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The Terror Train Bears Down

Last week I tried to explain why Jane Harman’s "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007" is a profoundly bad idea, one likely to skew and misdirect the fight against genuine terrorism into an ideological witchhunt that poisons our constitutional rights.

What I neglected to mention, unfortunately, is that this Orwellian bill is very much on the verge of becoming reality. It has already passed the House by a 400-6 vote, and now sits before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs — chaired by that "Independent Democrat" Joe Lieberman.

I think we can all see where this is heading. Joe loves him those Muslim-bashers, and this bill is tailor-made for them.

Amy Goodman raised the red flag about this bill the other day, and a point raised on her program by Kamau Franklin of the Center for Constitutional Rights really got to the heart of the problem with this bill:

KAMAU FRANKLIN: I just wanted to add to the Rand comment, particularly with Brian Michael Jenkins, supposed terrorist expert who’s mainly known according to Rand as someone who helped the United States in counter-insurgency measures in Vietnam, which is one of his claims to fame. In addition to that, he wrote a book and in his own book, I just want to quote that says “in their international campaign, the Jihadist will seek common ground with leftist, anti-American and anti-globalization forces who will in turn seek radical Islam comrades against a mutual foe.” So I think what Jessica’s talking about, is that, the breadth of it is not focused in on supposed terrorists who are threatening the United States, but folks who have real concerns about where this country is heading, folks who express dissent in various different ways including demonstrations and marches. These are the folks who this bill potentially good target.

This is also a powerful indicator of just how open to abuse this legislation will be. The reality of the radical Islam, both in ideology and practice, is such that it’s clear that any alliances it forms in this are almost certainly going to be on the side of the extreme American right and not its left.

It’s more than just the common ground of radical fundamentalism they share. It’s also manifested in what has actually occurred: David Duke and other far-right figures appearing at Holocaust-denial conferences sponsored by radical Islamic fundamentalists; outreach efforts among the far right, such as the Aryan Nations’ Ministry of Islamic Liaison; the ongoing theoretical work of David Myatt, the British ex-neo-Nazi who converted to Islam and frequently expounds on building bridges between the two factions; the ongoing shared rhetoric of hate.

George Michael’s book The Enemy of My Enemy: The Alarming Convergence of Militant Islam and the Extremist Right does a thorough job of examining and documenting this reality. Meanwhile, the evidence of any similar convergence of militant Islam and the antiglobalist left is very thin if not nonexistent.

But under the antiterrorism regime created by Harman’s bill, all you need is for an "expert" (even if he has an ax to grind) to assert on the thinnest evidence that a convergence of radical Islam and antiglobalist, or just as likely, antiwar organizations exists, and the witchhunt will descend.

We should be at least alarmed if not outraged over the bill’s passage, and yet it has hardly raised a blip on our political radars. As Goodman observes:

AMY GOODMAN: Jessica Lee, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act was passed in the house 400-6. That is a very big margin.

JESSICA LEE: Correct. It was actually passed under what is called the “Suspension of the Rules”, which is a provision the House uses to pass bills very quickly and these are usually bills deemed uncontroversial and do not need more debate. So we saw a quick vote. Six people voted against. One was presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich. He was unavailable for comment unfortunately. So what we’re seeing not only the Republican congress giving the Bush administration swath of powers to confront the war on terrorism, but we are also seeing the democratically-led congress also extending these powers.

At this point, the bill certainly looks to be a fait accompli. Perhaps, somewhere in the Senate, someone will find the courage to stand up and question what this bill does and where it is taking us.

It would take an act of unusual courage this year, because you can be certain anyone doing so would be accused of being "soft on terrorism" — and nothing sends politicians on both sides of the aisle scurrying faster than those dread words. And the Democrats voters put in power in 2006 have not exactly been profiles in courage so far, Chris Dodd notwithstanding.

Here are the Democratic members of the Senate Homeland Security committee:

Carl Levin, MI

Daniel Akaka, HI

Thomas Carper, DE

Mark Pryor, AR

Mary Landrieu, LA

Barack Obama, IL

Claire McCaskill, MO

Jon Tester, MT

Not exactly a promising list, I know. But it is what it is.

This bill is a runaway train loaded with nitroglycerin, and the wreckage it creates may be far worse than anyone anticipates. At this point, we may just want to prepare ourselves for the shock.

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David Neiwert

David Neiwert

David Neiwert is the managing editor of Firedoglake. He's a freelance journalist based in Seattle and the author/editor of the blog Orcinus. He also is the author of Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community (Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, June 2005), as well as Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America (Palgrave/St. Martin's, 2004), and In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (1999, WSU Press). His reportage for MSNBC.com on domestic terrorism won the National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism in 2000.

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