Reem Khalil is a City College biochemistry student who was expecting to graduate this term. But she and her entire family were arrested on February 27 on suspicion of terrorism. When the FBI found nothing to charge them with, they were turned over to the immigration authorities. They are still in custody! Reem, one sister and her mother are in separate cells in a New Jersey jail; her father and a brother are in another jail; another brother is being held in a juvenile detention center in Philadelphia. The two youngest children were left with a neighbor.
The INS wants to deport the family to Syria on the grounds that they are undocumented immigrants. But Reem has lived in the U.S. since she was 12. She and her family are not terrorists. The real reason they are in jail today is that a climate of racism and repression has been whipped up against Arabs and other Middle Easterners since September 11.
Over a thousand non-citizens have been detained in secrecy. The few cases that have come to light reveal vile injustices, including brutalization in prison and deprivation of legal counsel. Attorney General Ashcroft dismisses those who protest about “phantoms of lost liberty” as aiding terrorists. Congressional leaders have responded with only feeble questioning.
Politicians who defend the capitalist system with its inherent injustice cannot be relied on to mount the kind of protest needed to get innocent people like Reem and her family released. But we at City College – students, faculty and staff – can do a lot to help by organizing for massive protest action. We join with the CCNY Coalition against War and Racism in demanding that President Williams call a campus-wide meeting, with the press and other media invited, to spread the word about the outrageous treatment of Reem Khalil, her family, and by extension hundreds of other detainees. The Faculty Senate has called on the college administration to investigate. Other staff and student bodies should take even stronger stands.
Why are the government and politicians treating the detainees with such contempt and disregard for their legal and constitutional rights? It’s not because they have evidence, or even believe, that their victims are Al Qaeda agents. Their underlying reasoning is far more dangerous.
President Bush is waging war both at home and abroad. Abroad the U.S. aim is not to rid the world of terrorism or an “axis of evil.” In fact the biggest supporter of terrorism is the U.S. government, which supports reactionaries everywhere and aids terrorist armies in countries like Colombia and Israel to repress millions. As for the present war in Afghanistan, the U.S. under Carter and Reagan helped Osama bin Laden arm, fund and organize the gangs who later became both the Taliban and the “Northern Alliance.” Under Bush I, Clinton and Bush II before September, the U.S. was dealing with and backing the super-oppressive Taliban regime. “Fighting terrorism” is a handy excuse for farther-reaching goals.
The U.S. aim in this war is to rid the world of any opposition to American military, political and economic domination. As the dominant capitalist power, the U.S. is the now the greatest imperialist the world has yet seen, using its military strength to back up its economic servants like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to control the resources and superexploit the workers and peasants of every continent. No lesser power will be granted leave to stand in the way, whether it be over-ambitious former allies like Saddam Hussein, supine governments begging for relief like Argentina’s, or rival imperialists in Western Europe or Japan.
The appetite of the U.S.’s capitalist class has been swelled by the spreading economic crisis, which makes profits harder to gain by usual means. The collapse of Enron reveals the speculative pyramid schemes that capitalism turns to when production turns risky or even unprofitable. Treasury Secretary O’Neill let the truth out when he made this excuse for Enron’s rapacious bosses: “It’s part of the genius of capitalism. ... That’s the way the system works.”
At home, the war is against the working class. Hundreds of thousands have lost jobs, Social Security has been raided, pensions have disappeared – all blamed on the September 11 disaster but in reality underway long before. To keep working people from uniting and fighting back, the U.S. ruling class’s traditional weapon is racism: cops’ “racial profiling” has been given new life by the targeting of Middle Eastern and South Asian people, and is already giving rise to intensified police terror against Blacks and Latinos.
At CUNY, we have already felt some of this attack. The trustees have imposed out-of-state tuition on undocumented immigrant students who are New York State residents, making use of an anti-immigrant bill passed during the Clinton administration. It is the present witch-hunting climate that makes them “obey” this law.
We in the League for the Revolutionary Party believe that imperialism will be ended only when the working class overthrows the capitalist system and creates its own workers’ state on the road to socialism. We and our supporters work to support struggles of the workers and the oppressed everywhere we can, always showing the underlying responsibility of imperialist capitalism. Join us in building the future revolutionary working-class party in the U.S., part of the world party of socialist revolution.