Rove, Kristol Laugh At Idea U.S. Arrested American Muslims Without Trial: ‘We Didn’t Do It!’

On Tuesday, Karl Rove and Bill Kristol debated journalists Simon Jenkins and Jacob Wiesberg at an event sponsored by BBC. The debate was whether “President Bush is the worst president of the last 50 years”; Jenkins and Weisberg argued in favor of the resolution, while Rove and Kristol argued against it.

At one point, Weisberg said that the Bush administration had never convinced the world that it had “not taken out Muslims as a particular group.” Kristol and Rove literally laughed at the idea that the United States had targeted and arrested American Muslims as part of its “war on terror” effort:

KRISTOL: What have we done to Muslims in America? What has happened?

JENKINS: Arrested them.


KRISTOL: We’ve arrested Muslims in America? [LAUGHTER]

JENKINS: Incarcerated them without trial.

KRISTOL: We’ve incarcerated Muslims in America without trial?

ROVE: Rounded them up? Rounded, rounded them up? Name one?

KRISTOL: Nonsense.

ROVE: Name one instance.

JENKINS: The, [UNCLEAR] belabor me all day with lists of people who have vanished. Vanished.

ROVE: You know-

KRISTOL: Well, that-

ROVE: This is on the border of lunacy, with all due respect.

JENKINS: But you didn’t need to do it, you didn’t need to do it-

ROVE: We didn’t do it!

Posting the exchange — to highlight what he saw as Jenkins’ idiocy — on Contentions, Abe Greenwald dismissed Jenkins’ claims as “therapeutic mythologies” that were part of “Bush-villification.” “With their vanishing Muslims, torture chambers, and evil corporate overlords, Bush haters are better suited to the Dungeons and Dragons, sci-fi convention circuit than to the political sphere,” Greenwald wrote.

The specific targeting of Muslims in America is hardly a myth:

In a secret meeting of top Justice Department officials hours after the [9/11] attacks, then-immigration chief James Ziglar rebuked those in the room for proposing a “roundup” of Arabs and Muslims. “I’m not going to be part of this if we’re going to do things that blatantly violate the law,” Ziglar declared, according to people there. [Knight Ridder, 6/15/03]

The Census Bureau’s decision to give to the Department of Homeland Security data that identified populations of Arab-Americans was the modern-day equivalent of its pinpointing Japanese-American communities when internment camps were opened during World War II, members of an advisory board told the agency’s top officials Tuesday. “This for the Arab-American community is 1942,” said Barry Steinhardt, a civil liberties lawyer and member of the panel, the Decennial Census Advisory Committee. “Thousands of Arab-Americans have been rounded up and deported.” [New York Times, 11/10/04]

83,310: Number of foreign visitors from 24 predominantly Muslim nations who registered with the government after U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft required them to do so. (North Koreans also required to register.)

13,740: Number of those 83,310 who were ordered into deportation proceedings.

0: Number who were publicly charged with terrorism, although officials say a few have terrorism connections. [Chicago Tribune, 11/16/03]

One of the most high-profile detainees was an American citizen — who was held for 21 months on a naval brig before being given access to a lawyer. Jose Padilla was held for over three years before being formally charged with a crime, and by the time he had been convicted, he had already served 5 1/2 years. What’s more, his harsh confinement left him with severe mental disabilities from which psychologists warned he may never recover.