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Mark Dankof's America

We Watch for Guys With Your Profile

by Mark Dankof for News and Views at GoOff.com


(Mark Dankof examines the controversy over profiling and incarcerating Iranian immigrants in Los Angeles in the context of the American Central State, the Neo-Conservatives, and Franklin Delano Bush.)


            Readers of News and Views may find it hard to believe, but I fully empathize with any Iranian immigrants or Iranian-Americans unfairly detained as a security risk for fitting a particular Middle Eastern profile---on the basis of personal experience.

             My own encounter with the surreal and the theater of the absurd occurred at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv in the summer of 1976, back in the days of the Pahlavi regime and reciprocal flying and trade arrangements between Iran and Israel. I had just arrived at Ben Gurion on an El Al flight from Tehran, a flight preceded by a full three hours of security and baggage inspection at Mehrabad Airport. My trip to Israel from Iran was a 21st birthday gift from my parents, stationed in the latter country where my father was serving the Shah's Imperial Iranian Air Force (IIAF) as a logistics expert.

             All was serene and without notable incident until I arrived at Passport Control, where the Israeli personnel in question courteously asked me to accompany them to a secure room. Upon arrival, I was informed by the chief interrogator that there were several follow-up questions they wished to ask. Over a quarter of a century later, I still remember much of the dialogue, which went something like this: 

Israeli Interrogator: "You are an American?"

Dankof: "Yes."

Israeli Interrogator: "But your passport indicates you were born in Germany."

Dankof: "At an American Air Force hospital in Wiesbaden."

Israeli Interrogator: "Your parents were stationed there?"

Dankof: "No, at that time they were stationed in Ankara, Turkey. The Air Force flew my mother to Germany to give birth."

Israeli Interrogator: "Your father was an officer?"

Dankof: "Yes. An Air Force major at the time. He retired a full Colonel."

Israeli Interrogator: "But his name sounds German." 

Dankof: "That's because it is, along with about 60 million other Americans of German extraction, especially in the rural Midwest. My parents came from a town called Hamburg, Iowa [farming town of 1800 where Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri meet in quintessential Middle America]."

Israeli Interrogator: "And I suppose this was all OK with your American Air Force."

Dankof: "Yes. My Dad fit in well with some of the other German officers in the American military--guys with names like Eisenhower and Nimitz."

Israeli Interrogator (after a brief lull): "What were you doing in Iran?"

Dankof: "Visiting my parents. My father is now an American military advisor to the Imperial Iranian Air Force. I have been visiting my parents for the summer on vacation from college. I go to a German Lutheran university near Chicago, Valparaiso University."

Israeli Interrogator: "Do you know the name of the depot where he works?"

Dankof: "Yes. It is [deleted]."

Israeli Interrogator: "Have you been a part of any political activities in college?"

Dankof: "Yes. This past spring, I voted in my first Presidential primary---the Republican primary---for Ronald Reagan over Gerald Ford, in Porter County, Indiana [a dangerously subversive place]. (Dankof produces the voter's registration card out of his wallet for the interrogator.)"

            At this point, the interrogator turned my passport over to another man who had been writing down the information. The second man disappeared for approximately 20 minutes. The interrogator, along with several other additional personnel, subjected me to search by hand-held metal detector. After 20 minutes, the man who had left the room returned, spoke to the interrogator in Hebrew, and handed him my passport. The interrogator smiles with a renewed sense of reassurance, hands me back the passport, extends his right hand in friendship, and utters the immortal words, "Welcome to Israel, Mr. Dankof. All is well now. We watch for guys with your profile."

            Over a quarter of a century later, these words may well nigh apply to the enthusiasms of the Bush/Ashcroft apparatchiks in their ongoing investigation of Iranian immigrants in Los Angeles. Is it a new version of Roosevelt's xenophobic reaction to Japanese-Americans subsequent to December 7th, 1941? In all likelihood, yes. Does it reflect a visceral suspicion of all things Iranian and Middle Eastern, with little or no regard for the historical or cultural contributions of these civilizations? Undoubtedly in the affirmative on this one as well. You might well ask the next representative of our Federal government, or any other American for that matter, if he or she is aware of the influence and role played by the ancient Achaemenid kings of Persia like Cyrus the Great, Darius, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes in providing an assist to ancient Israel during its Babylonian Diaspora. Or if there is any dawning awareness of the role of Persia in the Old Testament history recorded in such places as Daniel, Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Try asking the said cultural minions if they have sampled Yamauchi's Persia and the Bible, Olmstead's History of the Persian Empire, Sandra Mackey's The Iranians, or Roloff Beny's Persia. I bet you won't find one taker in a thousand. The American perception of Iran is more perceptibly ensconced in the imagery of the Islamic Revolution of 1978-79, and the images of the hostage crisis that followed beamed into millions of homes courtesy of the fledgling ABC Nightline show and a young Ted Koppel. It has not been altered since.

