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January 27, 2003

New McCarthyism- Expulsion

I've been relatively circumspect in labelling what's been happening to civil liberties in the last year and a half, since while the detentions and assaults have been horrendous, we have not yet seen the full-scale chilling of democratic rights that accompanied McCarthyism.

But we are now entering that territory, as those who speak out politically are de facto losing their right to travel. Sabri Samirah, president of the United Muslim Americans Association in Palos Hills, outside Chicago, was visiting Jordan and has been told he will not be allowed to return to the United States. Samirah is not a citizen but has lived in the United States for fifteen years.

The targetting of political spokespeople is the hallmark of McCarthyism. And preventing them from travel (which the threat of blocking reentry accomplishes) or deporting them was a key part of that attack. Back in the 50s, a range of political people were barred from foreign travel. Paul Robeson, one of the top left performers and speakers, found his international career destroyed by the revoking of his visa. The US government sought to undermine radical unionism by deporting Harry Bridges repeatedly. Some conservatives are already positively drawing the connections between the McCarthyite attacks on unionists and modern assaults on the Islamic community.

As these civil liberties attacks move to full-scale assaults on the political leaders of communities within America, denying them the right to travel and threatening to deport them, it is hard to label what is emerging as anything other than an anti-Islam and anti-Arab McCarthyism.

Posted by Nathan at January 27, 2003 11:45 AM

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