KingMidget's Ramblings

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In Which We Kill Two Birds With One Stone

The stone is the Syrian refugee crisis.  The two birds are demonstrating (1) the inhumanity and (2) the stupidity of the right wing in this country today.

I’ve toyed with whether to post on this issue for at least the 36 hours.  I really don’t want to go here, but …

The Syrian refugee crisis provides the perfect example of what is fundamentally wrong with the right wing and most Republican leaders in America.  Let’s start with some background …


syria war damage #2

In case you don’t get the connection, that’s the destruction in Syria.  In case a picture isn’t worth a thousand words, let’s talk some facts.  Estimates are that approximately half of Syria’s population of 22 million people have been displaced from their homes.  So, let’s say that’s about 11 million people.  Half of those displaced people are children.  Estimates of deaths range from 60,000 to 350,000.  Regardless of that number, it is estimated that thousands of children have died as a result of the conflict.

Chemical weapons have been used repeatedly during the course of the conflict.

No group is safe.  The “leader” of Syria, Assad, is an Alawite — a subset of the Shia sect of the Muslim faith.  But, the Alawites, although they have maintained power and control in Syria for decades make up only about 12-15% of the population of Syria.  Meanwhile, ISIS, a Sunni sect of the Muslim faith, is using the turmoil in Syria to expand its territory and, in combination with territory in Iraq, creating a caliphate — a theocratic country ruled by ISIS’ belief in a brutal, repressive, and medieval interpretation of Islam.

There are also other groups operating in Syria.  al Qaeda.  The Kurds.  Moderates, whatever that might mean in the modern Middle East.  And others, too convoluted to discuss here.

What does all of this mean.  Well, the Alawite forces led by Assad will kill anybody who oppose the Alawites — meaning the Sunnis, the Christians, the Druze, the Kurds, basically anybody who isn’t an Alawite.  And ISIS will kill anybody who opposes ISIS — meaning the Shias, the Christians, the Druze, the Kurds, and … drum roll, please, any Sunnis who are moderate, liberal, or remotely close to the modern world who are unwilling to succumb to ISIS’ retro interpretation of the faith.

In other words, there is no religious or ethnic group that is safe in Syria.  And thousands are dying, including innocent children.

Into this crisis, our fearless Republican leaders have boldly stepped forward.

Chris Christie:  “I don’t think orphans under five are being, you know, should be admitted to the U.S. at this point.”  (I think this speaks for itself, no commentary is needed.)

Mike Huckabee:  “If you bought a 5 lb bag of peanuts and you knew that in that 5 lb. bag of peanuts there were about 10 peanuts that were deadly poisonous, would you feed them to your kids?  The answer is no.”   (Because you know, nothing says logic and compassion like comparing refugees and children trying to escape the horrors of Syria to peanuts.)

Ben Carson:  “We cannot put our people at risk because we’re trying to be politically correct.”  (Yes indeed, nothing is more politically correct than saving lives and providing those escaping death and destruction with an opportunity to live their lives.)

Donald Trump:  “This could be one of the great trojan horses.”

Rand Paul:  “I say from the MIddle East, we don’t need any more immigration … students, refugees or otherwise.

Jeb Bush:  “There are a lot of Christians in Syria that have no place now.  They’ll be either executed or imprisoned, either by Assad or by ISIS.  We should focus our efforts as it relates to refugees for the Christians that are being slaughtered.”

Ted Cruz:  “President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s idea that we should bring tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees to America — it is nothing less than lunacy.  On the other hand, Christians who are being targeted for genocide, for persecution, Christians who are being beheaded or crucified, we should be providing safe haven for them.  But President Obama refuses to do that.”

Apparently, at least Paul and Cruz have introduced legislation to either prohibit Syrian refugees from entering this country entirely (Paul) or limit those allowed refugees to Christians (Cruz).  Because, you know, none of those Muslims are facing the same kind of harm the Christians are.  Or maybe not.

I read these statements from our leaders and I wonder as I do all too frequently these days whether I live in the same country as those making these statements.  This is not my America.  I do not believe in letting fear control our policies and our lives.  As Winston Churchill once said:  Fear is a reaction, courage is a decision.  I believe that we can only show courage if we stand true to our principles and values as a country even in the face of great danger.  Closing our borders, building walls, establishing religious tests for the Presidency, for refugees, and denying the opportunity for safety and security to the downtrodden will never be a part of the values and principles of my country.  The statements of the Republican candidates are a demonstration of their utter inhumanity and willingness to play to the worst of our human weaknesses.

Which leads to their stupidity.  Today I have discovered a great groundswell among the right wing as evidenced by right wing blogs and commenters that President Obama is lying to us all.  In response to Republican proposals to limit admission of refugees to Christians, while slamming the door on Muslims, he has stated that there is no religious test for admitting refugees.  His exact words are:

And when I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims, when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful.  That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.

