The author, with US Army Military Transition Team and interpreters in Iraq, 2007.

Immoral, Un-American, and Dangerous

I want everyone to consider Trump’s recent ban on immigrants from “countries linked to terror” — because it’s an idea that is immoral, un-American, and dangerous.

First off, it’s immoral. The people fleeing Syria and Iraq, for instance, are fleeing ISIS’ genocidal maniacs, the regime’s barrel bombs, score-settling rebels of all persuasions, and errant airstrikes by the US, Turkey, Russia, Jordan, and the Gulf States. Casualty estimates for the Syrian Civil War range from 300,000 to 470,000 — out of a population of some 22.5 million.

That casualty figure is higher than all the US casualties suffered during World War II, but as if the populations of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia had suffered every loss.

They’re knocking at our door, pleading for safety. To be sure, we can’t help everybody in the world, but we can help some. And before anyone talks about “extreme vetting” — look up the vetting they already have to go through. The average time is two years of vetting before they have a shot at going to the US. We already make it difficult. Now we’ve made it impossible.

This order isn’t just not lifting a finger to help — it’s slamming the door in their faces.

Secondly, this action is un-American. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore…” is inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

Sure, that isn’t law, but it’s something more powerful — it is an ideal. It is hope. It is aspirational. It is the American Dream of ourselves.

Not anymore, it seems.

Even worse is the cruel, farcical notion that we should “prioritize Christians” from those countries when we do get around to taking people. This religious test is antithetical to our first ammendment, and history.

Who in this country gets to say who is a Christian? We can’t even that idea inside the United States. Is there a Church of the United States that decides dogma? Is the President our Henry VIII, our Lord and Soveriegn, who decides who does and who does not have a realtionship with the Divine? Who gets to say?

Jesus said “if you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me.” He said “ I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.”

If Christian means “Christ-like,” maybe we ought to use those passages above as a test — and maybe we ought to start on our own side of the Atlantic.

Lastly, if the moral arguments don’t convince you, here’s a practical one: we are both helping ISIS and hurting ourselves.

We help ISIS because they’ve been trying to sell the idea for years that the conflict is between the West and all of Islam, that the US and Europe hate Islam and want to crush it. ISIS tells the Muslim world that in the titanic battle between civilizations, there is no middle ground — there is them and us.

And we just made their recruiting pitch that much easier. We sent the message that in fact, we are unable to tell the difference between a small Sunni Wahabbi Salafist sect and the rest of Islam. We just told Muslims around the world that ISIS is right — that it is us versus them.

“See!” ISIS will say. “The US doesn’t care if you drown or are shot or bombed. They don’t care if you run from us or run from them — they won’t help. They are a nation of hypocrites. They preach one thing, but do another. But join us — because we do what we say. And we will take the fight to the corrupt West.”

We just gave ISIS a huge propaganda boost — for no good reason. Since 1975, exactly zero Americans have been killed in terrorist attacks by immigrants from those countries the President just banned from immigration.


But even further than helping ISIS, we’ve also hurt ourselves.

In Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan, thousands upon thousands of people have risked their lives serving as interpreters or working with the US military. This is a slap in the face to them, an illustration of the idea that the US doesn’t have friends, it has servants. It tells anybody who might have worked with us before or want to work with us in the past, that even though we may depend on them, when the going gets tough, we’ll leave them to die in a warzone, where they’ve been marked for death by working with us.

We’ve got troops in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, by the way, in case you’ve forgotten. We’re making things more difficult and more dangerous.

This latest order is a moral stain, an American tragedy, and an unbelievably short-sighted foreign policy decision all rolled into one. The refugees will pay first — in hope and in their lives.

And we’ll pay next — in our own moral loss, in our loss of faith in America as a country that’s getting better, in the hope that it becomes that “shining city on a hill.” But then we’ll pay in lives too, when we see the fruits of ISIS propaganda we helped enable.