Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 10, 2011

HOW PETER KING MAY MAKE THE TERRORIST THREAT WORSE.... After months of controversy and preparation, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) will kick off his anti-Muslim hearings this morning on Capitol Hill. The list of reasons to be concerned about this is pretty long, but there's one angle in particular I thought I'd focus on.

King's exploration of the "radicalization" of the Muslim-American community is plainly offensive. The hearing and its motivations are divisive, bigoted, and bordering on modern-day McCarthyism. The point seems to be one conservative politician's desire to pit Americans against other Americans.

But let's say you don't care about any of that. Maybe you don't really mind divisiveness, bigotry, or McCarthyism. Those may be principles to avoid, but perhaps your focus is more practical than ideological.

If so, maybe you'll care that Pete King may inadvertently be making the United States less safe with his little stunt.

Tom Parker, a counterterrorism specialist at Amnesty International, noted the other day that King, perhaps without realizing it, is "damaging cooperation from the greatest allies the U.S. has in counterterrorism." This basic truth seems to elude Republicans -- the Muslim-American community hates terrorism, and has played a critical role in bringing dangerous individuals to justice.

Most pernicious, [King] has claimed that American Muslims have generally refused to cooperate with law enforcement agencies on terrorism cases. He has cited no evidence for this, either, but a study issued last month by Duke University and the University of North Carolina found just the opposite. The American Muslim community has been the single largest source of tips that have brought terror suspects to the attention of authorities, the study found. (It also found that the number of American Muslims found or suspected to be part of terror operations dropped substantially in 2010.)

In all, 40% of all terrorism arrests in the U.S. came after a tip from the Muslim-American community.

Instead of celebrating this, and thanking the community for its life-saving vigilance, King is doing the exact opposite -- accusing his own counterterrorism allies of disloyalty, breeding mistrust of those who've helped prevent domestic attacks.

What Pete King is doing, in other words, is singling out his most important allies, and telling them, "I don't trust you and I don't want the rest of the country to truth you, either."

This isn't just offensive; it's counter-productive. What happens if members of the Muslim-American community, feeling unappreciated and disrespected, simply stop reaching out to law enforcement with counterterrorism tips? How will that make the country safer?

One of the reasons the United States has traditionally avoided the kind of religious strife seen in other countries is that America doesn't have a "radicalized" Muslim population. On the contrary, thanks to the fact that we separate religion and government, prohibit discrimination on religious grounds, have civil rights laws, and embrace the principle of equal opportunity, the United States is generally a model of how to avoid the radicalization of minority faith communities.

Of course, we know precisely how a religious minority does become radicalized. The easiest way is for the government to single them out, treat them as a suspect class, and make reckless accusations while suggesting their civil rights are somehow negotiable.

King may not realize it, but his gambit today will make us less safe, not more.

Steve Benen 8:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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Three cheers for Representative King!!!

He is working to create a self-fulfilling prophesy. The American Muslims may not be radicalized now, but if he can cause them to become more radical he wins because he has caused his prophesy to come true.

Good White Christian Americans - 1
Bad non-white non-christians anti-americans - 0

Posted by: TeaPartyPatriot on March 10, 2011 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

The operational principle here is whether it helps Republicans, not whether it helps national security. Republicans are more than happy to wrap their hijinks in the flag if it furthers this aim.
Stoking tribalism and nationalism at home may weaken us abroad, which further strengthens the domestic political payoff. See, we told you they hate us for our freedom!

Posted by: walt on March 10, 2011 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

This country is in serious trouble when a racist diatribe is not only tolerated but endorsed by a portion of the mass media. Archie Bunker meets Capitol Hill , the mind boggles.

Posted by: John R on March 10, 2011 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

The fact that it may bring more terrorism is a FEATURE, not a bug.
That's what they want!

