By Bill Press
Tribune Media Services
After FDR disgracefully rounded up Japanese-Americans during World War II and locked them up in relocation camps, Americans promised: we’ll never do that again.
After the infamous House Un-American Affairs Committee destroyed lives and careers by questioning the patriotism of anybody who worked in Hollywood, Americans again promised: we’ll never do that again.
And after Senator Joseph McCarthy disgustingly branded as a communist agent anybody who just happened to be a liberal or worked in the State Department, Americans promised: we’ll never do that again, either.
Yet, here we are. Another witch hunt. Another roundup. Another HUAC. Another burst of McCarthyism. Led this time by Congressman Peter King, chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, who, under the guise of national security, is doing exactly what George W. Bush, to his credit, vowed after September 11 never to do: launch a wholesale attack on all Muslims and accuse them of either being terrorists themselves, or condoning terrorism.
Pete King doesn’t look like McCarthy, but he sure sounds like him: Are you now, or have you ever been, a Muslim? The very title of his hearings tells his bias from the beginning: “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community (which presumes such radicalization exists) and That Community’s Response” (which presumes it’s been anything but cooperative). In fact, long before the hearings began, King had already announced his belief that 80 percent to 85 percent of American mosques are controlled by Islamic radicals; and that American Muslims have refused to cooperate with law enforcement officials in combating terrorism.
Neither of which is true. In fact, Richard Cohen of The Washington Post writes that a recent Duke University/University of North Carolina study found “a drop in attempted or actual terrorist activity by American Muslims — 47 perpetrators and suspects in 2009, 20 in 2010.” Perhaps more significantly, the report by UNC terrorism expert Charles Kurzman showed that “the largest single source of initial information” about alleged terrorist plots — 48 out of 120 cases since September 11 — “involved tips from the Muslim American community.” In fact, the only law enforcement official to testify before King’s committee was Los Angeles Sheriff Leroy Baca, who praised the cooperation of the Southern California Muslim community.
The truth is that both the hearings and Chairman King himself are a major embarrassment to the 112th Congress. It is profoundly un-American to scapegoat all members of any religion for any reason. And King wouldn’t dare do it for any religion but Islam. Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia recently suspended 21 priests for accusations of sexual abuse regarding children. Can you imagine the uproar if Peter King had scheduled hearings to investigate whether all Catholics were child molesters? But ever since September 11, unfortunately, Muslims are fair game.
Congressman King is also a strange person to be chairing these hearings, since he is one of Congress’s only open supporters of terrorism. In the 1980s, as a major supporter and fundraiser for the IRA, he praised their activities and defended their acts of terror: “If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the IRA for it.” In his worldview, apparently, there are good terrorists and bad terrorists — depending on what part of the world they come from.
But the real issue is not who’s leading the hearings, but why they’re allowed to be held in the first place. And the man responsible for that is not Peter King, but Speaker John Boehner.
The King hearings are the latest evidence of a House out of control. Michele Bachmann insists on delivering her own State of the Union response — and gets away with it. Darrell Issa threatens wholesale subpoenas — and nobody applies the brakes. Birthers continue their insane conspiracy theory. House tea partiers pledge to shut down the government. And what does laissez-faire Boehner do? Nothing. The inmates are running the asylum.
How times have changed. In 2009, when House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers considered holding hearings on whether George Bush and Dick Cheney should be tried as war criminals, Speaker Nancy Pelosi stepped in and said: No, you won’t.
Time and time again, Pelosi demonstrated what’s been totally lacking so far from John Boehner: leadership.
© 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.