News and Features
We are all multilateralists now, or so President George W. Bush would have us believe.
"The government destroyed my life," Mazen Al-Najjar said with both anger and wonder. "Slandered me with secret evidence. And all that time, they were after the wrong man. While I was in jail, the terrorists were loose."
A few days before Thanksgiving Al-Najjar sat across a coffee table from me, explicating the relationship between T.S. Eliot and contemporary Palestinian poetry, repeating a Ramadan joke he'd heard at his mosque the night before, pensively analyzing what he called the "terrible crime" of September 11 and how its perpetrators could best be fought. But mostly Al-Najjar talked about the three and a half years he spent in jail, based on still-secret evidence alleging terrorist associations. He stayed locked up until a no-nonsense federal judge declared his detention unconstitutional in May 2000, and an immigration judge, in a new and more fair proceeding, declared the charge unfounded and last December ordered his release. Neither of us had an inkling that just a few days later, Mazen Al-Najjar would end up as one of the post-September 11 "disappeared."
On the morning of November 24, Al-Najjar left his apartment near the University of South Florida, where he used to teach, to get quarters for the laundromat. His wife was at work, his three daughters still in bed. Federal agents arrested him. A Justice Department press release, repeating the same allegations that had been thrown out of court last year, described his arrest as an effort to "address terrorism by using all legal authorities available."
I sought out Al-Najjar before his unexpected second incarceration because the case of this Gaza-born, US-educated PhD is a bellwether challenge to the constitutionality of secret-evidence antiterrorism trials. He had attracted supporters ranging from Republican Congressman Bob Barr to Democrat David Bonior. Yet here was Al-Najjar arrested again, once more labeled a terrorist, locked up for yet another Ramadan. Has the Justice Department uncovered new evidence linking him to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the group he was once accused of aiding? Or to the September 11 plot?
According to the Justice Department, there is no new evidence. Al-Najjar's latest arrest is ostensibly on technical grounds. Although freed by court order of terrorism charges, he still is under a deportation order for overstaying his student visa. Although he is contesting that deportation (in mid-November he lost a case before the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which he plans to take to the Supreme Court), the INS may hold someone under a final deportation order for up to six months while it seeks to deport him--but only if he poses a danger to the community or a risk of flight, neither of which the INS has been able to establish.
But the visa issue is just a smokescreen. In fact, Al-Najjar's latest detention appears to be the leading edge of an alarming strategy by John Ashcroft's Justice Department to resuscitate and expand secret-evidence trials and to prepare the way for the imprisonment of noncitizens for virtually unlimited terms.
Until September 11 the use of secret evidence in immigration cases appeared to be finished: All but one of the noncitizens held on the basis of secret evidence had been freed, a Congressional bill restricting the practice had passed the House Judiciary Committee and last year candidate George W. Bush himself denounced secret-evidence trials, after hearing complaints from Arab-Americans in Michigan. But now his Justice Department is seeking broader secret-trial powers than ever--with Mazen Al-Najjar a convenient guinea pig.
Al-Najjar's case aroused strong emotion in Florida even before he became a civil liberties cause célèbre. He arrived in the United States in 1981 after living in the United Arab Emirates. While earning a PhD from University of South Florida and teaching there, Al-Najjar helped establish an Islamic studies center that invited to its conferences a wide range of scholars and speakers from the Muslim world--some of whom espoused controversial views on Israel. In 1995, Al-Najjar's co-editor at the center's journal disappeared and later turned up in Syria as general secretary of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. As a result, the FBI--apparently convinced the center was a front-- seized its computers, videotapes and files and froze its accounts; USF, under intense media scrutiny as "Jihad U," conducted its own independent investigation.
Both inquiries cleared the center of any connection to terrorism--it was, a federal judge would later declare, "a reputable and scholarly research center." But local FBI officials arrested Al-Najjar, its executive director, anyway and detained him on secret evidence. What lay behind the charge was never made public, but court papers hint that agents decided, on murky evidence, that he helped raise money for Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
Al-Najjar now believes the FBI may have been hoping to make him an informant. "But I hadn't done anything," he insists. "I hate violence. I have never been a paramilitary. I have never raised money for killers." Finally, last fall, Immigration Judge R. Kevin McHugh heard two weeks of evidence allegedly supporting the government's claim--and promptly slammed the Justice Department for a case "devoid of any direct or indirect evidence" to support imprisonment of Al-Najjar. He refused to rely on secret evidence, because the government did not provide a summary that offered Al-Najjar a meaningful opportunity to respond. Janet Reno, after a personal review of the record, open as well as secret, declined to bar Al-Najjar's release.
Facing the collapse of its terrorism case, the only face-saving course for the INS was to deport Al-Najjar through conventional channels. He had indeed overstayed his student visa. But deportation is no simple matter: Many of the logical destinations for Al Najjar--Egypt, Saudi Arabia--have grown hostile to stateless Palestinians. The INS ostensibly plans to deport him to the Emirates, but his attorneys (including Nation legal affairs writer and Georgetown law professor David Cole) believe it unlikely that the Emirates would welcome him back. Even as the INS is seeking his deportation, Al-Najjar has applied for political asylum, claiming he would face persecution in any of his former homes.
All this still leaves the matter of Al-Najjar's arrest a mystery. Even if the government intends to deport him, why jail a man who repeatedly demonstrated that he is not a flight risk and whose name has been cleared by an Attorney General and a federal immigration judge? Why issue a press release that resurrects allegations already thrown out of court?
The answer may lie, in part, with an accident of geography. Al-Najjar may not be a terrorist, but he is guilty of living in the territory covered by the Eleventh Circuit, one of the most notoriously pro-prosecution, law-and-order appellate benches in the country. Arguments presented by Ashcroft aide Douglas Ginsburg at a November 8 circuit court hearing on Al-Najjar's case suggest a specific goal: establishing a blank-check policy for terrorism prosecutions. Ginsburg argued that even though Al-Najjar has no connection to the September 11 attacks, those attacks should convince the appellate court to set aside a district court ruling that his detention on secret evidence was unconstitutional and simply grant the Justice Department virtual unreviewable power to bring secret-evidence cases. Clearly, Justice thinks that in this courtroom it has perhaps the strongest chance in the nation of securing a new secret-evidence precedent.
At the same time, Mazen Al-Najjar's case plays into a little-noted Justice Department change in policy with sweeping implications for Palestinians and other stateless or unpopular migrants. In mid-November Ashcroft quietly issued a new regulation allowing indefinite detention of noncitizens under a final deportation order if they are deemed to be national security risks and if no country can be found to accept them. Call it Mazen's Law: Should the Eleventh Circuit hand the government its secret-evidence authority, under this new regulation Al-Najjar, a man never indicted or convicted of a crime, would once again be labeled a terrorist and face imprisonment without end.
During his first 1,307 days in prison, Al-Najjar came to believe, he said, that "the government's intention all along was to detain me, not deport me." His new arrest, and Justice's cynical use of discredited charges, suggests that he's right. This time Justice appears determined to keep him far away from the press and his Tampa supporters: Instead of a nearby immigration jail, he's been shipped to solitary confinement in Coleman federal penitentiary seventy-five miles away and may not make phone calls or receive visits from his family for thirty days. The latest--perhaps indefinite--imprisonment of Al-Najjar deeply calls into question the factual and moral basis for the Justice Department's ongoing dragnet.
As world leaders convened at the 56th Session of the General Assembly of the UN in early November, the main topic of discussion was the fight against terrorism.
To: The Foreign Policy Therapist
From: The United States of America
Date: November 12, 2001
Dear Foreign Policy Therapist,
I don't know what to do. I want to be safe. I want safety. But I have a terrible problem: It all began several weeks ago when I lost several thousand loved ones to a horrible terrorist crime. I feel an overwhelming need to apprehend and punish those who committed this unbearably cruel act, but they designed their crime in such a diabolical fashion that I cannot do so, because they arranged to be killed themselves while committing the crime, and they are now all dead. I feel in my heart that none of these men, however, could possibly have planned this crime themselves and that another man, who is living in a cave in Afghanistan, must surely have done so. At any rate I know that some people he knows knew some of the people who committed the crime and possibly gave them some money. I feel an overwhelming need to kill this man in the cave, but the location of the cave is unknown to me, and so it's impossible to find him. He's been allowed to stay in the cave, however, by the fanatical rulers of the country where the cave is, Afghanistan, so I feel an overwhelming need to kill those rulers. As they've moved from place to place, though, I haven't found them, but I've succeeded in finding and killing many young soldiers who guarded them and shepherds who lived near them. Nonetheless, I do not feel any of the expected "closure," and in fact I'm becoming increasingly depressed and am obsessed with nameless fears. Can you help me?
To: The United States of America
From: The Foreign Policy Therapist
Dear United States,
In psychological circles, we call your problem "denial." You cannot face your real problem, so you deny that it exists and create instead a different problem that you try to solve. Meanwhile, the real problem, denied and ignored, becomes more and more serious. In your case, your real problem is simply the way that millions and millions of people around the world feel about you.
Who are these people? They share the world with you--one single world, which works as a unified mechanism. These people are the ones for whom the mechanism's current way of working--call it the status quo--offers a life of anguish and servitude. They're well aware that this status quo, which for them is a prison, is for you (or for the privileged among you), on the contrary, so close to a paradise that you will never allow their life to change. These millions of people are in many cases uneducated--to you they seem unsophisticated--and yet they still somehow know that you have played an enormous role in keeping this status quo in place. And so they know you as the enemy. They feel they have to fight you. Some of them hate you. And some will gladly die in order to hurt you--in order to stop you.
They know where the fruits of the planet, the oil and the spices, are going. And when your actions cause grief in some new corner of the world, they know about it. And when you kill people who are poor and desperate, no matter what explanation you give for what you've done, their anger against you grows. You can't kill all these millions of people, but almost any one of them, in some way, some place, or some degree, can cause damage to you.
But here's a strange fact about these people whom you consider unsophisticated: Most of the situations in the world in which they perceive "injustice" are actually ones in which you yourself would see injustice if you yourself weren't deeply involved. Even though they may dress differently and live differently, their standards of justice seem oddly similar to yours.
Your problem, ultimately, can only be solved over decades, through a radical readjustment of the way you think and behave. If the denial persists, you are sure to continue killing more poor and desperate people, causing the hatred against you to grow, until at a certain point there will be no hope for you. But it's not too late. Yes, there are some among your current enemies who can no longer be reached by reason. Yes, there are some who are crazy. But most are not. Most people are not insane. If you do change, it is inevitable that over time people will know that you have changed, and their feeling about you will also change, and the safety you seek will become a possibility.
When 21-year-old Fernando Jiménez Molina failed to return from his job delivering pizzas two blocks from the collapsed twin towers on September 11, his roommates, also undocumented immigrants, made the grim decision to warn his mother, Nora Elsa Molina, in Mexico. Then they headed for Asociación Tepeyac, a Mexican community organization that emerged as the city's alternative emergency system for the immigrant workers, families and binational communities whose lives and livelihoods lay buried beneath the smoldering rubble.
While these September 11 victims slipped through the cracks in federal relief systems, Tepeyac shifted into crisis mode as soon as the first workers covered with soot and ash stumbled into its office. Arnulfo Chino Rojas "appeared like a ghost, stricken with sadness and pain, frightened and white with dust," said a staff member. Arnulfo squeezed time from his long hours as a waiter at the World Trade Center to teach Mexican dance classes for the association. He and the other dazed workers who converged on the center soon joined Tepeyac's director, Joel Magallán, a Jesuit priest, in cobbling up an emergency response system.
"Undocumented immigrants are the invisible workers and victims of the disaster," says Brother Joel. Tepeyac, a network of forty Mexican organizations in the city and upstate New York, has firsthand knowledge of sixty-three desaparecidos, sixty-five small-business closings and 3,095 lost jobs, roughly half of which were held by undocumented workers in and around the trade center. The disappeared came from Mexico and several other countries. Many immigrants worked seventy- and eighty-hour weeks at subminimum wages or off the books for cash in restaurants, cafes, bakeries, hotels, for custodial companies, cleaning shoes, selling flowers and newspapers, and ascending the twin towers to deliver coffee, newspapers, flowers and gifts.
Brother Joel insists, "The only way we can know for sure who is missing is for the employers to cooperate. They are the ones who have lists of who was working for them, documented or undocumented. But the employers are afraid that they will be penalized. We want the INS to waive employer sanctions so companies can come forward."
Frantic family members and co-workers flooded Tepeyac with local and international calls. As word of the group's good deeds spread, AFL-CIO unions, churches, community organizations, businesses and individuals donated $35,000, which Tepeyac quickly dispensed to victims and their families. The organization is now working with the Red Cross and Safe Horizon to obtain further relief and has dispatched volunteers as far as Guatemala and El Salvador to test relatives with DNA kits so that the remains of loved ones can be identified.
