies in many Muslim nations with its constant bombings in places such as Pakistan, while the U.S. rushes towards bankruptcy.
The nation’s bankruptcy is also having a disproportionate effect on veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. In 2009, it was reported that 10,000 veterans were homeless in NYC alone, some 14,000 statewide. Analysts said most of the homeless veterans were from the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns.
Veterans for Peace reports veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from high rates of suicide, domestic violence, joblessness and homelessness.
According to icasualties.org, as of August, the death toll of U.S. service members in “Operation Iraqi Freedom” stood at 4,404 with 32,159 injuries. The Afghanistan campaign, known as “Operation Enduring Freedom,” as of July 2 logged 677 dead with 13,011 wounded.
But, that isn’t the worse-case scenario of America’s hypocrisy since 9-11. One of the most egregious issues is how the government has responded to those who courageously responded to the twin towers at the World Trade Center.
The New York Fire Dept. announced recently that their studies showed 19 percent of firefighters who responded to the call to come to Ground Zero have developed cancer. However, federal officials announced in July that those with cancer will continue to be excluded from the federal funds available for survivors who have shown signs of sinus and lung issues. There is too little evidence linking cancer to the time spent amongst the dust and wreckage at the World Trade Center site, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
“There is a verse in the Qur’an that speaks of the courage of those who run to the fierceness of the center of the battle; those are the foremost men and women of great courage and valor,” Minister Farrakhan noted during a Sept. 2001 press conference, speaking of the first responders. “Their sense of duty caused them to run into that building, not caring for their lives, but for the lives of those who they were intent on saving.”