Letter from the US: Paris attacks spur great racist hysteria


Armed thugs, some with signs supporting Republican presidential candidate, Ted Cruz, intimidate worshipers at a mosque in Irving, Texas. November 21.

In her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine, Canadian author Naomi Klein discusses how capitalist governments and corporations exploit disasters to further their interests against the rest of us.

That was true of 9/11, as the United States government cynically played on fears resulting from the terrorist attack to greatly strengthen government programs limiting the rights of citizens and to “justify” war against Afghanistan and renewed war against Iraq. An element of this policy was stepped-up Islamophobia.

Now, the ISIS attacks in Paris are being exploited in the same way. In the US, Islamophobia has reached new heights.

More US military intervention in the Middle East and Afghanistan is projected. There is a push to ramp up the already powerful national security state.

Hatred of Muslims

Muslims are facing greater harassment and verbal abuse, as well as physical attacks. “The picture is getting increasingly bleak,” said Ibrahim Hooper of the council on American-Islamic Relations.

“There's been an accumulation of anti-Islamic rhetoric in our lives that has triggered these overt acts of violence and vandalism.”

Here are just a few incidents: In Connecticut, shots were fired at the Baitul Aman mosque in Meriden hours after the Paris attacks. At the University of Connecticut, the words “killed Paris” were scrawled under an Egyptian student's name on his dorm room door.

The Omaha Islamic Centre in Nebraska reported that someone spray-painted a sketch of the Eiffel Tower on a wall. Muslims in the central US city are afraid, said OIC secretary Nasir Husain.

In a suburb of Austin, Texas, an Islamic centre was defaced with faeces and torn pages of the Quran were thrown at the door. Authorities in Houston, Texas arrested a man threatening to “shoot up a mosque” on social media.

Four mosques in Florida received telephone messages threatening a firebombing.

The Republican presidential candidates and congresspeople are publicly at the forefront of whipping up hatred against Muslims.

The current front-runner, Donald Trump, has called for a national registry of Muslims living in the US. He even suggested forcing them to carry special ID cards listing their religion.

Trump made the patently false claim that on 9/11 he saw “thousands” of Muslims in Jersey City, across the Hudson River from New York City, “cheering” as the World Trade Centre buildings came down. He also said he would close mosques where “bad things” are happening.

Marco Rubio went further, saying he would not only close mosques, but Muslim-owned cafes and restaurants, too.

Ben Carson said no Muslim should ever be allowed to be president. Ted Cruz claimed that Sharia law “is an enormous problem” in the US.

Rand Paul called for “heightened scrutiny” of Muslims. Mike Huckabee called Islam “a religion that promotes the most murderous mayhem on the planet”. John Kaisich proposed a federal agency to spread “Judeo-Christian Western values”.

“Moderate” Republican candidate Jeb Bush said he wanted to allow only Christian Syrian refugees into the US.

The Republicans are in the vanguard of Muslim-hatred, but many Democrats have joined in. Praising the internment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps during WWII, Democratic mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, David Bowers said it would be a good idea for Syrians in the US.

“It appears that the threat of harm to America from ISIS now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then,” he said.

The debate among capitalist politicians over Islam has morphed into what to do about Syrian refugees fleeing the horrors of the civil war. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted for a temporary block on allowing any Syrian refugees into the US. Forty-seven Democrats voted with the Republicans.

This vote is meant to stop the “flood” of refugees that President Barack Obama is accused of wanting to let in — a completely fake debate. Since the Syrian civil war began, the Obama administration has let in only 2200 Syrian refugees, 77% of whom were women and children.

Obama's proposal would allow only 10,000 more, an insignificant drop in the bucket given the scale of the refugee crisis. Moreover, each applicant would have to go through a two-year scrutiny process first.

The media, and not just the overt racists who echo the Republican candidates, are part of the anti-Muslim hysteria. More voices use the term “radical Islam” to explain who the “enemy” is.

On November 27, an anti-abortion-rights fanatic, goaded by the right-wing assault on contraception and abortion, attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic, killing three people and wounding nine. No one in the mainstream media is calling him a follower of “radical Christianity”.