"Jane," who asked that her real name be withheld, turned to Tepeyac after two lengthy visits to the Family Assistance Center on Pier 94 left her empty-handed because she could not produce a pay stub. She worked as a nanny to a 4-year-old before her employers disappeared on September 11. A member of Freedom and Unity Among Pilipina Workers, Jane groaned, "What domestic worker do you know gets a pay stub?" Thanks to Tepeyac's intervention, Jane finally received a $50 grocery voucher and the promise of Red Cross vouchers of $300 for rent and $250 for emergency cash for one month. Joining the tens of thousands of immigrants who have lost their jobs in recent weeks, Jane wonders how she will support herself, her husband and two children back home once the emergency funds run out. Like all undocumented workers, she is not eligible for FEMA assistance or unemployment benefits.
Immigrant communities, hard-hit by recession and lacking the cushion of a safety net, are also gripped with fear as the Bush Administration recasts immigration policy within the framework of national security and the war on terrorism. Before September 11, patient community education, organizing, coalition-building and lobbying for humane immigration policies had begun to bear fruit, especially with the AFL-CIO's shift last year toward opposing employer sanctions and calling for unconditional amnesty for undocumented workers. After Mexican President Vicente Fox's visit here this past summer, George W. Bush and Congressional leaders had begun to discuss a limited program of "phased legalization"--although this was coupled with an exploitative guest-worker program without a guarantee of permanent residency--while Congressman Luis Gutierrez had crafted progressive legalization legislation. Now the amnesty debate is on hold in Washington, and community groups are steeling themselves for reversals on hard-fought battles against Border Patrol violence, INS raids and detentions and racial profiling. Catherine Tactaquin, director of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, says, "We're hit with a revival of historic patterns of fear, hatred, of fingering immigrants as threats to national security."
On October 24 more than a hundred displaced workers jammed into Judson Memorial Church for a meeting convened by Tepeyac with relief agencies. Among them were Mexicans, Dominicans, Peruvians, Ecuadoreans, Colombians, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Filipinos, Koreans, Bangladeshis. Brother Joel asked whether anyone was willing to risk speaking to the press. A sea of hands shot up. Why shouldn't we be entitled to the same relief as other New Yorkers during the city's hour of need--papers or no papers? they asked. Many wept when Luz María Mendoza appealed to Governor Pataki for full legalization. She has yet to find the remains of her husband, Juan Ortega, who worked in a restaurant at the WTC and left behind three small children.
Isn't it time to join Mendoza in the call for legalization? Shouldn't widows like her, mothers like Molina and displaced workers like Arnulfo and Jane finally be allowed some relief as they deal with their grief?
Muhammed Butt, a 55-year-old laborer from Pakistan who was detained for a day as a terrorist suspect after September 11 and then imprisoned for a month on a simple visa violation, was said by authorities to have died of a heart attack. In fact, his heart was misshapen from birth and his coronary arteries were blocked. Wrongly suspected of anthrax exposure and isolated from the world, he was overcome by the stress. As a doctor, I can say that in all ways, he was a man who died of a broken heart.
Muhammed Butt's death illustrates a central problem that is the direct consequence of a zealous backlash against terrorism. Hundreds of people are rounded up without justification, and once interned, they are kept for weeks behind bars without ready access to their families or to lawyers. It is hard to imagine a situation better designed to produce severe stress and depression.
Butt worked all his life as a laborer, often traveling between oil fields in Qatar and Dubai to provide for his family. Last year he came to New York on a temporary visitor visa. His goal, as it often is for those who leave their families behind, was to send home money for his three daughters' weddings and to give his two sons the opportunities in life he'd never had. But he was only able to find odd jobs, first in a deli, later stacking boxes and waiting on tables in a restaurant in Queens. His nephew, Muhammad Bilal Mirza, a longtime resident of Brooklyn, gave him cash whenever he could, but he couldn't drive a taxi like his nephew because he didn't know how to drive.
Mirza describes his uncle as a large man. His picture shows a broad face featuring oversized, oblong ears, a rough, pear-shaped nose and small, squinty, suspicion-raising eyes. He was graying visibly and gaining shadows and lines from rapid aging mixed with worry. Mirza says his uncle never complained of not feeling well. Not long before September 11, he told his nephew that he was considering giving up and returning to Pakistan.
In late September a local pastor reported to the FBI that several men who had arrived in two vans had entered Butt's residence, leading the FBI to investigate. Butt was arrested for overstaying his visa, but, finding nothing to interest them, the FBI turned Butt over to the INS after holding him only one day. Meanwhile, knowing that his uncle had been arrested, Mirza tried to obtain a lawyer, but couldn't afford the $7,000 fee the lawyer quoted. For the next month, the INS held Butt in the Hudson County, New Jersey, jail pending his deportation, during which time Mirza tried unsuccessfully to locate his uncle. Alan Apselbaum, a prison social worker, said that prisoners may call collect on pay telephones inside the prison. "I have no idea why Mr. Butt didn't call anyone," he said.
