Friday, February 03, 2017

Moral Bankruptcy of Trump’s Muslim Ban

Ravi Arvind Palat
(Professor, Department of Sociology, Binghamton University. He can be reached at

It is hard to think of a more morally bankrupt, intellectually dishonest, and politically mendacious policy than President Trump’s executive order “Protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.” It barred the immigrant or non-immigrant entry into the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries—Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and Libya—for 90 days except for Christian minorities. This ban applied initially also to US legal permanent residents (LPR) who were born in these countries. And it barred the entry of refugees from Syria for 120 days.

It is morally bankrupt because LPR or ‘green card’ holders are subject to most rights of US citizens including the right not to be discriminated against and the ability to serve in the military. The executive order would have banned a serving US military officer from returning to the country after fighting in one of the numerous wars the US is waging if she or he had been born in one of the seven ‘countries of concern.’ It is telling these warriors that they can shed blood for the United States but cannot enter it. Is there anything more morally bankrupt than this?

The 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees of which the US is a signatory obligates countries to take in refugees from wars on humanitarian grounds. As an international treaty it has the force of law within this country. Admission of refugees, especially from Syria, is a rigorous process. As is made clear in the official State department website (, processing of applications can take 18-24 months. But for many, it takes much longer. Five years after Sgt. Ali Alsaeedy of the 82nd Airborne division filed refugee papers for his parents—five long years during which his father died—when his mother, Hamidyah Al Saeedi finally landed in New York’s JFK airport last Saturday, she was held for 33 hours, handcuffed for some of the time, and released only after her son procured a habeas petition. Can there be anything more morally bankrupt than this?

Many of the refugees from Iraq are people, like Sgt.Alsaeedy, who had first worked for the US, saved US lives, and because of that, their own lives became vulnerable. Doesn’t the US have a moral obligation to these people? Is it morally acceptable to ban them and their aged parents? Or to hold them at airports for long? Nada, a Yazidi woman whose husband, Khalas, was an interpreter for the US forces in Iraq was turned back from boarding a flight in Dubai to come and join her husband in Washington, DC because of President Trump’s executive order. She was bundled into a plane back to Iraq where her fate is anything but certain. Can there be anything more morally bankrupt than this?

Another Yazidi woman, VianDakhil, the only Yazidi member of the Iraqi parliament who had pleaded with the world to save her people from extinction at the hands of ISIS was to arrive in Washington to receive the Lantos Human Rights prize at the Capitol—a prize named after Congressman Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the US Congress. Yet she is barred by the executive order from boarding a plane to receive the award. Can there be anything more morally bankrupt than this?

We must also investigate how the refugees were created. Take the case of Libya—it was ruled by an autocrat but it also had high levels of income and standards of living. It blocked migrants from Africa crossing the Mediterranean. When a small rebellion broke out, US led airstrikes on the country which destroyed its infrastructure, killed its dictator, and led to the country being partitioned by warlords. This was the cause of the refugee crisis. In Yemen, the US and the UK supplied Saudi Arabia with munitions to intervene in a civil war that created the refugees. In Iraq, again, the 2003 invasion by US-led forces on the blatantly false claim that the country was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, destabilized the country and led to the flow of refugees. If the actions of the US directly created refugees, on humanitarian grounds does this country not have a responsibility to care for them?

When Candidate Trump called for a total ban on Muslims entering the United States in December 2015, Mike Pence, then governor of Indiana called it “offensive and unconstitutional.” House Speaker Paul Ryan railed against Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims coming to this country. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell said it was “completely and totally inconsistent with American values.” And General Mattis, the new Defence Secretary, said that a ban on Muslims would make allies think “we have lost faith in reason.” Yet, today these intellectual titans are all offering support to the president. Can there be anything more morally bankrupt, intellectually dishonest, and politically mendacious than this?

In the last 40 years, not a single US citizen has been killed in North America by a citizen of the seven ‘countries of concern’ named in the executive order. Citizens of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Lebanon have been responsible for over 3000 deaths, chiefly from 9/11. Yet, nationals from these countries are not included in the exclusion order. Strangely enough, the Trump Organization has investments in most of these countries but not in the ‘countries of concern.’ Can there be anything more morally bankrupt, intellectually dishonest, and politically mendacious than this?

If the media and the Democrats have been relentless in critiquing the executive order, it is important to recall that the order itself did not refer to the seven countries; it barred the entry into the US “of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12).” This referred to the Omnibus Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2016 signed into law by President Obama in December 2015. It was the Obama administration which initially highlighted problems with individuals from these countries—and as we have seen none of them have been responsible for acts of ‘terrorism’ in the United States.

Even earlier, after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995—the perpetrators of which were white Christian Americans—President Clinton pushed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act which was the first legislation to authorize fast-track deportation of refugees and even LPR. The Democrats, in other words, created the laws that enabled President Trump to issue his Islamophobic executive order. It is intellectually dishonest for news media to blank out this information in its report of President Trump’s executive order.

In short, the executive order violates international and US domestic law: there can be no religious exceptions to immigration; signatories to the Geneva Convention have an obligation to extend protection on a humanitarian basis. Violating these legal obligations underlines the United States’ position as an exceptional nation: an exceptionally morally bankrupt one.

No comments: