Trump's Muslim Ban is a Declaration of Perpetual War

Amir Khafagy | Politics & Government | Commentary | September 10th, 2018

After months of anticipation, the Supreme Court has finally made their decision on Trump v. Hawaii, better known as the Muslim ban. In a close 5-4 ruling the court has ruled to uphold Trump's ban. The decision has outraged many, yet the decision was expected given the court's conservative majority. Plastered all over my Facebook feed I'm bombarded with invites to protests and rallies that will achieve nothing but satisfy the collective catharsis. Say No to Trump's Muslim Ban, the invites enthusiastically read. Thousands have already taken to the streets in nationwide days of action to show solidarity with Muslims and in defiance of the court's decision. During a rally in Foley Square in Manhattan, Democratic politicians and nonprofit leaders took to the stage to lambast Trump. New York City Council Member, Carlos Manchaca, addressed a crowd which seemed to be comprised of mostly white non-Muslims by stating to roaring applause that Trump "doesn't represent New York and American values."

As a Muslim and an Arab American, one would think I would be the first to jump on the bandwagon of resistance to such an abhorrent policy. You would also think that I would be grateful to see so many non-Muslim liberals pledging to stand up for me and other Muslims. However, I can't seem to stomach any of it. Maybe because those who are in opposition of the ban are opposed to it for the wrong reasons. Politicians like Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren pledge to defend Muslims in America, yet their support for military budgets that bomb, main, and kill Muslims abroad go unchallenged. Everyone is quick to react, but few are critically thinking. Trump's travel ban isn't a Muslim ban at all; it's a hit list. If it was truly a Muslim ban, meaning every majority-Muslim country was on the list, I would feel quite differently. But that doesn't seem to be the case. What is the case is the fact that every country on Trump's list is a country that the United States is currently at war with.

Let me first briefly explain what the travel ban is. On January 27, 2017, Trump signed the first travel ban, Executive Order 13769. In addition of blocking Syrian refugee's entry into the United States indefinitely and suspending U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, it also barred nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the country. Immediately after the executive order was announced, liberal activists around the country sprang into actions. Rallies were held at JFK airport to support the travelers who were being turned away at customs. Upwards of over 700 travelers were detained, and nearly 60,000 visas were revoked. After numerous legal challenges and the public outcry, the Trump admiration grudgingly revoked the order, replacing with a modified and rebranded Executive Order 13780. The new travel ban was a much more diversified list that restricts travel from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. Trump called the new travel ban the "watered-down, politically-correct version." Again, activists protested the plan and again the administration modified the list, this time only removing Chad. Soon after the third version of the travel ban went into effect, the state of Hawaii sued the administration, arguing that the ban was racially and religiously discriminatory because it specifically targets Muslims.

Hawaii's argument isn't wrong, per se. As far as that's concerned, I do agree to an extent that the ban is a bigotry policy that is intended to pander to Trump's Islamophobic and racist base. What I don't agree with is the simplistic view of the travel ban that ignores the relationship between it and America's imperial foreign policy. For instance, none of America's middle eastern allies, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, made the list, even though all the 9/11 hijackers were nationals of those two countries. Those two oppressive and dictatorial regimes are firmly nestled in America's pocket by being the recipients of massive amounts of military aid. It's not just happenstance that the travel ban aligns with American overt or covert regime-change operations abroad. Are we quick to forget that America has been conducting drone strikes in Somalia, Libya, Syria and Yemen? Or the fact that American boots are on the ground in those countries? Additionally, North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran are subjected to crippling economic sanctions and their governments are being constantly undermined by American intelligence services. If anything, those countries should have a travel ban in place against us.

What really makes the so-called "Muslim ban" dangerous is that it taps into the fear of Muslims, an irrational fear that is so pervasive in our culture, to further legitimize American imperialism. It's worth noting that retired four-star general, Wesley Clark, has remarked that the State Department and Pentagon have planned since 2001 to "take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran." With the exception of Lebanon and the removal of Sudan and Iraq, Trump's travel ban list is identical to the Pentagon's "kill list." So, it should be safe to assume that the travel ban has more to do with justifying war than it does with banning Muslims. Thus, the ban serves as a de facto declaration of perpetual war, sanctioned by the highest court of the land. After all, if we aren't afraid of Muslims, how can we be persuaded to fight them indefinitely?

Most of the criticism of the ban from Democrats is mute when it comes to attacking America's foreign policy. It focuses on the politics of identity rather than the politics of the reality. The Democrats want us to focus our outrage on Trump and the racist Republicans instead of understanding that the Democrats are just as complicit in their bipartisan support for the military industrial complex. Just last year, Trump signed into law a whopping $700-billion military budget with overwhelming, bipartisan support. Interestingly enough, the budget stipulated increased military spending for the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. The Democrats have no problem bombing Muslims, they only take issue with banning them.

Which reminds me, this whole paternal obsession with refugees is also misguided. During one of the protests I attended, I noticed a woman holding up a sign that read, "We Love Refugees." During the rally, another politician stood at the podium and declared, "We welcome the refugees fleeing their war-torn countries." Maybe it's just me, but I found this whole love affair with refugees to be quite morbid. I couldn't help but think if we weren't busy bombing and destabilizing their countries, there wouldn't be a refugee crisis in the first place. But, of course, no one made mention of that. As always, liberals in attendance were quick to diagnose the symptom but failed to acknowledge the disease. In this case, the disease is, as Martin Luther King, Hr. put it so eloquently so many years ago, "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today - my own government."