On October 1 Butt underwent a routine physical. His blood pressure and medical findings were normal, but the dentist started him on an antibiotic for gingivitis. Dr. Francis Molinari, a prison doctor, said that the guards and other prisoners were worried that Butt might have been handling anthrax because he was now taking antibiotics--despite the fact that the antibiotics had been prescribed by a prison dentist--and Butt was compelled to undergo a nasal swab test for anthrax. Dr. Molinari tried to downplay the persecution and isolation experienced by Butt and others. "It's calm here," he said. "Nothing strange is going on."
However calm Butt may have appeared, not complaining of chest pain or anything else, his stress was apparently building. On October 23 he rose as usual before dawn, ate breakfast and passed several hours on his cot, where he was found dead just before 11 am. The New Jersey state medical examiner, Dr. Faruk Presswalla, like many pathologists a keen puzzle-solver after the fact, said, "The stress must have killed him. He already had a bad heart, even if it never affected him before. His coronaries were 70 percent blocked and one of the coronary sinuses was missing. His heart wasn't made to handle a crisis." The seasoned coroner found no sign of trauma, anthrax or even gingivitis, which may have been cured by the antibiotic. "This man was basically healthy," he said. "He could have lived a long time even with his heart like this."
Mirza learned of his uncle's death from the Pakistani consulate, which had been notified by the INS. He also heard from the lawyer he had contacted after Butt's detention. Mirza recalls, "I tell him, 'What kind of help you bring him now?'" At the ceremony of remembrance, he joined irate friends circulating a petition to protest Butt's long internment. This petition was presented to the Pakistani ambassador, in the hope that it could be sent to the State Department and would lead to changes in INS policy. Butt's body was shipped back to Pakistan, and according to Mirza, Butt's wife said she wanted nothing to do with the United States ever again.
Restricting freedom in the name of freedom, our intelligence community risks forgetting why our society chose to call itself free in the first place. Hundreds of people like Butt have been rounded up because of someone's suspicions and remain in prison awaiting deportation. Not charged with a real crime or provided access to lawyers, these people must be deported promptly or freed, or many will languish, and more will die. Our agencies must not terrorize innocent people in their search for terrorists.
Mirza, a US citizen for fifteen years, still says he's proud to be an American: "American people have a wonderful heart. All Americans suffer now and pray for the people who have died." Mirza halts in his speech, listening, wanting to be believed, afraid that because of his uncle he will be lumped into a group that is automatically mistrusted. Mirza says sadly that he has been burning vigil candles since September 11 and volunteering at the Family Assistance Center in Manhattan. "All who died," he says, "are innocent."
TASHKENT--In the markets, on the streets, even in the privacy of their homes or cars, the people of Uzbekistan are sphinxlike. They think things are going...well, as best as could be expected.
Alongside the White House and the Capitol building on the alleged terrorist hit list for September 11 was another, little-noticed target: Incirlik, a US airbase in southern Turkey. In a recent raid on a suspect's apartment in Detroit, the FBI found extensive drawings and materials relating to the base. Why Incirlik?
For the past ten years the base has been home to several thousand US military personnel and the fifty US fighter planes used for bombing the northern no-fly zone in Iraq. But it was during the Gulf War that the base earned its notoriety in the region. Throughout the war, Incirlik served as a headquarters of US operations, providing the launching pad for major troop offensives and thousands of bombing missions.
Built in 1951 by US Army engineers as a cold war outpost, Incirlik is one of the most strategically important footholds for the United States in the Middle East. It is not only within striking distance of Iran and Syria but also a short flight from the oil- and gas-rich former Soviet republics. Recent events have further enhanced the base's value; Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has even floated the idea of shifting the center of future regional operations there. With the imminent possibility of stepped-up attacks on Iraq, this shift could occur sooner rather than later.
The recent history of Incirlik offers a small window on the moral incoherence and dubious alliances that characterize US foreign policy in the region. Since Turkey reviews US access to the base every six months, it has had a powerful lever with which to influence the United States--and in turn, the United States has made costly compromises to preserve its access. "If a Turkish Ayatollah Khomeini came to power tomorrow," a high-level military official recently commented to me, "the US would still stay on bended knee to avoid losing that base."
