OCTOBER 2002

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A Visit By The FBI
From The Arab Voice

The following is an account of my encounter with the FBI years ago, after the issuing of the Arab Voice. The newspaper came out around the same time of the Persian Gulf War, when the FBI had problems attracting Arabs to its side, so it tried to recruit people from the Arab community to try and collect more information. One of the people was the editor of the Arab Voice.

He came to me carrying a finely crafted suitcase. He knocked on my door, entered my office, and when he sat down, he took a pack of cigarettes from his pocket, and proceeded to ask me: "Do you allow smoking in your office?"

"Yes," I said, "I am a long-time smoker myself."

After noticing the surprise on my face, he said: "You probably know what I am doing here."

" I told him that he may want to introduce himself first. Then, he took his badge out of his pocket to show me that he was an FBI agent.

"The reason why I am here is to find some answers," he continued. "Why do you support Iraq in your articles and newspaper even though there are other Arabic newspapers in the region that speak the truth about Iraq, and the fact that it conquered and destroyed another country. Why do you support evil, and don’t stand with the truth?"

"Is this a question or an investigation?" I asked.

"A question that I don’t have an answer to," he replied.

I said: "We stand with Iraq because standing against it is wrong. Iraq is an Arabic country that build itself, and tried in few years to build a new humanity and a new technology." "Do you mean the weapons technology?"

"You only think in terms of what you want to think of," I said. "Is technology only building weapons? Can’t you see that improving science in different areas can’t be accomplished without an improvement in military technology?"

"Yes", he said, "there is an improvement, but the Iraqi president is using everything civil to help the military."

"Oh, so helping the military is a reason to punish 16 million people so they can’t find medicine, shelters, or food. If you do that, do you think that you’re going to win these people over to your side? And do you think that by fighting the president you can win his people? Remember that the Eastern world, not only Arabs, see the U.S. services as a colonial power? We got rid of the colonial powers and here you are again repeating it through other techniques, only this time you are using this friendly, caring face.

"I don’t want to continue this conversation further," he said. "You say yes, and I say no, I say yes, and you say no."

Then I said: "Why don’t you tell me what exactly you came here for?"

He laughed and said: "I want us to collaborate to help our country."

"And who told you that I don’t help this country?" I asked. Serving it for me means to tell the truth even if it hurts sometimes. But at least it’s fair, and maybe you have a different point of view. Serving the country from your perspective means spying on others or hurting one another. It’s helping all right, but the concept is defined differently.

"Your language is clear, where did you learn to speak English?"

I told him: "Do you think that in Arab countries we still live in tents, and ride camels for long distances to find some bread and water for our children?" The Arab countries have news cars that you can’t even find in America, tall buildings, and minds that can build countries, and kingdoms. Why do you consider us as a part of ancient history? It’s true that French and English languages are second languages in our countries, but at least we speak clearly,

He laughed and said: "Like in London, for example, where they pronounce the words correctly."

"Yes," I said, they are a little better than you are. Just in pronunciation and nothing else. English people have walked all over us since the beginning of the century until they left our soil.

He asked me about my salary. I told him that I own the newspaper and no one shares its profit with me except taxes.

"What if we double your revenues?" he asked. I told him that I would like that but that I am satisfied with my living, and I don’t want to be rich. All I want is enough money to survive without borrowing from anybody. A person who will sell his writing, will sell his wife, sister, or daughter. Working hard for our food is better than sending someone to prison just because I am writing for you.

"You understood me very quickly", he said.

"Others were sharper than you", I said. "Many people have come here before you with bigger offers. Didn’t anyone tell you not to mess with me?

"Yes," he replied, but minds can be very different, as are the offers.

"I don’t want your offer."

He gave me an angry look, smiled, and then said: "You don’t love America."

I told him that I took the citizenship test a long time ago, and I swore to serve this country, and I have kept this promise, but my way of serving this country differs from his way. I believe in my country, and I believe that spying on people is not a way to serve it. I have nothing to hide, and saying the truth is the best service I can provide.

He rose from his seat and said in a bad Arabic accent: "Assalamoo Alaikom", and left.

Since then, I never saw his face again.

Translated From Arabic By Elias Saber

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