The new war on Iraq is a study in history repeating itself.
Bombs are once again falling over Baghdad. U.S. troops have poured into Iraq, overrunning the meager outer defenses of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
And Iraqi-American citizens are being targeted for questioning by the FBI, in an operation that digs up old memories of the large-scale detention of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War.
Although FBI officials said that about only 30 Iraqis of 6,700 interviewed had been detained as of last Friday, the fact remains that the interviewees are being targeted because of their ethnic background.
FBI director Robert Mueller insisted that the interviews were “voluntary,” but how clear is this to a person who is awakened in the morning by a pair of agents banging on the front door?
Those being interviewed are permitted to have a lawyer present.
However, according to a March 27 Associated Press report, when one man tried to call his lawyer, they told him to shut up and cursed at him in front of his wife and children.
Other Iraqi-Americans have said that although agents were polite, they were unwelcome surprise visitors.
As part of “Operation Liberty Shield,” the government’s new security-enhancement plan, the sweep is intended to glean information about the Iraqi military and possible domestic threats from about 11,000 selected Iraqi-Americans.
Sounds good, but it patently violates the rights of those being targeted.
During World War II, the U.S. military rounded up thousands of Japanese in the western regions of the country.
General John L. DeWitt, the commander for the Western U.S., argued that all Japanese had to be detained because it was impossible to tell which Japanese were spies and which were loyal to the United States.
The military presented a report that said the Japanese were an “enemy race” and were an imminent threat to national security if they were allowed to remain in their homes.
In fact, in the early 1980s Justice Department documents (released under the Freedom of Information Act) revealed that the military’s reports were based almost entirely upon racist rumors and outright lies.
The documents, which warned federal prosecutors that they would be lying if they supported the military’s position, came from the four Supreme Court cases that occurred during the war concerning the Japanese internment.
In our current conflict, President George W. Bush’s Administration has warned of an increased risk of terrorist attacks because of our invasion of Iraq.
The interviews of the Iraqi-Americans are presumably to prevent this terrorism.
After September 11, 2001, thousands of Arab-Americans were detained in an effort to enhance security.
These sweeps targeting Arabs, and now specifically Iraqis, are blatant examples of racial profiling, and are frighteningly similar to the circumstances surrounding the Japanese internment.
President Franklin Roosevelt signed off on internment; Bush and his crew seem greatly pleased by their own indefinite detentions of Arabs, including several U.S. citizens being denied due process of law.
It is said that those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it, and Bush seems to be proving that tired cliché quite true.
Brian White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.