The most scandalous of these compromises involves the US role in northern Iraq. The ostensible humanitarian purpose of the northern no-fly zone is to safeguard 3.3 million Iraqi Kurds. Unfortunately, US concern for the Kurds extends only to those being attacked by our enemy Saddam, not to those being attacked by our ally Turkey. Over the past fourteen years more than 23,000 Kurds fighting for greater autonomy and self-determination in southern Turkey and northern Iraq have died at Turkish hands. When Turkey sends US-made F-16s or thousands of troops to attack the Kurds across the border, as it did last December, Washington looks the other way. It's an "obscene piece of hypocrisy," writes John Nichol, the British pilot who was shot down in 1991 and tortured by Iraqi forces. "Turkish authorities ground our aircraft so that their own can attack the very Kurds that [we were] protecting just a few hours before." One investigation by Air Force Times revealed that the Turks were grounding more than 50 percent of US missions.
Incirlik is a factor on other fronts as well. Last year our House of Representatives was poised to vote on a resolution to recognize the 1915 Turkish massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians. As the bill gathered support, Turkish officials threatened to end US access to Incirlik. President Clinton quickly persuaded the bill's sponsor to drop it.
After September 11, Washington immediately turned to Turkey, the only Muslim nation in NATO, for public support. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit enthusiastically stepped forward, while also criticizing past US softness toward terrorism as an attitude of "let the snake that does not bite me live for a thousand years." Meanwhile, despite the fact that more than 70 percent of Turkish citizens oppose US military action against Afghanistan, the government has already begun making widespread arrests of human rights workers and leftists protesting the recent airstrikes.
Emboldened by a sense of indispensability, Turkish generals have been appearing regularly on television boasting that Turkey will be admitted to the European Union, a long-sought goal. But the constitutional reforms recently passed by the Turkish Parliament duck the main human rights requirements demanded by the EU as a condition of admission. "It's a step backward," says Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch. Where real improvements might previously have been possible, the Turks are now advancing mere "cosmetic measures to ease relations with international partners." The death penalty and basic limitations on the right of ethnic minorities to free expression are safeguarded, and provisions in the Constitution that facilitate the widespread use of torture remain unchanged. The few improvements Turkey has made do not apply to the southern Kurdish regions, where almost all of the cases of torture occur.
Despite its abysmal human rights record, Turkey is one of the largest recipients of US arms, which average more than $800 million annually. This number is sure to grow now that Washington plans to pay for Turkish support with increased weapons transfers. Soon after George W. Bush announced that he would ease restrictions, Turkish military officials called an emergency meeting to speed up negotiations on a range of major purchases, including a $4.5 billion deal to buy 145 King Cobra attack helicopters from US defense contractor Bell Textron. The deal had been blocked by a dispute over whether a portion of the source code for the helicopters' mission computers could be withheld for security reasons. Since US officials have not ruled out an invasion of Iraq as part of its antiterrorist campaign, Incirlik's value is at a premium. "Now more than ever, no one needs to mention the base by name," remarked Kate Kaufer, analyst for the Arms Trade Oversight Project. "It forms the backdrop to all these military transactions."
Not everyone in Turkey will fare as well as the military. Already in a deep recession, the Turkish economy took a further dive last February, leaving some 600,000 Turks without jobs. Unemployment has risen by 42 percent in the past year, while the Turkish lira has shed half its value. IMF austerity formulas such as tighter controls on unions and social spending come at a particularly vulnerable time. Suicides, domestic violence, prostitution and petty theft are all up. Turkey is currently the single largest debtor to the IMF, owing more than $9.6 billion, which gives the Bush Administration leverage to use for its own strategic purposes. When Turkey needed an emergency bailout this past summer, it was Bush who did the bidding. After September 11, Turkey again turned to the United States to pressure the IMF for a delay of loan repayment.
Recently, at a reception in the US Embassy in Ankara, Gen. Carlton Fulford Jr., deputy commander of US forces in Europe, spoke of the ever-growing closeness of US and Turkish armed forces. He closed by saying that this relationship "will only get stronger in the days ahead." The question not answered was: at what cost?
While the United States has spent the past few weeks imploring other countries to cooperate with our war on terrorism, behind the scenes it's apparently retaining an isolationist agenda. In a particularly ill-timed maneuver, the Administration on September 25 pledged to support the deceptively titled American Servicemembers Protection Act (ASPA), sponsored by Republicans Jesse Helms, Henry Hyde and Tom DeLay.
