Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Gravel off to Gitmo?

Self-proclaimed terrorism expert Steve Emerson -- a well noted plagiarist, fear monger, and Islamophobe -- is fulfilling his latest desperate attempt for media attention by claiming that former Senator Mike Gravel advocated "stalking" Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg at a recent event that I covered for Inter Press Service.

Here is what Gravel said at the event -- which was aimed at raising awareness of the case of imprisoned Palestinian activist Sami al-Arian -- that has so angered Emerson, as dutifully noted by Fox News:
“Find out where he lives, find out where his kids go to school, find out where his office is, picket him all the time,” Gravel said, in an audio tape obtained by the Investigative Project on Terrorism and provided to FOX News.

“Call him a racist in signs if you see him. Call him an injustice. Call him whatever you want to call him, but in his face all the time.”
“How do you deal with this kind of an injustice? I wouldn’t protest. I don’t believe in protesting. I think it demonstrates the failure of representative government. My answer to that problem is, I want to empower you as a lawmaker. … Don’t rely on your elected officials,” the former senator said.
Oh no! An elderly former lawmaker is urging people to protest the very government officials whose salaries they pay. And he's not all that sold on representative democracy -- get this man to the loony bin!

As I heard it, Gravel was calling people to picket a public official who -- albeit in his characteristically blunt manner. It also happened to be not so great advice, and not something I'd recommend people follow if they're really concerned about al-Arian's case (at least stick to picketing at the guy's workplace). That said, laughable is the notion that a 78 year old former senator would somehow be able to convince a bunch of generally well dressed middle-aged activists and writers such as Naomi Klein, assembled at a restaurant/bookshop in an increasingly yuppified part of Washington, to rise up and -- what? Yell mean things at a federal prosecutor?

Emerson, as usual, sees a threat:
“The question is whether he crossed the line in saying ‘find out where his kids go to school,’” said counter-terrorism expert Steve Emerson. “That to my mind and to government officials including those in the FBI crosses the line into a direct veiled threat."
As for inciting violence -- isn't that what Emerson's career has been all about? This, after all, is a man who has never found a crime he couldn't somehow blame on "radical Islamists" -- including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings.

But the next quote is the real whopper:
[Emerson] said the evidence at the Al-Arian trial “overwhelming showed and incontrovertibly demonstrated that he was head of the Islamic Jihad network in the United States.”
Not to be pedantic, but the definition I get for "incontrovertible" is "not open to question -- indisputable", and well, a Florida jury plainly disagreed with Emerson's assesment. In fact, even after former attorney general John Ashcroft declared that al-Arian was one of the most evil, dangerous terrorists living among us -- just over a month before the beginning of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq -- a Florida jury in 2005 failed to convict to convict the outspoken Palestinian activist of a single crime, acquitting him of eight charges and deadlocking on another nine (with 9 to 10 jurors voting to acquit on every charge).

But I suspect that Emerson probably agrees with what one of the jurors who did not vote to acquit on all charges told Meg Laughlin of the St. Petersburg Times:
"Like another person on the jury, I was convinced Mr. Al-Arian was still working with the [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] after it was illegal. He was a very smart man and knew how not to be obvious. For me, the absence of evidence didn't mean there was no evidence."
But hey, who can blame Emerson for always trying to scare people? After all, professional fear merchants like him have made a killing by finding terror under every pillow, especially since 9/11. And unfortunately, tabloid outlets like Fox News and CNN will always be eager to bring people like him on TV to discuss how your dark-skinned neighbor just may be trying to kill you.

Just remember: be afraid!

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