“You are cultured and intelligent, Ivan, and you surely understand that the world is not destroyed by villains and conflagrations, but by hate and malice and all these petty squabbles. It’s your duty to make peace…” ― Helena in Act ii of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya
I want to be safe. I want our country to be safe. I want my children and grandchildren and everyone else’s children and grandchildren to be safe. President Trump’s executive order travel ban does not make us safer. It probably makes some people feel safer, but they are not safer.
It is true that the 9/11 hijacker/murderers all entered the U.S. legally and that our intelligence infrastructure failed in many ways over a period of years to protect us from them. Trump’s order would not have kept them out of our country and off those airplanes since they did not come from any of the countries whose people are now banned.
Nor would it have prevented entry for Tashfeen Malik—the San Bernadino shooters who emigrated from Pakistan—or her husband who was born in Chicago. The Tsarnaev brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon in 2013 came from Chechnya by way of Russia. Omar Mateen, the Orlando nightclub shooter, was born in New Hyde Park, New York. No terrorist since 9/11 who has tried to attack the United States came from any of the countries whose people are part of this ban.
So what, if not safety, are we accomplishing with this ban?
What we are is a more isolated country—and isolation is a barrier to the accomplishing the kind of intelligence-gathering essential to thwarting those who wish to terrorize us. What we are is a less compassionate country. We are a country in which the president has shown flagrant disrespect for our intelligence agencies who have managed to protect us so many times from intended acts of terrorism within our borders—and then he denied ever doing it rather than apologize.
And that makes us a more imperiled country.
If you doubt it then read about John O’neil, the former FBI agent who was on the trail of Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda in the years leading up to 9/11. Or just watch the Frontline documentary (The Man who Knew). Arrogance and petty bickering led to his firing and left us vulnerable to the attack that killed more than 3,000 people and inspired wars that have destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands.
The most prolific terrorists in the history of our country are white supremacists and the KKK...
So is all this trash talking and Twitter warring making us safer?
That’s a rhetorical question, of course. It is not making us safer. If safety was the concern of the new administration our country would be working to bring together the civilized world against barbarism—not inspiring contempt among our allies, not reneging suddenly on visas we’ve already granted. We wouldn’t be consigning to misery refugees we’ve already vetted.
We wouldn’t be undermining our credibility as a world power and a leader of the free world.
This is not about political correctness. I want the president to stand up to those who wish to harm us. But this does not accomplish that.
By the way, the most prolific terrorists in the history of our country are white supremacists and the KKK who murdered nearly 3,500 people during the 20th Century and whose reign of terror stole the civil rights of millions of African Americans and ultimately drove millions more from their homes in Southern States.
That threat has largely been eradicated. But not entirely. Dylan Roof’s systematic murder of black people in a South Carolina church in 2015 was an act of terrorism.
Where’s the executive order intended to prevent the next Dylan Roof?