The Republicans have been waiting for over two years for a major terrorist event to knock out Obama and the Democrats, and the Muslim community hasn't cooperated. Time to goose them with a little hate rhetoric and Congressional grandstanding by one of the most moronic members of the House. *

They can't wait much longer, their presidential candidates suck, so they need something to hang Obama with (visaul image completely intended).

*King is pissed, because he has long been one of the House's most ignorant xenophobic assholes, but now finds himself getting lower and lower on the 'Hateful Imbecile's Hit Parade!"
He's doing this to get attention and show people he's still one of the top pricks.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 10, 2011 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

King's specious comments about American Muslims remaining silent and not co-operating with the police reminds me of the very real problems writers of "The Wire", such as George Pelicanos, have written that police officers say their work in many neighborhoods has worsened since the War on Drugs has taken so many youth off the street. Citizens, who were formerly friendly with the police, have become hardened and very suspicious and no longer wish to talk with them or work with them.

Shame on King for forgetting those days of walking in the streets of Belfast.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 10, 2011 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans have done their best to alienate the Blacks. The Gays. The Women. The Hispanics. And now The Muslims.

Note to the Republican Party: Old, White Men are no longer a majority in America.

Posted by: DAY on March 10, 2011 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

...America doesn't have a "radicalized" Muslim population.

Steve Benen again has approached , with this issue , the context of only the narrowest portion of what seems to be the real corrosive influence in American life .

The christianist terrorist .

The christianist terrorist is real , is a "radicalized" population , is active and murderous .
They hide behind religion , womens skirts , the flag , and are overwhelmingly accepted and feted as Republican .
Enough said .

Posted by: FRP on March 10, 2011 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

King's gambit will not make us safer, but it will make him safer, that is, safe in the possession of his seat in the House. I imagine he is confidently expecting this stunt to result in a surge of contributions to his campaign fund.

Posted by: davidp on March 10, 2011 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

King is a clown and a moron...he doesn't know what's going to come out of his mouth until he opens it. The fact that a segment of American citizens votes fools like this in to office is why we are not as safe as we could be, not the bum they elect.

Posted by: T2 on March 10, 2011 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

King may not realize it, but his gambit today will make us less safe, not more.

Won't matter to him. If King's kangaroo court results in another terrorist attack, he'll just blame liberals for not taking the “Muslim extremism” threat seriously.

Posted by: Death Panel Truck on March 10, 2011 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Peter King is a piece of art destined for the trash bin of history! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 10, 2011 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Truly ironic how his bio describes his early work with the Muslim community in New York, where he was warmly embraced for helping them.

Pete, the ones you revile came from Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 10, 2011 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

davidp, you are correct re: King's campaign coffers and his assured re-elections. King's district is very much a blue collar, racist, NY Post reading population. They thrive on ignorance.
I live in this district and I am a distinct minority. King and his ilk are a national disgrace.

Posted by: jp on March 10, 2011 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

There're always some crazy people who have some power in their hands and easy access to media and who have some crazy ideas about many things. This guy is one of these people. Sometimes the freedom of speech is a real vice but not a bonus.

Posted by: May@Israel on March 10, 2011 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

I went to the Committee's website to see who they have lined up to testify. They only show the schedule for today; there's no way to tell if there are additional days of hearings scheduled. (The website is apparently too busy promoting King to actually include useful information.)

Despite King's frequent statements to the effect that law enforcement officials across the country tell him that they can't get cooperation from local American Moslem communities, the only law enforcement figure scheduled to testify today is the LA County Sheriff, who is already on record as saying that the L.A. Moslem community is very cooperative.

Hard to figure out what King expects to come out of these hearings. Is he really going to find any significant law enforcement officials to criticize their local communities, or is he ultimately going to be going with Pamela Gellar-type witnesses who don't actually have any first-hand experience or knowledge?

Posted by: DRF on March 10, 2011 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

I don't see how evangelical Christians should feel the government has singled them out, treated them as a suspect class, and made reckless accusations while suggesting their civil rights are somehow negotiable. Yet they are radicalized anyway.