            But responsible critics of American INS and Federal law enforcement policy for Iranians in the recent Los Angeles debacle, like Sam Ghandchi of Iranscope and Fatema Soudivar Farmanfarmian of the Iranian Times, may have their legitimate critiques buttressed by the grim reminder that the excesses of the American Central State and its national security apparatus toward Middle Easterners have their precedent in the devious actions of this government toward American citizens with long standing credentials. Take the machinations of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 14 months leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Thanks to the work of BBC Pacific War consultant Robert Stinnett and a slew of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) law suits, the readers of Mr. Stinnett's Day of Deceit: The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor now know of the McCollum Memorandum of 1940, which chronicles Mr. Roosevelt's deliberate actions to provoke war between the United States and Japan. Stinnett also proves that United States Naval Intelligence (ONI), in contradiction of all established Pearl Harbor legend, had cracked Japanese naval communications. Contrary to legend, Admiral Yamamoto and Admiral Nagumo had not maintained radio silence during the trip of the latter's taskforce from Hittokappu Bay to 200 miles north of Oahu. On November 26th, Navy intelligence intercepted a communication from Yamamoto to Nagumo which revealed the entire Japanese plan for December 7th--complete with the destination of Pearl Harbor. Yet this information never reached American Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and General Walter Short, the Hawaiian commanders. How and why did this happen? And why did Admiral Kimmel receive the infamous Vacant Sea Order from Washington in this time frame, forbidding him from searching the very area of longitude and latitude where Nagumo would launch his carrier based air strikes against Oahu only a handful of weeks later? And how, subsequently, was Roosevelt allowed to incarcerate American citizens of Japanese descent in complete contravention of the entire spirit and letter of the American Constitutional heritage and experience?

            Or take the more recent tragedies in the United States of Waco and Ruby Ridge. In the former instance, the American public never learned of the story printed by the well known Washington based weekly, Human Events. It documented, among other things, that Federal law enforcement employed a CS nerve gas against the women and children inside Koresh's compound that had been banned from utilization in international warfare by the Geneva Convention. It was designed, not to force people out of the compound and into the open, but to paralyze the central nervous system. The Human Events coverage, plus the award winning film Rules of Engagement, present a side to the conduct of Federal law enforcement in Texas in 1993 that has never been satisfactorily explained--or justified.

            In the Ruby Ridge affair, we now know that a man named Randy Weaver, guilty only of a technical violation of Federal firearms law (shortening the barrel of a shotgun he was selling below the minimum size allowable in Federal law), was deliberately sent a false court date by a U. S. Attorney, a date other than the one orally decreed by a Federal judge. The U. S. Attorney, in intentionally misleading Weaver, used the latter's no-show status at the courtroom on the day decreed by the judge as the pretext to send an armed Federal assault team of FBI and BATF agents to Weaver's home. Their actions? Fatally shooting Weaver's 12 year old son in the back, after the boy began a terrified run back to his home because the agents in question had first fatally wounded the youngster's pet dog in the front yard. Subsequently, a federal sniper shot and killed Weaver's unarmed and pregnant wife, Vicki, who had ventured too close to a window during the debacle. Weaver and a friend inside the house defended their home from this assault and were subsequently upheld in their actions by a court in Idaho. But how many Federal agents and officials were criminally prosecuted for the unspeakable actions of that day? As Senator Barbara Boxer of California likes to say, "Nada. Zip. Zero."

            All of this has now culminated in the post-September 11th actions ostensibly taken to insure the security of the American public. These include the infamous USA Patriot Act, which in complete contravention of the 4th Amendment prohibition on "unreasonable searches and seizures," now authorizes Federal law enforcement to enter any home or business in the United States, minus a warrant or even a consultation with a Federal judge, for a period of up to 90 consecutive days. And the Total Information Awareness Program, led by convicted felon Admiral John Poindexter of Iran-Contra fame, will give the National Security State new and unfettered access to every credit card transaction, bank transaction, and travel arrangement conducted by any American citizen within the continental United States. It begs the question of where we are going as a nation, and what practical protections are now provided by the American Constitution in the wake of the evolution and advent of the Total State. This, on top of an impending oil war increasingly driven by the Israeli lobby, American/British oil and natural gas consortiums, and Mr. Bush's neo-conservative advisors, underscores that the Total State is committed to a two tier course of action---increasing militarism and expansion abroad, coupled with a draconian reduction of personal freedom in the domestic realm. And this two-tier course of action is increasingly stamped with the imprimatur of the two major American political parties, as this impending Roman tragedy continues to unfold, with endgame yet unknown.

            So, Iranian immigrant or average American citizen, be ready with your papers. The Bush/Ashcroft/Poindexter/Rumsfeld/Perle/Wolfowitz team is ready to declare, "We watch for guys with your profile."

(Mark Dankof (med1chd2@concentric.net) is a correspondent and staff writer with News and Views at GoOff.com and an occasional correspondent with the orthodox Lutheran weekly, Christian News.  A graduate of Valparaiso University and Chicago's Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, he has pursued post-graduate theological study in recent years at Philadelphia's Westminster Theological Seminary. Formerly the 36th District Chairman of the Republican Party in King County/Seattle, and later an elected delegate to Texas State Republican Conventions in 1994 and 1996, he entered the United States Senate race in Delaware in 2000 as the nominated candidate of the Constitution Party against Democratic candidate Thomas Carper and incumbent William Roth.  His writings are frequently reposted in the Freedom Writer; Sam Ghandchi's Iranscope; San Francisco and Palestine Indy Media; the London Morning Paper; Nile Media; and Table Talk, the official publication of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod--USA.)

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