Wesley Clark’s Paranoia: Bad for Muslims, Bad for the US
Written by Natalie Davis on August 10, 2015
Ah, Wesley Clark. The retired US Army general — who voted for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and vocally supported George W. Bush until he didn’t, fought in the Vietnam War, and led military actions in Kosovo that almost led to war with Russia — turned many liberal heads, including Michael Moore’s, when he opposed war in Iraq and Iran and ran for president as a Democrat in 2004. Now, Clark has a solution to dealing with “disloyal Americans” — locking them up in new-millennium internment camps.
One might see this as being cruel, sick, unimaginable. Apparently, though, it’s the USian war: When in doubt, put people behind bars.
This, of course, is not first time the nation took such an approach to dealing with its own paranoia. For the first half of the 1940s, the American people watched in horror as Germany threw Jews and members of other groups it deemed unpopular into concentration camps, exterminating six million of its captives. When the country entered World War II after Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, all things Japanese became the enemy. The US committed atrocities abroad: Seventy years ago Aug. 6 and 9, President Harry S. Truman ordered the bombings of Japan’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed upwards of a quarter million people. And atrocity was done at home: In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called for the forced incarceration of Japanese-American citizens. More than 127,000 men, women, and children were taken from their homes against their will and put in internment camps for the war’s duration. Many lost their freedom, homes, and livelihoods for no reason other than their ancestry — and the majority’s paranoid streak. The nation’s eventual 1988 apology did and does nothing to mitigate the harm that was done or the heinousness of the ct.
So it is chilling to hear Wesley Clark offer this “solution” to dissent in 2015. His grand idea emerged during a July 20 interview with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts after the Chattanooga shootings that left five armed forces members dead.
WESLEY CLARK: … [W]e’ve got to identify the people who are most likely to be radicalized, and we’ve got to cut this off at the beginning. There are always a certain number of young people who are alienated. They don’t get a job, they lost a girlfriend, their family doesn’t feel happy here. And we can watch the signs of that, and there are members of the community who will reach out to those people and bring them back in and encourage them to look at their blessings here.
But I do think, on a national policy level, we need to look at what self-radicalization means. Because we are at war with this group of terrorists. They do have an ideology. In World War Two, if someone supported Nazi Germany at the expense of the United States, we didn’t say that was freedom of speech. We put him in a camp. They were prisoners of war.
So, if these people are radicalized, and they don’t support the United States, and they’re disloyal to the United States, as a matter of principle, fine. That’s their right. It’s our right, and our obligation, to segregate them from the normal community for the duration of the conflict. And I think we’re going to have to increasingly get tough on this. Not only in the United States, but our allied nations like Britain and Germany and France, are going to have to look at their domestic law procedures.
Look at the vagueness of Clark’s words. What does he mean by “disloyal”? Whom does he mean when he talks about people being “radicalized”? Does he mean violent Muslim extremists? How about nonviolent Muslims offering critical opinions? Would this idea carry over to right-wing terrorists who agree with the ideas of racist Charleston shooter Dylann Roof? Could this be a way for handling peace activists and progressives who criticize government policy? And why didn’t Roberts dig in on these questions — or challenge the lunacy and inhumanity behind Clark’s preposterous proposal?
Dissent is protected speech for citizens in this country. If Clark is talking specifically about “radicalized” Muslims who are US citizens, they have the right to freedom of speech — period. If they do not, what does this mean for the rights for any of us who feel it is our duty as human beings to point out governmental wrongs and injustices?
Remember too that despite his long history as a Republican-supporting warmonger, Clark now calls himself a Democrat.
On July 21, Clark offered a clarification to Fox News Radio’s Alan Colmes, insisting that the media took his words out of context, according to Mediaite.
I’m saying we’ve got to deal with radicalization in our society…. You’ve got to have a counter-recruitment program. If the counter-recruitment program doesn’t work — that is to say: if you don’t know who is looking at these Islamic websites, if you don’t know what their reactions are, if you don’t have anybody who can talk them out of it, if they persist in becoming enemies, and wanting to kill people — you’ve got to set up some milestones along that journey for them. And at some point they either get arrested, get treated as terrorists, or they get put in a prisoner of war camp. It’s nothing like what some people on the internet misinterpreted what I’m saying. We had Italian and German prisoners of war in the United States; here are people who fought against us, they were brought here and kept here for the duration of the conflict. You can treat people as criminals or you can treat people as POWs.
Ok, so Clark sees the US as Wayward Pines and critical Muslim citizens as people who need forced re-education. It is not justifiable, and his backpedaling does not obscure the repugnance of his earlier statement. What Clark proposes would have a chilling effect on the free speech rights of all citizens. His plan would require surveillance and the encroachment of people’s civil liberties. And frankly, just as it was unfair and inhumane to paint Japanese citizens with a broad brush in the 1940s, it would be wrong — un-American, even — to do that to Muslim citizens now or ever. These are not people who fought against the US as German soldiers did in the 1940s. Citizens who happen to be Muslim should have every right to live their lives with the same freedom as other citizens to criticize their government and its policies. In fact, just as voicing dissent is our patriotic duty, it is the duty of USians who are Muslim as well.
Shame on Wesley Clark. To those who supported him, take a good look: This is not what a progressive or true liberal would think. Ever.