I have a sense that ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and other Islamic terrorists groups are extremely happy with the continual bombardment of comments from Donald Trump and some of his fellow candidates in regards to denying rights to Muslim Americans and stiff arming the Syrian refugees. Trump and friends are writing the recruiting language for these terrorist groups. They need only to cut and paste from his comments and can simply say “this is what America thinks of Muslims.”
Setting aside the unconstitutionality and the attack on our ideals which are most important, Trump’s comments on shutting down mosques, setting up a data base, and demonizing Muslim Americans are xenophobic and fear mongering. Yet, they are doing the opposite of what he intends – his comments do not make us safer. They inflame terrorists and will cause more citizens to question our country. As torture and drone strikes have done, we are creating new generations of people who do not like us and expanding the number of people who we are offending.
Several retired generals came out in article by Tim Mak of The Daily Beast to admonish Trump and fellow candidates for the same reason. Retired Army Lieutenant General Charley Otstott said “We should be countering Daesh (ISIS) propaganda rather than taking actions which will most certainly feed their propaganda machine.”
Retired Air Force Major General Charles Dunlap said, “Focusing on religion can be, from a military perspective, counterproductive, as it could serve to incite the opposition where there may be none.”
The article included quotes from several other retired generals, but the gist of their argument can be captured in these two statements. We counter terrorist propaganda, by living up to our ideals and constitutional rights. We counter their propaganda by fighting for the rights of all citizens. We counter their propaganda by being the shining light on the hill and beacon of hope for refugees and immigrants.
I would add that Trump is not just aiding and abetting the causes of these terrorists, he is drumming up misguided anger and action from our over 1,000 domestic hate groups. Through his remarks on Mexican immigrants, African-Americans, Muslim Americans, and women, we are fanning the flames of these groups. The Charleston shooting involved a young man who wanted to start a race war. At a Black Lives Matter protest in Minnesota over yet another shooting by police, several protestors were shot. A Black Lives Matter protestor was roughed up at one of Trump’s gatherings and Trump later said in an interview that maybe he should have been roughed up.
We need our leaders to bring us together, not sow seeds of discontent. We need our leaders to act like the Mayor of Charleston and Governor of South Carolina did after the Charleston shooting to quell racial tension. It frustrates me that some Americans are cheering this man on as he represents the worst of our traits with a false bravado which some mistake for leadership. We must live up to our ideals and honor our constitution which affords freedom of religion and separates church and state. We must welcome people in crisis as we have usually done, especially since we helped cause the refugee crisis by not acting sooner in Syria.
If we cede the higher ground, then we are just another country. While our role of leadership in the world is now shared with other countries, these countries need us to be part of the moral leadership to promote freedom and security. We cannot be part of the problem. We must be better than this.