Donald Trump spent his election campaign making statements like this one from a 7 December 2015 press release.
Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.
There were even calls for a Muslim registry.
Those statements and others like them morphed into the recent executive order banning immigrants from seven named countries plus all refugees for three months, and Syrian refugees indefinitely.
Two weeks ago I wrote the post ‘Why Trump’s Refugee Ban is Stupid‘. The main focus of that post was, obviously, the situation in relation to refugees.
However, there are multiple other reasons why the temporary immigration and refugee ban is wrong-headed. Lawyers in the US, for example, are doing sterling work in support of immigrants caught up in it because of its poor drafting.
Elections Have Consequences
During the election campaign, the statements from Trump were dismissed as the rhetoric of one man.
Sure, he has his supporters they say, but even most people in his own party are speaking out against such extremism.
But then Trump wins the election. He becomes president. And all of a sudden it’s no longer just electioneering – it’s reality. All those Republicans who spoke out against him nevertheless cast their votes for him. Worse, most are now defending his policies.
Because it doesn’t matter whether or not Trump’s travel ban is a Muslim ban. You can give all the reasons you like why it isn’t a Muslim ban. The reality is, it looks like a Muslim ban, and not just to the extremists. And so jihadis can, and do, use it to recruit people to their cause.
Terrorist Recruitment Tool
One of the major reasons the ban is a bad idea needs more attention than it’s currently getting. That is its value to terrorists as a recruitment tool.
Trump and his acolytes dismiss this. “They already hate us,” they say. “How can this make it worse?”
These people are displaying a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the problem. The constant fear-mongering by Republican politicians over months of campaigning is interfering with their ability to assess both the threat and where it’s coming from.
Others who don’t blindly support the current administration but nevertheless provide it frequent cover, such as Greg Gutfeld of Fox News, mock the recruitment tool argument mercilessly but using the same premise. “They already want to kill us,” he laughs. “It can’t get worse than that.” According to him and people like him, Trump is just fulfilling a campaign a promise to make people safer.
The reality is, he’s making them less safe. More terrorists are being created by the perception of an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment from the United States. Trump is reinforcing the Clash of Civilizations narrative that terrorist recruiters feed off.
Greg Gutfeld’s Argument
In response to the protests against Trump’s immigration ban, Gutfeld wrote an article for Fox News: ‘Why terror always trumps immigration‘. It starts out like this:
Before there was radical Islam, immigration and terror didn’t mix. No one coming here was trying to blow up your family at a mall over some maniacal belief in a death cult.
So you had the luxury of holding separate opinions about borders and national security. You could be liberal about who crossed the river from down south and totally hardcore regarding the Soviet threat.
That’s the past.
The explosion of jihad and its desire to export its contagious madness to all areas of the world have changed the way we view immigration. Terror, married to technology and accommodated by progress in travel, has turned evil individuals into traveling ballistic missiles. They pick a spot, and they hit it. Islamists are nothing but guided missiles that pride themselves on taking out as many infidels as possible.
This is why those who decry or defame President Trump’s executive order limiting travel to the U.S. are playing a dangerous game, one built on emotional response and virtue signaling. The critics are not interested in facts; they are interested in being perceived as heroic defenders of freedom. Which is false. Their beliefs make the future of freedom vulnerable to those who take advantage of the naïve and wish to annihilate our freedoms forever. They are worse than the fellow travelers during the Cold War. They hold hands with terror and guide it in.
The argument that people are relying on emotion rather than facts is a good one. The trouble is, the facts are not on his side. Immigrants are not the problem when it comes to terrorism in the United States. It’s not immigrants who want to “blow up your family at a mall”. It’s fellow US citizens who have been radicalized on the internet.
And people like the aforementioned Greg Gutfeld can say it’s not really happening because they haven’t seen the evidence. But it is really happening, and here’s the evidence.
