Monday, February 06, 2017

Fortress USA and executive orders

If you are not a citizen of the United States, do you have the right to enter the United States? The answer, quite simply, would appear to be "No" but these are not simple times any more. Donald Trump, the forty-fifth president of the United States, promised to deal with "illegal immigration" into the US if he was elected. Towards this end he signed an executive order that barred entry into the US of the citizens and residents of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. He was condemned globally.

What these countries have in common is that they have been on the receiving end of the US's global war on terror, launched in 2002 by George W Bush, the forty-third president of the US and prosecuted increasingly using remotely-operated robots by the forty-fourth, Barack Obama. Iraq and Libya have had regimes bombed out of office; both Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi were executed after being deposed, the former after a sentence of death was handed down by the courts, the latter by a bloodthirsty mob. The US's efforts to force the capitulation of Syria's Bashar al-Assad and his regime have not borne fruit and look unlikely to bear any fruit since it began in 2011.

The Sudan, once host to Osama Bin Laden and the leadership of al Qaeda, has always harboured actors who are inimical to the US's continued good health but since the end of the civil war that led to the secession of South Sudan, little seems to come out of Khartoum nowadays other than bellicosity of Darfur. Yemen and Somalia, however, are different kettles of fish altogether. The US is supporting the only country to manufacture ultraconservative Muslim terrorists in its war with the leadership of a faction that doesn't subscribe to the Wahabbism that is the cornerstone of its brand of Sunni Islam, Saudi Arabia. In Somalia, the US is remotely bombing al Shabaab camps because al Shabaab is now in league with both al Qaeda and the Islamic State (which has also taken root in the rubble of what was once Libya). Iran will always be treated with suspicion by the US because of its support for Hezbollah (in Lebanon) and Hamas (in Palestine) and because it is one of the few nations to humiliate the US and get away with it relatively unscathed.

These seven countries are not US allies but a great number of their refugee problems are because of the US munitions that have been raining down on them for over a decade. That said, their refugees are not US citizens or US residents and don't have an automatic right of entry into the US because their refugee status was created by US foreign policy. But because many nationals of these countries are likely to harbour ill-will against the US and some might wish to do something about expressing that ill-will, Mr Trump has argued that keeping them all out of the US is the prudent thing to do, whether they have been vetted by US authorities or not.

Mr Trump's rivals that the US has a moral duty to admit refugees from these countries especially if US authorities determine that they do not pose a threat. Mr Trumps rivals are supported by many non-US citizens from around the world, including in Kenya. In Kenya, they have also argued that it is unconscionable for the Government of Kenya to force Somali nationals to go back to Somalia where the spectres of al Shabaab, al Qaeda and Islamic State looms large. Mr Trump disagrees and he has fired an acting Attorney-General who publicly disagreed with him. Mr Trump is right: there is no moral duty for the US to admit refugees from countries that have faced the brunt of US reapers and hellfire missiles.

For every decade since 1945, the US has been at war with one nation or another. In the Korean peninsula, technically still at war, the stalemate will only be resolved when the North falls or the two reunite. In Vietnam, the US left with its tail between its legs. In the Middle East, the US is set to lose more blood and treasure than at any time in its bloodily expensive history. As the US has bombed more countries and destroyed the lives of hundreds of millions, it has become more and more insular and isolationist, inviting jealousy and rage in equal measure, taking in only those who are of financial benefit to it. Now it is set to make that preference statutorily explicit in Mr Trumps executive orders. Fortress USA could not keep out 19 nationals of an ally from turning symbols of US modernity into reminders of its feet of clay. An executive order will not change that.

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