The right wing blogosphere is in an uproar because there is, in fact, a religious test for admitting refugees.  It says it right there in the law.  Andrew McCarthy started it off at the National ReviewRedState quickly piled on, quoting positively from McCarthy’s piece and suddenly this idea was everywhere.  A commenter on PowerLine linked to the McCarthy piece.

So, I looked at the cited federal law, which defines refugee for purposes of granting asylum.  Both of the cited federal statutes use it in the same way, so I’ll only quote one of them.  Title 8 U.S.C. section 1101(a)(42) defines “refugee” as follows:

(A) any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, or (B) in such special circumstances as the President after appropriate consultation (as defined in section 1157(e) of this title) may specify, any person who is within the country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, within the country in which such person is habitually residing, and who is persecuted or who has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

This is the provision the right wing has suggested proves that the President is wrong, that he is lying to us.  That there is, in fact, a religious test the federal government must apply for purposes of granting asylum to refugees.

Please people, look through the smoke and mirrors.  It isn’t the President that is lying to you.  It is the right wing.  Either that, or they’re too stupid to understand what they are reading.   How to read a law.  The President spoke out against the idea that in considering refugees for asylum we should approve them based on whether they are believers in a “good” religion versus a “bad” religion.  The statute quoted above has absolutely nothing to do with, nor does it require or allow, such a distinction to be made.  Instead, what it requires is that asylum be granted where a refugee can establish that they are being persecuted or have a well-founded fear of persecution based on a list of different characteristics.  It could be race.  It could be political opinion.  And it could be religion — regardless of what the religion is.  There is no distinction between a “good” religion and a “bad” religion.

Here’s my final point … if the quoted statute really did include such a religious test for asylum, why would the Republicans need to introduce legislation to require such a test?


17 responses to “In Which We Kill Two Birds With One Stone

  1. Conversations With The Moon November 18, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    So concise and fundamentally correct. ISIS must be laughing their asses off at how easy it is to pull the strings of the chronically misguided that find themselves in positions of power in this country. You are right, this isn’t our country any more.

    Great post…

    • kingmidget November 19, 2015 at 6:14 am

      Yep. I completely forgot to make that point. That our reactions to this stuff frequently play right into the hand of the terrorists. For the past 15 years, we’ve done everything possible to make the terrorists dreams come true.

  2. Bruce Thiesen November 18, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    But Ted Cruz dismisses your claims, because you won’t say it to his face.

  3. Patrick W. O'Bryon November 19, 2015 at 7:50 am

    Thank you for the clarity of thinking in a muddled-mind world.

    • kingmidget November 19, 2015 at 10:38 am

      Thank you. I think that’s why I’m so frustrated about this issue. The right thing to do is absolutely 1000% clear to me. That others want to muddle it out of fear or for political points …

  4. sknicholls November 19, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    I watched a documentary last night with my husband. (Sent to him by a Republican friend) It was hard to look at. People claiming to be refugees storming Europe by the thousands, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, England. Traveling in large groups, all strong, able-bodied men…no women or children, attacking young men and raping women, bragging to anyone who would listen how they intend to take over the word by having four wives with twenty children. Marching through townships and breaking into homes, European women crying their seven and nine year old children had been raped. Large groups leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

    And then we watched another showing refugees, men women and small children, coming ashore in Greece, met with open arms and provided immediate health care, food and shelter. A castle in one country where refuges were being given food and shelter, but complained of being isolated and bored. Now that they’re settled, they want to be a part of the action and movement.

    There’s a ton of propaganda out there right now. Unfortunately, you can film one isolated event forty ways and make it appear to be a hundred such events. And people view all of this without an ounce of skepticism.

    Winston Churchill’s words, “Fear is a reaction, courage is a decision.” Highly accurate. The fear feeds the terrorist movement. Drives it forward.There is a mass exodus going on, and so many “Christians” are demonstrating behavior that makes me pleased not to be affiliated with any religion.

    • kingmidget November 19, 2015 at 7:06 pm

      Yes … there is a ton of propaganda and I’m just so disgusted with the human race these days. Why do so many people, on both sides, feel the need to be dishonest rather than trusting the strength of their ideas.

  5. Charles Augustus November 20, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    Do you think bringing refugees in to the US is a reasonable idea after what happened in Paris? I am an independent, neither to the right or the left. I’ve seen 5 year olds, at their mother’s direction carry a grenade into a crowd of soldiers and my son has seen similar incidents.

    There has been propaganda from both sides of the aisle. If you watch fox, you get news skewed to the right. CNN is skewed to the left.

    Obama’s own intelligence people are telling him bringing in refugees from Syria would be a serious error. How can doing so make sense?

    • kingmidget November 21, 2015 at 6:49 am

      There is no perfect system that will keep us 100% safe. Even without Syrian refugees entering this country, we are at risk. I don’t believe allowing 10,000 refugees into this country, based on what I know about how they are screened before they’re allowed in, increases the risk significantly. So, no, I don’t have a problem with it. Are you concerned about the millions of tourists that enter this country every year from all over the world?

