There’s been an attack on American soil, people are looking for a strong leader to assuage their fears and promise to kill the bad guys, and the president is responding by threatening to curtail civil liberties and sign on to xenophobic policies. Sound familiar?
We saw it happen after 9/11, which George W. Bush, liberals’ favorite new pet mascot, used as an excuse to enact the PATRIOT Act, begin bombing the hell out of the Middle East, and eventually invade Iraq to begin another senseless war.
Now, there are clear indications that President Donald Trump—no blushing violet when it comes to draconian domestic and foreign policies—will try to use Tuesday’s terror attack in New York City to begin shoving his own repugnant policies through in the name of national security. His first move? To end the State Department program through which the attacker was apparently admitted to the country.
Talking to reporters at a White House Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Trump said he intends to end the Diversity Visa program “immediately.”
“I am today starting the process of terminating the diversity lottery program. I am going to ask Congress to immediately initiate work to get rid of this program,” he said.
Trump also used the moment to do what he relishes the most: talk tough about terrorists and hint that the workings of the justice system itself should be tossed aside. From his comments (emphasis mine):
We have to get much tougher. We have to get much smarter. And we have to get much less politically correct. We’re so politically correct that we’re afraid to do anything.
That was a horrible event, and we have to stop it, and we have to stop it cold. We also have to come up with punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now. They’ll go through court for years. And at the end, they’ll be — who knows what happens.
We need quick justice and we need strong justice — much quicker and much stronger than we have right now. Because what we have right now is a joke and it’s a laughingstock. And no wonder so much of this stuff takes place.
When asked if he would consider sending the alleged attacker, Sayfullo Saipov, to Guantanamo Bay, the president said: “I would certainly consider that, yes. Send him to Gitmo.” (That’s something also being advocated by current #resistance hero John McCain, who further demanded that Saipov be denied his constitutionally protected Miranda rights.)
Taking time to honor the dead is important. But we need to stay vigilant as the Trump administration inevitably tries to co-opt this patriotic surge for use toward nationalist, protectionist ends in the names of the living. After all, as we’re often reminded in the push-pull false argument of who’s worse—Bush or Trump—at least Bush addressed Muslims after September 11, telling them, “terror is not the true faith of Islam.”
That’s all well and good and hey, you chase those RTs!
What’s often left out of that narrative is how that gesture of goodwill turned out to be only that: a gesture. Bush proved again and again that it was meaningless as he rounded up hundreds of foreigners living in the U.S. and jailed them for months—a flagrant abuse of material witness warrants—deported thousands of people from Muslim countries simply because they were unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and set up a global torture regime.
So if Trump’s current behavior sounds like a wind-up you’ve heard before, it’s probably because you have. We can’t let him get away with it.