It took 16 years, five months, three presidents, thousands of lives and trillions of dollars to get to the dark day when, on Jan. 27, 2017, under the signature of President Donald J. Trump, America capitulated and awarded a posthumous victory to Osama bin Laden and his criminal and ideological offspring.
Our capitulation took the form of an executive order that included indefinitely barring Syrian refugees from America and restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Through that one act – an act that followed over a year of anti-Muslim and Islamophobic campaign rhetoric – Trump specifically, ignorantly and hatefully targeted believers of one of the world’s three great monotheistic religions. He managed, in one act, to hand victory to jihadist and Islamist terrorists that they had been incapable of accomplishing on their own – in spite of globally terrorizing and murdering thousands of people.
Trump managed, in one ugly, selfish, self-serving moment, to legitimize a conflict that groups like al-Qaida and Da’esh (ISIS) have tried to ignite since 9/11.
Trump’s order included, among other elements, the barring from entry into the United States all Syrian refugees for an indefinite time and suspended the entry into America of citizens from Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan for 90 days – including legal resident aliens and green card holders.
Trump’s ban offensively invoked the memory of victims of the 9/11 attacks in order to justify the order of exclusion of Muslims, which included Muslims who had been promised sanctuary for their service to American forces in Iraq – victims who did not die at the hands of any person who came from one of the seven designated countries.
The order is an affront to humanity and a morally repugnant repudiation that, “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”
In response, intelligence analysts and security specialists, as well as humanitarians, faith leaders, civil rights activists like the ACLU and citizens of good faith denounced the order as bigoted and strategically dangerous.
Thus Trump, an arrogant, narcissistic, marginally articulate, functionally illiterate demagogue, in the two weeks he’s been president, by Friday, Feb. 3, did more to further radicalize and destabilize America’s relations with the 1.6 billion adherents of Islam than Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi could ever have envisioned.
Today, as a result, I have no doubt that historically splintered and fragmented Islamist and jihadist movements – long divided along ideological, theological, geographical and ethnic and social lines – will be appealing to disenfranchised Muslims to join them in opposing Trump’s arrogant Western anti-Muslim imperialism.
It’s a mad, intemperate act and it’s as Trump intended it – a Muslim ban.
From November 2015 when he said, “You’re going to have to watch and study the mosques,” to his support for a Muslim database to December 2015 when he called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” his ignorance of, and hostility toward, Islam has been a centerpiece of “Make America Great Again.”
Further, that part of the executive order that prioritizes Christian refugees over Muslim refugees affirms Trump’s anti-Muslim bias.
“It is bigotry in its worst form,” James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, declared. “I am an Arab American Christian. I resent my religion being privileged over that of Muslims, and I can tell you having spoken with religious leadership in the Middle East, they are deeply resentful and fearful of this because it will put them at risk in the countries they currently live.”
This is the beginning of Trump’s war, disguised as a war on terrorism, on Islam.
And to wage that war Trump has embraced and surrounded himself with, at the highest levels, Islamophobes like Steve Bannon, Frank Gaffney, Steve Miller, Sebastian Gorka, Michael Flynn and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
I believe all that because Trump was still welcome in the Public Square even after he lied on Nov. 21, 2015, and claimed that thousands of Muslims in Jersey City cheered as “the World Trade Center came tumbling down.”
And he found that there was no price to pay.
This week, Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway spoke of a “Bowling Green massacre.”
There’ll be no price to pay – it’s just an “alternative fact.”
The truth is that two Iraqi refugees were arrested in Bowling Green because the FBI charged them with sending money and weapons to al-Qaida in Iraq. They were convicted and imprisoned for life. The refugee program wasn’t put on hold. The Obama administration expanded screening; resident refugees were re-screened and re-fingerprinted. Iraqi refugees continued to enter the country, just at a slower pace until the re-screening of those already here was complete.
There was no massacre. There will be no price to pay.
Trump’s executive order was asserted on authority of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 and Title 8, Section 1182 of the U.S. Code which states that the president can suspend the entry of “any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States (who) would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
That act, written by Congress out of fear of communists, was passed by overriding President Harry S. Truman’s veto.
Truman wrote in his veto statement: “It repudiates our basic religious concepts, our belief in the brotherhood of man, and in the words of St. Paul that ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free . . . for ye are all one in Christ Jesus,’ ” and cited worries about too much power being granted to the executive branch.
“It repudiates our basic religious concepts, our belief in the brotherhood of man . . .”
As written Trump’s executive order would not have prevented some of the most high-profile terrorist attacks on America by individuals from countries not on that list, including the 9/11 hijackers, San Bernardino attackers and the Boston Marathon bombers.
While fear is an understandable response to the threat of terrorism – or of the unknown – fear-based policies that target people according to their religion, ethnicity or national origin are dangerous and counter-productive. The order ignores the fact that America has historically integrated a diverse, productive and patriotic population, many of whom arrive here after having been victims of terrorism and who are actively committed to our mutual security.
If Muslim jihadists are really out to destroy the West they should step aside as it’s becoming increasingly clear that Trump and counselor Steve Bannon seem to be on a mission where they might be able to get the job done much faster and more efficiently than any present-day machete-wielding or assault-rifle-toting jihadist.
In the end let it not be said that, as UCLA professor of Law Dr. Khaled Abou el Fadl has written, that “the pirates of intellect, the sharks that crave the pedantic and thrive on the insignificant…” crippled our judgment.
In the end let it not be said that we allowed our judgment to be crippled, that we failed to protect the oppressed, that we surrendered to tyranny, that we failed to embrace Truth.