Trump's assault on Muslims is about to begin
Banning immigration from these seven Muslim-majority countries isn't about keeping the country safe. It's about bigotry.
President Trump's long-promised attack on Muslims starts now.
Among his most recent executive actions, President Trump will reportedly order a temporary ban on letting most refugees into the United States, as a draft order reported on Wednesday shows (and confirmed at a later press conference). Another order will reportedly temporarily ban visas issued to seven Muslim-majority countries: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and Sudan. Until they are actually signed, these orders could be amended or dropped altogether. But they are highly worrying nonetheless.
"The guiding principle for the president is keeping this country safe," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said of the president's plan for "extreme vetting."
This is clearly not true. The obvious justification for these orders is simple bigotry. Most refugees are Muslim, and the Syrian refugee crisis has gotten overwhelming media coverage. On the visa ban, Trump — who has fulminated constantly about Islam in openly bigoted terms — did not even try to adduce evidence that these countries are disproportionate sources of terrorism. Even if we focus on Islamist terrorism only — forgetting about extensive right-wing terrorism carried out by white people — Europe would be the greater worry, given the spate of terror attacks there and the visa waiver programs in place with many European countries. Indeed, even granting all false premises, leaving out Saudi Arabia — the origin of 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 — makes it a complete farce on its own terms.
No, the Trumpist logic here goes as follows: All terrorism is done by Muslims, by definition. All Muslims are from the Middle East and North Africa (wrong, but never mind). Therefore, we must Keep Them Out.
Every sign points to this being a first step toward banning all Muslim immigration, and creating a registry of Muslims in the United States, as Trump promised he would do in December.
The moral hideousness of this act is almost indescribable — particularly the action on refugees. The broader Middle East, from Libya to Somalia to Yemen to Iraq, is a smoking crater in large part due to U.S. bungling and warmongering. We invaded Iraq for no reason, we toppled the government in Libya, we meddled for years in Syria, we hit about everywhere with drone strikes, and we powerfully enabled Saudi Arabia in its grotesque carpet-bombing of Yemen.
The result was bloody catastrophe and political chaos — something akin to a replay of the Thirty Years' War across most of a subcontinent. And now we're going to bar the door to even a few thousand of the millions of refugees our policies have helped create. There is no room at all in Republicans' hearts for people about to be butchered by ISIS or Bashar al-Assad or random warlords, not even helpless women, children, and the aged.
Now, Democrats' hands are by no means clean on this. The Iraq invasion was by far the worst of the above atrocities (it was President George W. Bush's idea, but many Democrats voted for it), but the rest were carried out under President Obama. Only last year, Democrats were mounting a stand on gun control by leveraging a baldly racist no-fly list aimed directly at American Muslims.
Now is the time to undo that damage, to protect our Muslim fellow citizens, as well as innocent Muslims in other countries. This order is a clear violation of the First Amendment's protection of religious freedom, and probably of the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause. It might well be stopped in the courts, or hit with such a popular backlash that Republicans hesitate and give up.
Centrist milquetoast Democrats — like the Senate Democrats who voted for Trump's Cabinet nominees — are patently wrong-footed by the popular outrage at Trump, and the unfamiliar demands from their base voters for unrelenting resistance. Well, here they have an issue for channeling that outrage without any downside whatsoever. It is rank bigotry and it must be stopped.