As everyone is well aware, murderous mad men rampaged through Paris, killing and wounding hundreds of innocent people. While the attacks were horrific in both scope and savagery, we must ensure that our response is not to lash out in a haze of revenge, and do all the wrong things, as we did following 9/11.
When nearly everyone is talking about a given subject, there are bound to be a wide range of perspectives, and people tend to fall back onto their previous biases. For instance, some are noting that while seemingly everyone has changed their facebook profile picture in support of Parisians, hardly anyone noticed the bombings in Beirut two days earlier, or the funeral bombing in Baghdad, or the Russian passenger plane. Others are responding to the #PrayforParis meme with disdain, believing that religion was the impetus for the heinous Paris attacks in the first place.
Donald Trump is saying that we should shutter mosques and create special identification and a federal database for tracking Muslims. Newt Gingrich is (along with Trump) blaming the victims for their national position on gun safety laws.
Marco Rubio is (along with Trump) calling for the shuttering of mosques (and diners). Ben Carson is comparing Syrian refugees with rabid dogs, and calling for a database tracking not only Muslims, but all “foreigners.” Mike Huckabee is comparing Syrian refugees to E. coli and tainted milk; and saying that we should seal our borders and renege on the Iran nuclear deal. Jeb Bush is saying that we should only allow Christian refugees into the country. Chris Christie is saying that we should not allow even orphaned toddler refugees from Syria. Ted Cruz is saying that we should be okay with bombing more innocent civilians. Lindsey Graham is banging the drums for more war in Syria.
House Speaker Paul Ryan is saying that we should suspend taking in any Syrian refugees, and the GOP-controlled House passed a budget cutting off funding for bringing in refugees from Syria, forcing a possible government shutdown in a few weeks – and soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY, and yes, they’re related) is already talking about caving.
This fear-mongering of Muslims, and of Syrian refugees specifically, is disgusting. As with the immigration debate, it simply makes no sense. The application process for refugee status takes 18-24 months. But all you need to come here is a passport and a plane ticket. And if you are from Western Europe, as the Paris attackers were (along with a few thousand other Daesh members), you don’t even need the passport. Yet no one is calling for travel bans from Europe – funny that. By shunning Muslim refugees, and with so many people saying in politics, at town hall meetings, in the media; that Muslims in general are evil and unwelcome – we are partnering with Daesh in forcing people to choose between their caliphate and apostasy. The argument to cruelly refuse Syrian refugees, in order to keep us safe from Daesh murderers, is not simply ugly, it’s just plain stupid, and it helps the bad guys.
Unfortunately, people in fear are easily manipulated. In 1939, 60% of Americans wanted to keep out Jewish refugees from Germany. The MS St. Louis, holding roughly 900 Jewish refugees from Germany, was shunned from Florida. A third of them were killed by the Nazis. Now, France is taking in 30,000 Syrian refugees. Yet in the US, we are debating whether we should still allow a miniscule 10,000. Whether we should push women and children into the murderous clutches of mad men. We’re heartless. We have no sympathy, and we are allowing murderers to terrorize us into giving up on the very values and freedoms that they want us to abandon.
There will be many proposed solutions in response to Paris, which will be supposed and portrayed as meant to keep us safe. It’s tried and true – this is exactly what followed 9/11. (Remember freedom fries? Ironic.) Both the 9/11 hijackers and funding were Saudi – but they sell cheap oil. People in power who already wanted to go to war in Iraq lied, to the point that 70% us agreed to go to war there instead. People opposed were called un-American. Journalists & artists were jettisoned & ostracized. The Authorization for Use of Military Force from 2002 is being used now to legally justify war in Syria (& Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan…). We are playing into the hands of Daesh by sending more of our young men and women to Syria where they can be killed. And we are playing into their religious nuttery (and helping recruitment) by acting out their Damascus doomsday scenario in real life.
We passed the Patriot Act after 9/11, which has been used to basically maneuver around the Bill of Rights. The alphabet boys lap up all of our communications and store them in the NSA’s Utah Data Center for years, just in case. Now they are blaming Ed Snowden for Paris, and saying we need laws for back-doors to encryption. When they have so much data, they cannot possibly vet it with any semblance of efficacy. They have failed to provide a single instance of metadata surveillance foiling an actual plot (Boston should’ve been easy) – and the Paris murderers were previously known, had appeared in magazines, and used SMS – so metadata and encryption have nothing at all to do. Fourth Amendment protections against suspicionless search & seizure may as well no longer exist.
We paid a couple of asshats $85m to dig up old torture techniques used against American POWs in WWII, and we started using them ourselves on (Muslim) prisoners at Abu Ghraib. We water-boarded over 180 times, until he finally said that Sadaam Hussein had his people training alongside al-Qaeda, justifying the illegal invasion of Iraq. John McCain was tortured into saying that he hated America as a POW. Torture only works on . We still torture people at GITMO – rectal rehydration comes to mind. Obama promised to close GITMO, and most of the prisoners have been cleared for release, but every budget has included specific language banning funding for prison-transfer to the ADX supermax in Florence, Colorado where Tsarnaev is rotting, and we won’t allow them to return to their home countries. Guess we forgot about the 8th Amendment, and that whole cruel & unusual punishment thing.
We suspended habeas corpus after 9/11, 6th Amendment be damned. They can lock you up forever without charge now. No right to face your accuser. That’s pre-Magna Carta level civil liberties we’re talking about. When your accuser is a drone or a missile, there’s no way to turn yourself in. If the gov’t determines you to be either an ongoing or immediate threat, and capture would put US personnel at significant risk, you can be executed on the spot. Abdul Rahman al-Awlaki was a 16 year-old from Denver searching for his father in Yemen. He was killed at a café by drone strike. He didn’t know that his father (and bad guy) Anwar al-Awlaki, also an American citizen, was targeted and killed by drone strike two weeks prior. Our gov’t refuses to acknowledge whether teenage Abdul was indeed targeted, but then-White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs infamously argued that he should have “had a more responsible father” as justification.
We do signature strikes, where we don’t know even know who it is that we are killing. We use metadata, so we literally target a cell phone, and whoever has it at the time is killed. We’ve attacked wedding parties and funerals. Sometimes it’s collateral damage from a specific target. Sometimes it’s just suspicious behavior, such as a large gathering or a caravan. All males of military-age are labeled enemy combatants, unless they can posthumously prove to the US government otherwise.
In October, we purposely bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan for an hour, despite repeated calls from the hospital for relief. Our government initially said that it was an accident, that the hospital wasn’t the target. Then they claimed that our Afghan allies called in the strike, before admitting finally that the hospital was indeed purposely targeted by US forces, but at behest of our Afghan allies, that it was simply a case of some lower-level mishandling, and not by any means a war crime.
When we kill innocent people, especially when we then deny that they were innocents, we are not defeating our enemies, we are only causing them to multiply. When we lock people up and torture them for decades, they get to point and legitimately call us the bad guys. We cannot claim to wear the white hat when we stoop to the level of terrorists – when we act as though they are terrible for cutting people’s heads off, while we hug people to death with freedom missiles (and while our allies, the Saudi government, behead people practically daily.) When we surrender our freedoms and greatest values for the façade of security, we get neither, we are defeated, we are no longer America. We cannot give in to the feelings of fear and blind rage in reactionary flailing about following terrible events such as we saw in Paris.