A week after his inauguration, President Trump signed an order prohibiting anyone from seven Muslim nations from entering the United States. This policy is especially brutal towards families. With the stroke of a pen, spouses, children, and parents were denied the possibility of even visiting family members who had established legal residence in the US.
On this second anniversary of the Muslim travel ban, it’s fair to assess its effectiveness. Are Americans safer? Are there other policies that could make Americans safer from the threat of terrorism?
Since 9/11 there have been eight attacks in the United States by Muslim terrorists, in which ninety-six people were killed .1 Between 2005 – 2014, approximately 390 in the US were killed by lightning strike.2 Since 9/11, Americans were over four times more likely to be killed by lightning strike than by a Muslim terrorist.
These statistics suggest that a more relevant policy for protecting Americans would be a ban on lightning.
Our Unresolved National Trauma
Every person is important, and effective national security policies should be implemented to protect us all. But is the Muslim travel ban really about protecting Americans from terrorism? I see it as a shameless political maneuver that taps into a deep well of unresolved national trauma. Who of us can’t remember exactly what we were doing on the morning of September 11, 2001 when we got that phone call telling us to turn the TV on? We all watched in horror the video clips of packed airliners smashing into the twin towers in balls of fire. We watched over and over and over.
Since that awful day our trauma has been nurtured – by a steady stream of Hollywood productions, by images of cruel ISIS militants, and even by @realDonaldTrump, in an attempt to bolster support for his beleaguered border wall initiative. He quoted a border rancher: “We’ve found prayer rugs out here. It’s unreal,” sending chills down the spines of traumatized Americans.
Treat the Cause or the Symptom?
Muslim bans and border walls treat symptoms but don’t address root causes. After 9/11, George W. Bush spoke to the American people and asked, “Why do they hate us?” His answer? “They hate our freedoms.” He didn’t cite any sources. A better question would have been, “What was the motivation for Islamic terrorists to attack the United States of America?” And clues to the answer weren’t difficult to find. CNN journalist Peter Arnett interviewed Osama bin Laden at a secret location in March 1997.3 when asked why he had declared a jihad against United States, bin Laden never mentioned anything about America’s freedoms. He did mention acts of violence committed by the US military and civilian deaths in Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq.
The political motivation of suicide terror attacks was overwhelmingly confirmed by Robert Pape in his book, Dying to Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism, which analyzes every suicide attack from 1982 to 2004. Pape states: “The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide–terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland.”4
On the second anniversary of Pres. Trump’s Muslim travel ban, I offer two recommendations:
- We must be willing to acknowledge that most if not all of us are suffering from some level of PTSD related to our experience on 9/11. We should talk about it, read about it, and get therapy for it. Apart from some measure of healing, we will continue to respond exactly as the terrorists intended.
- American citizens must become aware of our recent foreign-policy in the Middle East and exercise our rights as voters to influence that policy. Instead of putting a bandaid on America’s trauma, let’s work on addressing the political issues that motivate terror attacks.
The Muslim travel ban is religious bigotry – restricting the rights of all people of a particular religious persuasion. I stand with presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, whose campaign offered me the following quote:
“Whether it is Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Atheists, whatever the path that people have chosen for their lives, it is important that every one of us stand up, call out, and condemn those who are seeking to incite bigotry based on religion and not allow them to use that to divide us, because that’s not who we are.”
- Jacobs, Ben. “America since 9/11: timeline of attacks linked to the ‘war on terror.’” The Guardian, December 11, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/nov/01/america-since-911-terrorist-attacks-linked-to-the-war-on-terror (accessed January 29, 2019).
- Lam, Linda. “Lightning Deaths the Last 10 Years, Mapped.” The Weather Channel, July 22, 2015. https://weather.com/storms/severe/news/lightning-deaths-by-state-2005-2014 (accessed January 29, 2019).
- Arnett, Peter. “Transcript of Osama bin Laden Interview by Peter Arnett.” Information Clearing House. March 1997. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article7204.htm (accessed December 27, 2018).
- Pape, Robert. “The Logic of Suicide Terrorism: An Interview with Robert Pape.” By Scott McConnell. The American Conservati ve, July 18, 2005.