Although it has largely eluded public attention, ASPA is a slap in the face to the many allies that have spent years struggling to construct a legitimate vehicle for combating the most vicious war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. For ASPA not only prohibits all US cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC), it suspends military assistance to any non-NATO member (except certain allies like Israel, Japan and Egypt) that joins the court, rejects participation in any UN peacekeeping operations unless the Security Council exempts American soldiers from prosecution by the court and authorizes the President to use "all means necessary" to liberate Americans or allies held by the international tribunal (hence its European nickname, "The Hague Invasion Act").
Until now, the bill might have been dismissed as meaningless venting by a handful of extremists. But the Administration's support gives it a far more sober--and sinister--tone. The Administration signed on after negotiating changes that eliminate some of the original bill's thornier constitutional problems. (The President could now provide military assistance to a country that participates in the ICC if he deems it in the national interest, for example.) But those changes and Bush's support also make it far more likely that this public proclamation opposing an international effort to bring perpetrators of terrorism and genocide to justice will become law.
This obstruction is particularly ironic now, when the United States is insisting on world collaboration against terrorism. But it's also distressing because our government is a signatory to the 1998 Rome treaty that created the court. Although Clinton expressed reservations when he signed it, he at least committed the United States to work toward creating an international court it could support. Even if this Administration won't ratify the treaty in its current form, supporting a bill that undermines a treaty we've already signed and threatening the treaty's supporters is a remarkably underhanded maneuver, given the mask of international cooperation we're now strutting out on the world stage.
Sure, Jesse Helms labels it a "kangaroo court," but keep in mind what the International Criminal Court will be. Hammered out over more than five years by hundreds of international lawyers, scholars and diplomats, including many Americans, the court--which is expected to receive the necessary sixty ratifications by next summer--will be a permanent institution based in The Hague equipped to try, in addition to genocide and strictly defined war crimes, just the sort of crime against humanity we saw on September 11. Setting aside whether military action is justified to seize the perpetrators, if the court existed today it's possible we could have avoided the issue altogether. An international court holds a legitimacy in the eyes of the international community that a United States court cannot. Even a government like the Taliban might have a harder time refusing to turn over suspected terrorists to an international tribunal than to what it views as suspect US authorities.
Opponents claim the court would place American soldiers and officials at risk of frivolous political prosecutions. That ignores the many elaborate constraints written into the Rome statute. Moreover, the court will be controlled by our allies. Right now, we're aligned with countries like Iraq that oppose it. But all NATO members (except Turkey) have signed and most have ratified the treaty, as have most of the nations in the EU, which has announced its intent to ratify, calling it "an essential means of promoting respect for international humanitarian law and human rights." Recently, Great Britain--now our closest ally in the war against terrorism--became the forty-second country to ratify. (Switzerland is the latest to follow suit.)
Republicans have whipped up fears that the ICC is a rogue court that would prosecute Americans and deny them due process. But the treaty provides virtually all rights guaranteed by the US Constitution except a jury trial. Notably, the American Bar Association--always sensitive to such concerns and hardly a body of radicals--is a strong ICC supporter.
Given all the statute's safeguards, the only people truly threatened by the International Criminal Court are those who commit genocide, intentional large-scale war crimes or "widespread or systematic" crimes against humanity. The Administration's support for ASPA suggests it wants to raise American officials above international law. This is a bad time to be pressing that point, both on our allies and before our enemies. For if part of what sparks hostility toward the United States is our arrogance, then actively undermining this landmark step toward worldwide enforcement of the rule of law will only fuel it.
Since September 11, Thomas Friedman has been in fine form. In his New York Times column, he has composed a letter for George W. Bush to send to Osama bin Laden, urged Vladimir Putin to enlist the Russian mafia to rub him out and berated those who would use the Trade Center and Pentagon attacks to raise questions about US foreign policy. In an October 5 column headlined, "Yes, but What?" Friedman wrote, "One can only be amazed at the ease with which some people abroad and at campus teach-ins now tell us what motivated the terrorists. Guess what? The terrorists didn't leave an explanatory note. Because their deed was their note: We want to destroy America, starting with its military and financial centers." Friedman reserved special scorn for those seeking to use the attacks to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process: "Have you ever seen Osama bin Laden say, 'I just want to see a smaller Israel in its pre-1967 borders,' or 'I have no problem with America, it just needs to have a lower cultural and military profile in the Muslim world'? These terrorists aren't out for a new kind of coexistence with us. They are out for our nonexistence. None of this seems to have seeped into the 'Yes, but...' crowd, whose most prominent 'Yes, but' states: This terrorist act would never have happened if America hadn't been so supportive of Israel."