      • Charles Augustus November 21, 2015 at 9:47 am

        I agree that no system will keep us 100% safe.
        I disagree about the risk of refugees from Syria. We don’t have enough intelligence to properly screen folks coming in.
        I’m not concerned about the tourists because we haven’t seen a single incident where a tourist committed an act of terrorism on US soil.

    • kingmidget November 21, 2015 at 7:07 am

      One more response … I firmly believe that denying the Syrian refugees plays right into the hands of the terrorists, as have many of our reactions to the threat. We will radicalize far more against us by responding with fear than we will by responding with open arms and opportunity.

      • Charles Augustus November 21, 2015 at 10:11 am

        The events in Paris show that refugees are a direct threat. We are talking about adults that have committed atrocities against their own countrymen. All in the name of a twisted version of the Muslim religion.
        We either adapt to the changing political climate of the world and change what criteria we use to admit foreign nationals in, or we will see more acts of terrorism on US soil.
        Let me put it another way. I would not want to be a person that supported allowing Syrian refugees into this country when the first act of terrorism occurs, and it will. Because they will have direct responsibility for the preventable loss of life that will ensue.
        It’s interesting that you suggest that anything we do will affect whether these folks will be radicalized against us. The Syrians have slaughtered each other based on their differences in beliefs and their racial makeup. By their definition, we are infidels. The children are taught that we are a people to be hated and eliminated. This is the problem with ideologues. They stick to unrealistic beliefs even in the presence of contradicting facts.
        It is my opinion that there can be no good outcome from allowing Syrian refugees into the US.

      • kingmidget November 21, 2015 at 5:19 pm

        “The events in Paris show that refugees are a direct threat.” Let me suggest that now that the dust has settled a bit and more is known about the attackers, you google the phrase “were any of the paris terrorists syrian refugees.” If you can still say with certainty that you are comfortable with your initial comment, come back here and let me know.

        But let’s just say that one or two of the terrorists was a syrian refugee. That still doesn’t support your statement and conclusions that Syrian refugees are a direct threat. It means that a few of them might be. I’ll even give you that a few of them likely are. But I’m unwilling to deny the thousands of legitimate refugees the opportunity for a better life because of that minimal risk. You’ll notice if you google the phrase I suggested that one of the lead articles suggests that coming to America as a refugee is actually the hardest way to get here.

        What I find the most disappointing about your comments is that you seem willing to brand the entire class of Syrians and Muslims in general with the brush of extremity.

        It is my belief that there will be greater harm brought on this country in the long term if we don’t open our borders, our minds and our hearts to refugees that are effectively vetted in compliance with the law.

        Think about it this way … news reports suggest that the Syrian passport found in Paris was a fake. Do you think it’s remotely possible that it was created and planted there by the terrorists to produce the exact result that you and others would now like to see happen? This is the problem with so many of our reactions to what the terrorists do — we play right into their hands with our shortsidedness and reactions driven by fear.

  6. Charles Augustus November 26, 2015 at 6:19 am

    I am comfortable with my statements above. I did not suggest that the perpetrators of terrorism in Paris were from Syria. But several were refugees that came in to Belgium and other countries.

    There is a reason that Syria has been under US sanctions for decades, as well as UN sanctions. There are roughly 120 radical Islamist groups in Syria. These groups take a page from Hitler’s playbook. Indoctrinate the youth and you gain power.

    ISIS and Al-Qaeda are two of the main groups there. ISIS members are not an immediate domestic threat due to the nature of their beliefs other than those disenfranchised members recruited through electronic media that are not permitted to return to Syria. Al-Qaeda members certainly are a direct threat to the US.

    It’s disturbing to me that you would assume that I would paint all Muslims with the same brush. Nothing in my previous statements would suggest that is so. I am not a racist, sir. Not by any means.

    There is no way to effectively vet individual refugees without comprehensive intelligence.

    I apologize for taking so long to respond. Time has not been my friend lately.

    While I have the opportunity, I want to wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving.

    • kingmidget November 26, 2015 at 7:33 am

      As I read your previous comment, you place no qualifiers around many of your statements, leaving me to believe you believe all Syrians are like this. Maybe I went too far in extending it to all Muslims, but I don’t think you can claim that all Syrians are indoctrinated terrorists, which is certainly what previous comment suggests. I can’t quibble with the idea that there are terrorist groups in Syria, although I wonder how many of them were there before the civil war broke out. Yes, the government has helped fund Hezbollah and other groups outside of Syria, but inside Syria? I’m not so sure about that being the case before the civil war broke out.

      You and I will have to agree to disagree on this. The vast majority of the people fleeing the Middle East are legitimate refugees seeking safety and security. I see no reason to deny them that opportunity.

      You have a good Thanksgiving as well.

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