It was my intention to visit Iran this year for study. Now however in a fit of pique, the tit-for-tat reply to our ban the Iranians will soon bar American citizens from visiting. So will the other, less tourist-friendly countries on a list which is a who’s who of “Dangerous sounding Muslim countries we’ve had something to do with in recent decades and can almost pronounce.” The ban is a win for “alternative facts.”
It has been widely reported that the seven barred nationalities aren’t in the business of sending terrorists to kill Americans. Our “friends” like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Tunisia are. But the stupidity of Trump’s showy, spiteful, move is more than geographic, it’s awful on legal and even efficacy grounds as well, and more complicated than it seems.
Presumably given Trump’s pronouncements, insane rallies, and tweets, stopping ISIS is the goal. Yet ISIS is yet to actually order, finance, and send a person here to commit any act of terror. With the exception of Paris, it is almost the same in Europe. Rather, ISIS inspires alienated locals to take up arms: a more effective and insidious policy. The Florida Pulse nightclub and San Bernardino shootings, Nice, France, and Berlin truck massacres, as well as Charlie Hebdo, were all committed by legal residents or locally born citizens, typical of today’s terrorism. The ease at which Americans can buy an AR-15 has not gone unnoticed by ISIS’ propagandists.
Were ISIS to actually send agents to the West, as they did for a few in Paris in November 2015, they can easily pick from their 5,000+ “foreign fighters” (French, Belgians, British, Australians, etc.) who hold passports and don’t even need a U.S. visa under the “Visa Waiver Program.” Additionally, Trump’s decree collectively punishes refugee admissions, a method of entering the U.S. which is almost as difficult as swimming here, and subject to years and multiple layers of vetting. Conceptually, these immigrants are fleeing Islamo-fascism, not propagating it.
There’s a school of thought saying mentally ill people, or just garden variety aggressive losers, use Islamic fundamentalism as a convenient mental construct, an architecture of justification to carry out their homicidal deeds. In many cases the terrorists themselves weren’t particularly religious, but were very violent, prior to their radicalization. Nor are most “oppressed”: many are engineers and educated elites. To be from Egypt or Pakistan, say, and have a Green Card makes one by definition elite. Another related reading of ISIS’s goals and dynamics is with its secular ex-Ba’th Party upper management, it can be interpreted more as an international criminal mafia masquerading as a cleverly marketed religious institution, than a representation of the Islam to which most Muslims subscribe. Barring swathes of innocent Muslims doesn’t prevent ISIS attacks.
The cruelty and irony of the ban is sickening: Iraqis are included which includes anybody who helped our invading forces by interpreting or working for us and our contractors there. Remember the invasion, the last Republican foreign policy idiocy where we invaded a country which hadn’t terrorized us, had no WMD, and nothing to do with 9/11? Remember that horrible quagmire Republicans somehow blame President Obama and Hillary Clinton for? That is the invasion which was the actual “founder of ISIS.”
If the last minute court stay/TRO isn’t continued, the ban still may – or may not – affect permanent residents (“Green Card” holders). Hundreds of thousands of loyal permanent residents may be unable to return home here. Airlines may pre-emptively and arbitrarily deny boarding to various (even legal) passengers: airlines are picky about whom they’ll transport because they can be made to pay for the deportation airfares. Many legal foreigners now fear deportation which is an administrative action so not subject to much in the way of court challenges in individual cases if the law is unevenly applied.
Families will be ripped apart, careers stalled, lives damaged, until well…when? We don’t know. Try taking at least 6 months, probably years with no end in sight or probable, out of your own marriage, your family, your job, your mortgage. All this through no fault of your own. Pursuant to this administration’s “Rule of Man” rather than “Rule of Law” the parameters of this arbitrary collective punishment are unknown. And counterproductive: it is like a class on “How to radicalize American Muslims 101” – presumably taught at Trump University, brought to us by his brain trust.
For my own trip to Iran, I was born in Australia and have two passports so I could visit there as an Australian. But that might be dangerous: the only thing worse than being an American in Iran now has to be an American quietly “pretending to be” an Australian, even though I am both. Because then I could be mistaken for a spy and I’d be in trouble in a place where trouble can run very deep. That’s how countries like Iran which are ruled by fear, arbitrary spite, and the rule of men not law, operate. Are we becoming one of them?