Dover Bitch

Friday, August 11, 2006

The wrong way to fight

Now that the news has been dominated by the plot to blow up all those airplanes, some of the talking heads have revived the idea of treating Muslims like criminals.

TUCKER CARLSON: This question we were talking about just a minute ago, it's obviously great news that 24 suspects were caught, but it seems to me bad news that 24 westernized Muslims would be willing to die in order to hurt Americans. Are we in the United States government thinking deeply about why these people are willing to kill themselves to hurt us? And what are we doing about that?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Absolutely. We have been reaching out, and we have allies around the Muslim world, around the world, but we work with our allies, like Saudi Arabia, like Pakistan, to understand how we can do a better job at denying them the pool of people they seem to be recruiting from.

I was listening to your earlier dialogue, and I'll say to you, I don't think that you can target a particular population. We know from what we've learned in intelligence channels that, as soon as we focus on a particular population of people that we believe are going to be used as suicide bombers, they'll shift. They may go from young Arab men to people of Southeast Asian descent. And so you have to—you can't—the minute you...

CARLSON: Well, wait a sec. I mean, with all due respect, Ms. Townsend, and I definitely have respect for you, we know that they're all observant Muslims. I mean, there is one population that remains constant. Sure, they may be different colors, different ethnicities, but they share a religion. And so once we know that, why not focus on people we know are observant Muslims?

TOWNSEND: But how do you know that, Tucker? I mean...


CARLSON: Well, you don't know, but once you know that, you know, observant Methodists, or Presbyterians, or orthodox Jews probably aren't going to be members of Al Qaeda, so, I mean, you can ignore them and save a lot of time.

TOWNSEND: Well, that's right, but, I mean, I guess my question to you is, how would people feel if, when people came up to screening, we were asking them, "What is your religious belief? Are you Catholic? Are you Jewish? Are you Muslim?" We find that offensive.

CARLSON: Oh, it is offensive. On the other hand, so is waiting in line for three hours or destroying the American economy. I mean, at some point, you know, there are tradeoffs. We keep talking about, "We're all going to be inconvenienced." Well, why exactly is that? Why aren't we smarter about it, since we know that only a very small percentage of the population is likely to do anything like this?

What a shock to learn that Tucker Carlson is willing to alienate an entire segment of the population as part of a "tradeoff" in a grand compromise in the generational struggle against long lines.

Let's just get started with the obvious. The 9/11 hijackers lied their way into America, lied their way into flight school, lied their way into normal lives here, and lied their way onto the airplanes. We're supposed to believe that these people would cave once they got to the airport? That they wouldn't say "I'm a Methodist" at the TSA checkpoint?

Ah, but Tucker asks "why not focus on people we know are observant Muslims?" And I suppose we know this because we're making lists with everybody's religion now? We're sending spies into places of worship? Is there a column to indicate just how observant we all are? Will we have agents at the entrance to all churches to know who's OK? Or to make sure that Muslims aren't trying to get into them on Sundays just to throw us off?

But aside from the practical reasons this idea is insane, there is a much larger picture which apparently eludes people like Tucker.

The foiled terrorists in Britain were home grown. Now, Tucker called them "24 westernized Muslims," but they were British. British. Again, this isn't a practical complication. It's part of the big picture.

There's a reason why there were riots in France's Muslim community. There's a reason why British-born citizens would be plotting against their own country, while America does not face the same threat.

It's because we don't treat the millions of Muslims in America the way they do in Europe. And if we start acting like Europeans, not only is that, by definition, un-American, it will tear millions of people out of our national fabric. We have a "with us or against us" position in the war on terror. Treating any Muslim like a potential terrorist tells them that we believe they are no longer with us. So where does that leave them?

And unless Tucker thinks someone like him is going to go Donnie Brascoe on al-Qaeda, then we need all the help we can get. Treating an entire religious segment of American like crap in order to get from the limo to the plane faster is the kind of small thinking that makes us more despised and less secure. It's exactly what the terrorists want.

UPDATE: Juliette Kayyem at TPM Cafe gets it.

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