When violent Israeli Jewish groups kill and harass Palestinians and even moderate Israeli Jews, the media do not call them believers in “radical Judaism”.

Attack on rights

“After Paris, US Political Shift on Privacy Vs. Security” ran a headline in the New York Times. That shift is toward intensified government surveillance.

In a November 25 Los Angeles times op-ed, investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote: “Bodies were still lying in the streets of Paris when CIA operatives began exploiting the resulting fear and anger to advance long-standing political agendas.

“They and their congressional allies instantly attempted to heap blame for the atrocity not on Islamic State but on several pre-existing adversaries: Internet encryption, Silicon Valley's privacy policies and Edward Snowden.

“The CIA's former acting director, Michael Morell, blamed the Paris attack on internet companies 'building encryption without keys,' which he said, was caused by the debate over surveillance prompted by Snowden's disclosures. Senator Dianne Feinstein blamed Silicon Valley's privacy safeguards…

“Former CIA chief James Woolsey said Snowden 'has blood on his hands' because, he asserted, the Paris attackers learned from his disclosures how to hide their communications behind encryption. Woolsey thus decreed on CNN that the NSA whistleblower should be 'hanged by the neck until he's dead, rather than merely electrocuted.'”

It is true that Snowden's revelations included disclosure of how the US government spies on whoever it wants right across the world. His revelations did not just disturb ordinary citizens in many countries, but foreign corporations and governments.

To win back confidence, the big US telecommunications firms took steps to allow foreign companies to keep their business secrets from US competitors. They also sought to reassure ordinary users that they could enjoy some degree of privacy.

The US government would like to have unlimited spy powers over everyone in the world, to have the “keys” to encryption devices. If it got such powers, and the rest of the world found out, there would be hell to pay for Silicon Valley.

Moreover, strong encryption is not a mysterious secret. The mathematics for it are well known, and ISIS programmers, and anyone else willing to learn the skills, could devise their own encryption programs with their own keys.

War

Finally, there is renewed debate among capitalist politicians about what to do about ISIS in the wake of Paris. Democratic and Republican presidential candidates all agree that ISIS must be “destroyed” — in the words of Obama.

The US remains bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is increasingly involved in carrying out large-scale bombing in Syria. There is no stomach among the American population for another invasion, not after the debacles in Afghanistan and Iraq.

So what to do? Republican elder statesman John McCain proposes that the “troops on the ground” to fight ISIS in Syria be drawn from Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Arab regimes. McCain proposes these forces remove Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, then turn on ISIS.

But Assad has a mass base among Syria's Alawite religious minority, who would have to be crushed, provoking mass resistance. It would likely mean war with Russia and Iran, who support Assad — something none of the countries involved have any stomach for.

Obama says such a coalition of the predominantly Sunni Islam countries “must” provide the boots on the ground to take on ISIS — and leave Assad alone for now.

But these countries have shown zero interest in sending their own soldiers to fight the Sunni-based ISIS.

Turkey has allowed outside fighters to pass into Syria to fight with ISIS. A Turkish journalist was recently arrested for reporting that Turkey has sent military equipment into Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is probably right when he alleged Turkey is buying oil from ISIS — after all, somebody clearly is. Turkey is interested in fighting the Syrian and Turkish Kurdish forces, not ISIS.

The US supports Iraqi Kurdish forces and offers some support for Syrian Kurds, who are in turn opposed by US allies in Baghdad and Ankara and US enemy Assad (who was once a US ally). The US's regional rival Iran is fighting ISIS in Iraq.

In this tangle of allies who are also mutual enemies with shifting allegiances, it is clear there are no easy answers for Washington.

The only thing that there seems to be a consensus on is that Washington should “bomb the shit out of ISIS”, as Trump puts it, with help from France and some other Western countries, and now Russia. This is already inflaming Syrian and Iraqi Sunnis.

In the unlikely event that bombing alone will defeat ISIS, who will occupy the former ISIS territories in Syria and Iraq? Sunni monarchies? Iraqi and Iranian Shias? Kurds? France, Russia and the US?

More war will only lead to more barbarism and horror, including more ISIS-type terrorism.

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