Skip to main content

The Politics of Fear

By Reed Anfinson
It appears that worries about terrorists slipping into America among the Syrian refugees flooding out of the war torn country has caused some, including the leading candidates for the Republican nomination for president, to abandon the U.S. Constitution and America’s core principles.
They could learn something from a former Republican president who faced a far greater crisis following the terrorist attacks on America Sept. 11, 2001.
On Sunday morning’s Meet the Press on NBC, host Chuck Todd played a series of comments made by leading Republican presidential candidates on how we should treat Syrians and Muslims in the wake of the killing of 130 people in Paris and the wounding of dozens of others. He juxtaposed those comments with statements made by former Republican President George W. Bush following the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. that killed nearly 3,000 people.
As could be expected, the most outrageous statements came from leading candidate billionaire businessman Donald Trump. “I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of (Muslim) people were cheering.” Trump’s statement had journalists who had covered the 9-11 attacks scrambling to review their film footage, photos and stories. Not one single one has found any coverage of any group, let alone “thousands and thousands” of people in Jersey City cheering. Trump’s statement is a flat out fabrication.
He went on to call for a national registry for Muslims, for surveillance of mosques, and even for closing some of them. He seems to have forgotten about the religious freedom guarantees in the First Amendment.
Consider how different the response of President Bush to those who would villainize Muslims: “The faith of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That is not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.”
Republican Presidential candidate Florida Sen. Marco Rubio joined in the demonization of all Muslims: “That would be like saying we weren’t at war with Nazis because we were afraid to offend some Germans who may have been members of the Nazi party but weren’t violent themselves. This is a clash of civilizations.”
President Bush rejected this idea in a June 1, 2002 statement: “When it comes to the rights and needs of men and women, there is no clash of civilizations.”
Ben Carson had his own analogy in assessing the threat he thinks Muslims and Syrian refugees present: “If there's a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you're probably not going to assume something good about that dog. It doesn't mean you hate all dogs….”
President Bush showed far more understanding of what the U.S. Constitution guarantees, and what the president is sworn to uphold, in a statement Nov. 13, 2002: “We respect the faith and we welcome people of all faiths in America. And we are not going to let the war on terror or terrorist cause us to change our values.”
Yet, that is exactly what many are doing today – letting the recent terrorist attack in France change America’s values. Thirty-three percent of Iowa’s registered Republican voters think Islam should be illegal.
“If you are talking about 10,000 to 25,000 refugees, that pales in the face of 3 million Muslims living in the U.S.,” Richard Haas, director of the Council on Foreign Relations, said on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS program Sunday.
“The danger is that if we get fixated on the number of people coming in as refugees, who we can vet, we run the risk of alienating an entire community and maybe an entire generation, which could actually create the much greater security problem all of us want to avoid,” he said. Haas, who worked in four Republican administrations, said he believes that refugees can be properly vetted through the current process and the U.S. can remain true to its principles.
 “There is something about the DNA in this country,” Haas said. “Look at the First Amendment. We don’t have a religious test in this country. So I think we have to be open to refugees in a smart way. But immigration is central to the American narrative of taking in refugees…our spirit of generosity.”
On CBS’ Face the Nation former Homeland Security advisor in the Bush administration Fran Townsend said: “To not bring the refugees in you leave these people in desperate circumstances and you cede the battlegrounds that are the refugee camps to the recruitment of ISIS, Al Qaeda over the long term. You leave those potential new recruits to our children and grandchildren to fight generations later.”
President Obama said recently “the idea that somehow [refugees] pose a more significant threat than all the tourists that pour into the United States every single day just doesn't jibe with reality,” NPR’s Brian Naylor reported.
That reality is that an ISIS terrorist isn’t going to sit patiently through a two-year process hoping to go undetected. ISIS only need recruit malcontents who are citizens of other nations, zealots with passports from countries like France, Germany, England, Belgium or Switzerland, who can travel to the U.S. unhindered – as long as they are not on a law enforcement watch list.
Addressing the real problems
Our vetting process to screen refugees coming to America requires nearly two years or more. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. has admitted 785,000 refugees with about 12 arrested or removed. The U.N. has referred 23,092 Syrian refugees to the U.S. so far with 7,014 of them interviewed and just 2,165 admitted, Todd showed in a graphic on Meet the Press Sunday.
A far greater threat to the U.S. than widows, orphans and older Syrians coming here are the 20 million people who come to our shores through the visa waiver program. It allows people from 38 countries who hold passports issued by those countries to come here without getting a visa. Getting a visa requires an interview at a U.S. embassy and background check.
Despite news reports that imply that the terrorists who commit these vicious and sickening acts are refugees, they are almost exclusively citizens of countries outside the Middle East. They are the sons and daughters of refugees, who have tried to build a better life for their famlies in a new country, but some have become radicalized; many because of isolation in slums and animosity of native populations that refuse to integrate them into their societies.
We need to seriously address Saudi Arabia’s funding of radical schools that teach a violent form of Islam and a hate of western culture. Because of the Saudi’s vast oil wealth, and its importance to the U.S. economy, we’ve turned a blind eye to the issue. Fifteen of the terrorists who hijacked planes Sept. 11, 2001, were Saudis. Osama bin Laden was a Saudi.
Europe has real external border control problems, problems with intelligence sharing, and sharing of airline passenger lists, former National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, said on CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday. To make America safer, those issues also have to be addressed.
Refusing to welcome refugees fleeing torture, rape and death in Syria isn’t the way to make America safer. Trashing religious freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment makes all American’s less free.

Sign up for News Alerts

Subscribe to news updates