The Facts: Refugees
People in general are not good at assessing risk. One of the statistics from my previous post on the Immigration ban is this one from Vox:
A report released last week [i.e. mid-September 2016] by the Cato Institute measured the risk to Americans posed by refugees. The report found that an American’s chances of being killed by a refugee in a terrorist attack in any given year are 1 in 3.64 billion. America’s murder rate — at 4.5 per 100,000 capita — is about 163,800 times higher.As the Washington Post’s Philip Bump points out, adhering to Trump’s analogy, a bowl with three deadly Skittles (refugees) in it would need to contain 10.93 billion Skittles. … This would equate to a bowl of Skittles roughly 246 feet long, 123 feet high, and 9 feet deep.
The Facts: Immigrants and Islamist Terrorism
The vast majority of those committing Islamist terrorism since 9/11 are US-born citizens, not immigrants.
The New America Foundation wrote this in a report following the issue of Trump’s executive order on immigration:
On January 27, 2017 President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning entry from seven majority Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia) citing national security reasons. None of the deadly attackers since 9/11 emigrated or came from a family that emigrated from one of these countries nor were any of the 9/11 attackers from the listed countries. Seven of the lethal attackers were born American citizens.
Of the twelve lethal jihadist terrorists in the United States since 9/11:
* three are African-Americans
* three are from families that hailed originally from Pakistan
* one is from a family that came from the Palestinian Territories
* two came from Russia as children
* one emigrated from Egypt and conducted his attack a decade after coming to the United States
* and one each had families that originally came from Kuwait and Afghanistan
The also provided this graphic:
To repeat the points in the graphic:
0 of the Fatal Attacks in the U.S. Committed by Jihadist Terrorists from Trump Visa Restricted Countries
12 U.S. Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents of the United States Responsible for Fatal Jihadist Attacks in the U.S.
The Facts: Terrorism by Non-Islamists
Remember too, Islamists aren’t the only sort of terrorists out there. According to Slate columnist Ben Mathis-Lilley, there have been at least 21 deadly terrorist attacks in the US, mostly by white supremacists, since 9/11. US citizens were responsible for all of these. His list is here and these are just the three most recent from that list:
June 17, 2015.Dylann Roof murders nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
July 24, 2015:John Russell Houser, a 59-year-old man with a history of expressing extremist and anti-feminist beliefs, kills two women at a screening of the Amy Schumer comedy Trainwreck in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Nov. 27, 2015:A 57-year-old religious fanatic named Robert Lewis Dear shoots and kills three people, including a police officer, at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.
Helping Terrorist Recruitment
Niall McCarthy at Forbes wrote:
U.S. Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham issued a statement saying they believe the order “may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security” due to the signal it sends to the Muslim world.
And it’s not just the sad stories about Iranian babies initially unable to get heart surgery, which have done enormous damage to the vision of the US. McCarthy continues:
It also emerged last week that Iraqi Air Force fighter pilots will no longer be admitted to Arizona in order to undergo flight training to combat Islamic State.
I thought this was all about making the US a safer place?
Iran’s Response to the Immigration Ban
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was addressing a group of military leaders in early February when he said (from a MEMRI transcript):
“The day after tomorrow on Bahman 22 [anniversary of Islamic Revolution], the [Iranian] people will respond on the street to these threats and comments. They will show what stance the Iranian nation will take in the face of threats. No, we are not afraid of any threats. Yes, we are grateful to this man [Donald Trump] who has just come [to power]. We are grateful [to him] for making it easy for us and showed the true face of America. He exposed what we have been saying for more than 30 years about the political, economic, moral and social corruption in the U.S. ruling system during his election campaign and after that.
According to MEMRI the address aired on Iran Press TV and was also posted on the internet. The announcer on the MEMRI clip also said:
Ayatollah Sayyed Khamenei said [unintelligible] cannot paralyze the nation. He also said that the U.S. was behind the creation of Daesh, the wars in Iraq and Syria, and the sedition in Iran following the 2009 presidential election. The Leader was addressing a group of Iran’s army air force commanders and personnel on the occasion of National Air Force Day.
