Glenn Greenwald wrote a very interesting article, Let’s Not Whitewash George W Bush’s Actual, Heinous Record on Muslims in the US. He accepts that Bush was indeed good regarding his rhetoric after the 9/11 attacks. He warned against the people using this as an excuse for blaming Muslims or people from the Middle East for the attacks. It is a minor thing in an absolute sense. But looking around at the Republicans who are currently running for president, it is remarkable. And no similar appeals were made by FDR after the attack on Pearl Harbor. I’m reminded of the “I Am an American” photo.
At the same time, Bush really was terrible to the Muslim community — both here and abroad. It wasn’t just a matter of all his invasions, and things like Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. He was terrible to Americans who just happened to be Muslim:
Greenwald doesn’t discuss why that was. I suspect there were many aspects to it. Greenwald does touch on one: Muslims voted overwhelmingly for Bush in 2000. In fact, if Gore had received just one percentage point more of the Muslim vote in Florida, he would have won the state (and thus the presidency) even with the bad count. So part of Bush’s rhetoric was doubtless due to the wish to hang onto those votes. He didn’t succeed. Muslims voted overwhelmingly for Kerry in 2004. That was certainly a rational vote, regardless of how many mosques Bush visited.
Bush wanted to control the abuse of the American Muslim community. It certainly didn’t help the US fight any kind of “war on terror” when yahoos were out shooting up Sikh temples. In a nation that is deeply ignorant of everything that goes on outside its border, you can’t have people taking the law into their own hands. Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists — they are all “foreign” and therefore “the people who hit us.” It isn’t just crazy white supremacists who don’t know the difference.
This takes us back again to World War II. There was much effort put into distinguishing between the Chinese (our allies) and the “Japs” (our enemy). Another aspect of this is that after the Pearl Harbor attack, the FDR administration floated the idea of concentration camps before they presented the policy. They wanted to know if the people would push back against the idea. When they didn’t, the government went ahead with its plans. Since Bush’s plans were not to publicly target Muslims, it made far more sense to make nice with the Muslim community.
The reason that American Muslims voted so strongly with Kerry in 2004 was the Patriot Act. There was nothing in it that was specific to Muslims. But it was and still is used that way. And it is much more broad than that. Does the FBI commonly find unstable white Christians, talk them into participating in a terrorist attack, and then arrest them? No. It’s just Muslims. The US government has it out for Muslims.
I don’t know if Bush’s nice rhetoric then or Obama’s nice rhetoric now is genuine, or just a way to convince non-Muslims that the government isn’t being unfair. But regardless, that is the kind of rhetoric that would be most useful to go along with the anti-Muslim policies that have been standard for the last 14 years.