Posted by: Dan Tyler on March 10, 2011 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

"King may not realize it, but his gambit today will make us less safe, not more."

King is moving in the only direction that will alienate moderate Muslims here in the name of protecting us. As usual, the Republicans are on the wrong side of the issue and creating a new problem. When they aren't drafting policies to steal our money they endanger us. As a political party they are tits on a bull.

Posted by: max on March 10, 2011 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

It would be offensive for Peter King to imply that the US Muslim community was "radicalized" overall, but I don't see that it's offensive per se for responsible people to look for evidence of that process happening to whatever extent it has. The question then is, how "responsible" he and his inquiry will be.

Fine minds make fine distinctions.

Posted by: neil b on March 10, 2011 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Well then, let's remember Peter King's previous support for the terrorist IRA (yes, still a terrorist group for their methods, even if many of us sympathize with their overall aspirations of a better deal for Irish in Northern Ireland.)

Posted by: neil b on March 10, 2011 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Strictly speaking, this is not McCarthyism. It's more like a religious inquisition. McCarthyism was about criminalizing ideology. This is about criminalizing religious and ethnic identity. It's even more brazenly unconstitutional, and I hope to God some eloquent witness really lets him have it, much the way George Galloway humiliated Bush's Congressional sycophants a few years back. "Everything I said about Iraq has turned out to be true, and everything you said has turned out to be false."

Posted by: T-Rex on March 10, 2011 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

It is important to understand that that is half of the entire point of the hearings, which is to make the terror threat worse and make sure that an domestic community that can be painted as a shadowy threat gets the blame. That way politicians can continue to mouth support for "freedom" when granting liberties to big-money donors while having a "security"-based necessity justification for limiting substantive freedom for most of the public.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 10, 2011 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

You're going too far in your effort to appear reasonable and moderate, Steve. Your commenters are more honest. Do you really think the increase in terror risk is inadvertent?? That's clearly King's primary goal: Americans aren't scared enough right now, and he's doing whatever he can to change that.

For some Republicans you could make the argument that they're just ignorant, not mendacious. But Peter King is not stupid, and as we know he's given a lot of thought over the years to ways to support terrorist organizations.

Posted by: Duncan Idaho on March 10, 2011 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

"...King may not realize it,..."

Stop saying that. King knows exactly what he's doing and his callousness just to gain attention and face time is extremely detrimental. We've had TV preachers asking for assassination plots. Congressman's staff calling for bullets instead of ballots to get their way but King only singles out Muslims to focus on knowing full well he is just trying to stir up fear and hatred toward this group. King is creating terrorism not combating it. Stop offering excuses for the man's motivations.

Posted by: bjobotts on March 10, 2011 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

This confirms what we already knew: Muslim is the new black. Look at how bigots persecuted black leaders like MLK, and compare it to King, et al's treatment of Muslim Americans if you doubt this.


Posted by: Zorro on March 10, 2011 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Of course King doesn't care if his attention-seeking antics make us less safe. In fact, the right would welcome another terrorist attack on this country because it would give them an excuse to go after what few rights we really have anymore. And if it occurred when they held both houses of Congress and the White House, even better.

Posted by: Roger the Cabin Boy on March 10, 2011 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

""I don't trust you and I don't want the rest of the country to truth you, either.""

Truth should probably be 'trust' in the above sentence.

I think an unmentioned very important reason we don't have a radicalized Muslim population is that the US has a pathway to citizenship that many other countries (in Europe, for example) don't have, that allow immigrants to enter the mainstream of American society and not be marginalized as 'hired help'.

Posted by: JD on March 10, 2011 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

You know what Peter kings response Shud of been? Bring in all the families of the thousands and thousands of people who died at the hands of Muslim terror the last decade.

Posted by: Atlanta Roofing on March 10, 2011 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans realize that there is no possible way to win the next presidential elections and so they will exploit such hot issues in order to gain more support among the voters.

Posted by: Heather on March 12, 2011 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK



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