The Iranians have a new excuse to sponsor terrorism in the region.
Iraq’s Response to the Immigration Ban
Currently Iraqi forces and their allies (one of which is, of course, the US) are fighting DAESH for control of Mosul in northern Iraq. The battle is slow, tough, and complex. The Iraqis are winning and they will prevail in the end.
Just as important as the fact that Iraq is winning is the fact that DAESH is losing. Currently, they’re losing both the battle on the ground and the propaganda battle. It’s pretty hard to paint yourself as the bringers of the worldwide caliphate when you’re being beaten.
DAESH needs to portray their losses in Iraq as a temporary setback. They need to be seen as winning in other areas, especially against the Crusading Powers of Europe and the United States of America. And they need to inspire new recruits.
Again from MEMRI (see video here):
Iraqi Shiite militia leader Aws Al-Khafaji, Secretary-General of the Abu Fadhl Al-Abbas Brigades, said that he “liked Trump’s personality” because unlike previous presidents, who “would cover the face of the U.S. administration with makeup,” Trump reveals the true face of America, which “supports terrorism and is against liberties and Islam” and “wants to suck all the oil from this region.” Speaking on the Iraqi Ishraq TV channel on January 31, Al-Khafaji further said that the Iraqi government should punish any traitor and anyone who made any declaration against the Popular Mobilization Units or the Iraqi armed forces.
(See transcript of clip linked to above here.)
Al-Khafaji is an ally, and an Iraqi Shi’a. As such he’s one of those “saved” from Saddam Hussein’s regime. He’s now one of those risking his life every day in the fight against DAESH. And Trump’s executive order has left him feeling like this.
Immigration Ban an Extremist Recruitment Aid
CNN spoke to multiple former terrorists, security experts, and terrorist site monitoring services. All said that the immigration ban would be a recruitment aid.
Their article by Eliza Mackintosh includes the following (CNN advises some of the names are pseudonyms to protect identities):
“[Trump’s] helped ISIS a lot, he’s basically being a tool for them in a way,” Abu Obaida, a British former Jabhat al-Nusra fighter in Syria, told CNN via direct message. “On social media right now there’s a lot of people quoting Anwar al-Awlaki (the late spokesperson for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) and his last speech when he said that America will turn on the Muslims.” …
A pro-ISIS account on Telegram — an encrypted app favored by the militant group — praised Trump as “the best caller to Islam,” signaling the President’s ban would attract new believers. …
One of the experts spoken to was Charlie Winter, senior fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King’s College London. He has been studying DAESH almost since their inception. According to CNN he said:
… the policy is “far more potent than any video or other piece of propaganda” the group could put out.“[Trump]’s a caricature of the evil crusader that they want to convince everyone exists,” Winter said.Trump has already featured briefly in at least two propaganda videos released by ISIS, as well as one clip published by the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab.
CNN also spoke to Fawaz Gerges, chairman of contemporary Middle East studies at the London School of Economics and author of ISIS: A History. According to them he said, “By banning Muslims, lumping them with radical Islamism, Donald Trump provides ammunition and motivation for al Qaeda and ISIS.”
It’s too late now. The genie (or should I say jinn) is out of the bottle and the damage is done. People like General Mattis might have been able to persuade Trump that this move was ill-advised beforehand, but Trump won’t back down now. He sees admitting he’s wrong as a sign of weakness and even if he could change things, he’s unlikely to on such a biggie.
All we can do is hope the new Executive Order he drafts is legally sound, doesn’t include refugees, includes a sunset clause, and has options for appeal in special conditions.
Trump’s lack of understanding of the complexity of the problem, and the fact so many of his closest advisors are equally ignorant, means he has made his country less instead of more safe.
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