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Pet Sins November 2001

Middle Eastern Americans still considered 'Quasi-American'

In the wake of the 9/11 disaster, I was listening to a radio program on NPR. The topic of the program was the difficulty of infiltrating Afghanistan's terrorist networks with American agents.The guest on the radio program, if I don't recall wrong, was an intelligence officer. One of his first comments was, "It is very difficult for a blond, blue-eyed American to infiltrate...".

I was quite surprised that someone authorized to be a public spokesperson for his department or organization could make such a statement implying that the "true" or "default" American is blond and blue-eyed, especially when the president had been repeatedly emphasizing over the last few days and weeks that all American citizens are equally American.

Then the speaker went on to speak of the difficulty of using Middle Eastern Americans as agents. He said something like, "Even if you are of Middle Eastern descent, you will still be quasi-American, you will have certain American mannerisms that will give you away to the enemy."

Quasi-American??? Too visibly American to convincingly play an Afghani, yet not American enough to be "wholly" American. Is this how government officials and military officers see Muslim Americans and Middle Eastern Americans? Who has the right to define what is "fully" American anyway? That officer could just as easily said "American" instead of "quasi-American" to make his point.

This unchallenged arrogance and ignorance of a high-ranking officer even in the face of new American unity is appalling.