Homeland Repression: The Persecution of Iraqis in the U.S.

Revolutionary Worker #1194, April 13, 2003,posted at rwor.org

The moment the U.S. military began its war to conquer and occupy Iraq, law enforcement within the U.S. set in motion a Homeland wartime plan. The plan, called "Operation Liberty Shield," includes the targeting and persecution of Iraqi people living in the United States, detentions, and chilling police-state measures.

"Operation Liberty Shield" affects virtually every part of the U.S., from southern California to Michigan--where the largest concentrations of Iraqis live--to New York to Colorado to Nebraska to Iowa. In a first wave, the FBI is singling out Iraqi natives who have visited Iraq in the past three years. By the end of March, CNN was reporting that the FBI had already conducted 9,000 interviews- -of the 11,000 Iraqi people targeted in this first phase. And this is only the first step in a move that will ultimately target 50,000 Iraqi immigrants.

Those being interviewed are being treated with suspicion--as if they are the "enemy" simply because they are from Iraq.

A lawyer who was present at two of the interviews told the NY Times that the FBI asked one man, "If you were in the military, what did you do? What areas of the country were you familiar with? What were the names of your family members? What are their occupations? Did they know any Iraqi intelligence officers?"

At the same time, the U.S. government is also moving to detain hundreds of people born in Iraq who the government claims have violated immigration laws. By the end of March, 30 of those interviewed had already been detained on immigration violations.

The full scale of this is unclear, but a hint of it was given in the Denver Post,which reported that federal agents "are moving to arrest as many as 50 Iraqis in Colorado--nearly a tenth of the total Iraqi population in the state."

On top of all this, two days before the war began, the Homeland Security Department instituted a policy of automatically detaining anyone seeking political asylum in the U.S. until their application is fully processed--a process that takes six months or longer. Now, anyone who is on a list of 33 countries the U.S. claims has "ties to terrorism" is automatically detained. The countries being targeted for persecution are mainly Middle Eastern and Muslim countries. And Iraq is on the list--meaning anyone fleeing political persecution from that country will be automatically jailed when they enter the U.S.

One Iraqi woman, who now lives in Long Island, told Newsday , "We fled from Iraq to find a safe place to live and now we end up with a place where they're doing the same thing."

The Danger of Red Alert

Coinciding with the targeting and persecution of Iraqi immigrants has been the dispatch of more police-state measures within the U.S.--all in the name of keeping people "safe" in post 9/11 America. While the U.S. government wages a war that will make people around the world hate the U.S. government even more, people in the U.S. are being told to be afraid of "another terrorist attack." And people are being told that they should be willing to give up civil liberties to help the government "secure the homeland."

As soon as the war on Iraq began, the Homeland Security Department raised the "threat level" back to orange (which had only been reduced two weeks earlier). And on the heels of that came announcements of new repressive measures.

New York City is a stark example. Army Black Hawk helicopters now fly over the city. There are checkpoints at bridges and tunnels searching cars and trucks at random, heavily armed police are posted in major public places like the NY Stock Exchange, and police are even stopping tourists from taking pictures inside Penn Station. All of this is part of a "Operation Atlas"--what police commissioner Kelly calls "the most comprehensive terrorism-prevention operation our city has ever conducted."

Similar measures have been established throughout the U.S. The FBI has directed all its 56 field offices to set up 24-hour emergency command posts, which in turn are working with the local Joint Terrorism Task Forces. From Connecticut to Minnesota, there are now random checks of commercial trucks at airports. In Ohio, cars and people entering federal buildings are searched. In California, the governor has ordered the Highway Patrol to start 12-hour shifts, and they have set up 24-hour air surveillance of "potential terror targets." All this is now "SOP" (standard operating procedure) in "code orange" USA. This is what people are supposed to get used to. And the government is hoping all this will lay the basis for people accepting even more civil liberties being taken away.

An AP story highlighting security measures in Connecticut was revealing. The Journal Inquirer of Manchester reported that Connecticut state officials have not said what steps would be implemented should a "code red" be declared, but that it could result in limits on people's movements. A state police spokesman said, "We don't want to implement anything close to martial law here, but when it comes to public safety, that's paramount."

Meanwhile, the Courier Post On Line for South Jersey said: "If the nation escalates to `red alert,' which is the highest in the color-coded readiness against terror, you will be assumed by authorities to be the enemy if you so much as venture outside your home, the state's anti-terror czar says. A red alert would also tear away virtually all personal freedoms to move about and associate. `Red means all noncritical functions cease,' [Sid] Casperson said. `Non-critical would be almost all businesses, except health related.' "

It is a chilling picture. The FBI knocking on the doors of thousands of Iraqi immigrants, dragging some off to jail, intimidating others. At the borders asylum seekers are jailed for the "crime" of trying to escape persecution. In the cities checkpoints are thrown up, heavily armed police and military patrol public spaces as "counter-terrorism" officials talk openly about martial law. All of this Homeland repression is necessary to a ruling class that is unleashing war, death and destruction around the world.

As RCP Chairman Bob Avakian explained in his recent interview with Carl Dix:

"Clearly the main thing that's going on is that they had a program that they were already moving to implement on a certain level, and now they've seized on this situation that was created by September 11 to pull out the throttle full scale and try to ram this through, in a big way. That's why we call it a juggernaut, and it does include the whole open-ended war internationally, but it must also be accompanied by this kind of heightened repression you're talking about within the U.S. because you can't go and wage open-ended war like this and not have a lot of repressive mechanisms already being implemented and much more machinery ready to bring into play, especially when this kind of thing starts to get out of hand and there's a lot of resistance, and there's what we call `blow back' internationally or even within the U.S. itself. Things could get very much out of hand by what they're unleashing and the very things that they're bringing into being. So they need repression now and they also need to prepare for even further heightening that repression as things go down the road."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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