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Congressman Barrett’s Collective Punishment

 

Exploiting the fear that many Americans now associate with the date of September 11th, Congressman J. Gresham Barrett of South Carolina introduced a bill (HR 3075) on September 11, 2003 that would prevent any person from a country considered to be a “state sponsor” of terrorism.” from entering the United States, except by permission of the Attorney General. In addition, the bill would require that anyone from these countries who is currently in the country and is not a landed immigrant would have 60 days to leave. Like most bills of this nature, the list of countries reads like John Ashcroft’s nightmare: Iran, Cuba, Libya, Syria, North Korea, and Iraq. Of course, this list can be changed by the US government at any time, depending on the particular needs of its foreign policy at a given time. The bill is currently in the Judiciary Committee.

Not only does this bill label whole nations of individuals as terrorists, no matter what those individuals might actually think, but it also raises the likelihood that individuals from those nations who are already residing in this country will be the targets of discrimination and physical attacks by other US residents. Indeed, as history has proven time and time again, a person would only need to look like somebody from one of these countries to be subject to this scenario. If one recalls the days immediately following the attacks of September 11, 2001, many non-Arab US residents were attacked by angry and fearful Americans looking for revenge, despite the fact that their victims were neither Arab nor “terrorists.” Why? Because they looked like “terrorists” to their attackers. Of course, being Arab was not a justification for these attacks either.

By including Cuba on this list, the authors of this bill prove their true motivation-the desire for a United States where dark-skinned people can be kept out at will. The only Cubans who have entered this country since the revolution who could be considered terrorists are those on the payroll of various US intelligence agencies. These individuals’ mark was left at the Watergate in 1972 and on the downed Cubana airliner over Venezuela in 1976, to name just a couple of their deeds. Instead of treating these proven terrorists in the same manner as the suspected terrorists currently languishing in the Pentagon’s detention and torture center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, their leader Orlando Bosch (whose prints are all over the bombing of the Cubana airliner and an attack on a Polish freighter in Miami harbor) was pardoned by G. W. Bush’s daddy before he left office.

In the matter of Iran, it is somewhat ironic that it is the Iranian students-the very group that has been foremost in the struggle against the clerical dictatorship that rules the country–who would suffer most from this legislation. Already, the United States has closed the US offices of the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), which represents the best-organized and most established group opposed to the Khomeini government and its successor. One has to wonder at the logic here. Or, perhaps, something more insidious is at work; something to do with future (or current) business deals perhaps.

I shudder to think of how the second part of this law would be enforced, should it pass. In my mind, I see midnight raids and daylight roundups of those individuals who already registered with the INS during the series of widely publicized registration deadlines in the past year. I can also see schools and workplaces turning over names of students to law enforcement agencies operating under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security. Classroom and dormitory arrests, detention centers, husbands separated from their wives and parents from their children. In short, the 21st century version of the Palmer Raids with the accompanying technological enhancements.

As for the people from other countries on the list, it’s just more of the same. It doesn’t matter what one’s opinions are regarding their country’s government, it only matters what country one’s passport is from. This legislation is not about preventing attacks on the United States, it’s about scapegoating whole segments of humanity for the failures and selfishness of America’s foreign policy. Mr. Barrett’s agenda is not an agenda that defends the freedoms that we are told this country represents, nor is it an agenda that will breed goodwill among other nations or their peoples. Our country’s history is a history of immigration, with all that that means. It is important that this bill be killed in committee, before it hits the House floor.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground.

He can be reached at: rjacobs@zoo.uvm.edu

 

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Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

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