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Wednesday, September 17, 2003  

Revisited: The strange saga of 'Mike' Hawash

trai-tor n.

One who betrays one's country, a cause, or a trust, especially one who commits treason.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Ed. ©2000.

1. One who violates his allegiance and betrays his country; one guilty of treason; one who, in breach of trust, delivers his country to an enemy, or yields up any fort or place intrusted to his defense, or surrenders an army or body of troops to the enemy, unless when vanquished; also, one who takes arms and levies war against his country; or one who aids an enemy in conquering his country. See Treason.

O passing traitor, perjured and unjust! --Shak.

2. Hence, one who betrays any confidence or trust; a betrayer. ``This false traitor death.'' --Chaucer.

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, ©1996, ©1998 MICRA, Inc.

Maher 'Mike' Hawash, the seventh of the defendants in the Portland terrorism case, became a traitor for all seasons when he pled guilty to some of the charges against him and agreed to testify against his co-defendants. He admitted to betraying the trust of his country by attempting to travel to Afghanistan to fight against U.S. forces with the Taliban. He is now in the process of betraying the trust of the friends he hatched the harebrained scheme with.

I last wrote about Hawash when he entered his guilty plea Aug 6. A longer entry, one of an eight-part series about the Portland Seven, was published June 22. In it, I said I believe Hawash was a man who wore the mask and cited a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar.

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,--
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

Reaction to Hawash's guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the prosecution has been unsympathetic to him, with those who are pleased with the outcome openly hostile. However, much of that hostility has been transferred to the friends of Hawash, in and out of the group formed to advocate his release. Newspaper reader Don Taylor expressed the perspective sharply and succinctly.

Shame on Hawash backers

August 15, 2003

Let me be the first to say "Shame on you and in your face" to the family, friends and supporters of the terrorist Maher 'Mike' Hawash.

For so long we heard them cry and whine that the police and feds were out of their minds and they were discriminating against him just because he was Middle Eastern. Well, now that he has pled guilty and admitted to preparing to take up arms and die as a martyr, what do you have to say now?

It's unfortunate that our great Constitution protects the scum like him. What would happen to someone in Iraq if they were to plot against Saddam? They would be put to death immediately!

-- Don Taylor


Right Wing Oregonian columnist Dave Reinhard took up the chant to some effect in an entry on Aug. 7. His introduction?

Well, there goes the swell TV miniseries story line: Good old All-American "Mike" Hawash -- U.S. citizen, Intel engineer, husband and family man, suburban guy -- scooped up in Attorney General John Ashcroft's dragnet. His only crime: Hawash is an Arab American in post-9/11 America. But in the teeth of this latest American Inquisition, the "Friends of Mike Hawash" stand by "Mike." They put up a "Free Mike Hawash" Web site and collect funds. Others liken him to "the disappeared" of Latin America or the Jews of Hitler's Germany. They cast law-enforcement agencies as the Gestapo and anyone who raises questions about their friend's innocence as Nazis, bigots or dupes. ("First they came for an Arab American software engineer and I said nothing.") Cut to storm clouds over the land; dub in the sound of jackboots marching.

The Friends of Mike Hawash leader Steven McGeady responded with a denial that he and group members are contributors to Hawash's delinquency.

In his Aug. 7 column, "It's time for Hawash's pals to come clean," David Reinhard again gets both the facts and their implications wrong. In Reinhard's view, presuming a suspect's innocence until guilt is proven, insisting on the due process of law and supporting friends through hard times all apparently constitute "excoriation" of the government.

Let's correct Reinhard's facts: No one connected with the "Free Mike Hawash" Web site ever compared his case with the fate of Jews in Nazi Germany.

. . .Hawash's friends protested his five-week "material witness" detention -- a misuse of that detention since he was in fact a suspect -- and asked for nothing other for him than the same justice that any American would receive.

I believe both Reinhard and McGeady fail to 'see' Hawash. Instead, they reduce the complexity of his personality and situation to stereotypes that suit their political views. Mike/Maher Hawash could be both of the persons they are describing, or neither. As I said in my earlier blog entry, Hawash's reality never really matched that of just another suburban American guy. By the time he was 10 years old, he had probably experienced more discrimination and observed more violence than someone like McGeady will in his entire life. Hawash managed to hide what must have been considerable disgust and anger as an adult, even while enduring the humiliations a Palestinian is put through while working in Israel. Eventually, he joined a group consisting of mainly African-American Muslims, also victims of racial and religious discrimination, in an ill-fated attempt to 'do something.' The effort failed and Hawash's mask permanently slipped from his dusky face.

I will address the impact of Hawash's guilty plea and other developments in the case against the Portland Six in a subsequent entry. For now, I believe my earlier remarks suffice.

Am I saying Mike Hawash is a terrorist? No. Based on the evidence, I can't say whether any of the Portland Seven are terrorists. They seemed more interested in making gestures to show their solidarity with the Muslim world than in actually harming anyone. The compelling question is whether they really intended to extend gesturing to taking up arms.

A compelling question, indeed.

2:41 PM