Liberal Reality Check: ... it's time for civil libertarians to examine themselves with the same rigor with which we are prone to examine others. The bottom line is that Mr. Moussaoui was thrown in jail — thank God — not because there was evidence he had committed a crime but because he was a young Arab man who behaved suspiciously and fit our stereotypes about terrorists. [...] The Moussaoui case neatly exposes intellectual dishonesty on all sides. The Bush administration has engaged in widespread detentions of Muslims, twisting the law to keep them behind bars while denying that civil liberties have been abused. That's nonsense: the administration has wallowed in precisely the kind of hysterical wartime infringement of civil liberties that history always ends up judging harshly. Yet civil libertarians are also dishonest in refusing to acknowledge the trade-off between public security and individual freedom. [...] We must also relax a taboo, racial profiling, for one of the lessons of the Moussaoui case is that it sometimes works. (NY Times, registration required.)
All I can say is, this is a wonderful position to be able to take ... as long as you're in the wonderful position of being able to know that racial profiling has absolutely nothing to do with you. (Go ahead, have a quick look at his columnist biography. See that picture? How often do you think he's going to experience the joys of racial profiling?)
From my point of view, I look at the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists List, and I wonder ... how are airport security staff or the police or the FBI or anyone, for that matter, supposed to tell the difference between ethnic Arabs and American blacks and Hispanics? A great many African Americans are members of the Nation of Islam or other domestic Muslim sects, and people in these religions frequently give their adherents Arabic or Africanist names; checking the name on the identification will be no help there. For that matter, Arab Americans -- people born and raised in this country -- will be sure to have a miserable time under this regime, since they will by default be assumed to be terrorists. Comparing the US to Israel in this matter is not useful; we are not them. Arabs in the US are not a statistical majority, and our history is markedly different than Israel's in racial matters.
To be sure, Mr Kristoff's wife is Asian. He may have seen or experienced some aspects of racial profiling up close and personal. But Chinese Americans are not suspected of participating in recent terrorist activity here, are they? She would not be directly affected by the regime he appears to be encouraging.
Mr Kristoff may decry liberal hypocrisy all he wants -- I do not necessarily even disagree with him on that point. However, he should acknowledge the hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty in his own view; it's easy to advocate something when you can be serenely confident that you'll never have to experience it in your own country.Posted by iain at May 31, 2002 01:28 PM