Friedman is hardly alone in pushing this line. In Newsweek, for instance, Jonathan Alter blasted "Blame America Firsters" who have "repeatedly breached" the line "between explaining terrorism and rationalizing it." Jim Hoagland, in the Washington Post, warned that the United States should not be inhibited from using "coercive power" in the Middle East by "excessive fear of reaction in the so-called 'Arab street.'" The New Republic has repeatedly inveighed against what it sees as the capitulationism of the Yes, but-ers, and Christopher Hitchens in these pages kicked up a storm by arguing against "rationalization" of terror. "Does anyone suppose that an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza would have forestalled the slaughter in Manhattan?" he asked.
Against this backdrop, I was fascinated to read "Why Do They Hate Us?" Fareed Zakaria's cover story in the October 15 Newsweek. Zakaria is a blue-chip member of the foreign policy establishment. A native of India who earned a BA from Yale and a PhD from Harvard, he served from 1993 to 2000 as managing editor of Foreign Affairs. A sort of junior Kissinger, Zakaria has never hidden his disdain for those naïve souls who do not share his hardheaded balance-of-power worldview. I recall attending a discussion group several years ago, when the Clinton Administration was still debating whether to intervene in Bosnia; Zakaria expressed world-weary impatience with those who argued for humanitarian intervention and nation-building.
I was thus surprised by his 7,000-word take on the current crisis. Zakaria devotes the first part of his article to an astute dissection of the failures of the Arab world. Today, he observed, almost every Arab country "is less free than it was 30 years ago." Analyzing the causes of that decline, Zakaria described how young Arab men, often better educated than their parents, leave their villages in search of work and "arrive in noisy, crowded cities like Cairo, Beirut and Damascus." Here, "they see great disparities of wealth and the disorienting effects of modernity; most unsettlingly, they see women, unveiled and in public places, taking buses, eating in cafes and working alongside them." Surrounded by the shiny products of globalization but unable to consume them, and denied all outlets for venting their frustrations, these alienated young men have fed a resurgence of Islam.
That, in turn, has sparked a wave of what he calls "raw anti-Americanism." In exploring the roots of this, Zakaria harshly scrutinizes US policies in the region. As recently as the 1960s, he writes, America was widely admired in the Arab world. Since then, however, "the daily exposure to Israel's iron-fisted rule over the occupied territories has turned this into the great cause of the Arab--and indeed the broader Islamic--world. Elsewhere, they look at American policy in the region as cynically geared to America's oil interests, supporting thugs and tyrants without any hesitation. Finally, the bombing and isolation of Iraq have become fodder for daily attacks on the United States." Zakaria especially faults the United States for its "sins of omission," including its failure to press Arab regimes to open up. In response to the current crisis, he goes on, the United States should adopt a long-term strategy on three fronts--a military effort, aimed at the "total destruction of Al Qaeda"; a political effort, stressing multilateralism, cooperation with the United Nations and a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and a cultural strategy seeking to help Islam "enter the modern world," in part by pressing Muslim nations to reform.
This seems a far cry from Henry Kissinger. And, toward the end of his piece, Zakaria acknowledges his changing views: "I have myself been skeptical of nation-building in places where our interests were unclear and it seemed unlikely that we would stay the course." In the current instance, he added, "stable political development is the key to reducing our single greatest security threat. We have no option but to get back into the nation-building business."
Zakaria's interest in nation-building and a peace settlement in the Middle East does not mean he's rationalizing terrorism. On the contrary, he fully supports the current campaign against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. His position shows that re-examining the US role in the region does not preclude taking a tough stand on terrorism. In fact, it can be argued that adjusting US policies in the Middle East--for instance, by resolving the Palestinian problem--could further the campaign against bin Laden by making it easier for Washington to keep its coalition together.
At least one other conservative has made an about-face similar to Zakaria's. George Bush's recent endorsement of nation-building in Afghanistan and his expressions of support for a Palestinian state show that he readily accepts the need to reassess US policies in the Islamic world. To the extent that there is a "Yes, but..." crowd, the President seems to be its leading member.
- How America Became a Third World Country
- Why Prosecuting Ariel Castro for Murder Won’t Prevent Violence Against Pregnant Women
- The Secret Donors Behind the Center for American Progress and Other Think Tanks
- The First Couple’s Post-Racial Bootstraps Myth
- Hundreds of Non-Union Workers With Taxpayer-Supported Jobs Plan to Strike Today