On Thursday, March 16, the Trump/Pence regime’s Muslim Ban 2.0 is set to go into effect, some seven weeks after Donald Trump’s January 27 executive order barring Muslim immigrants and refugees was met by fierce protest and then put on hold by the federal courts. Right after the courts blocked the first ban, Trump’s senior policy adviser Stephen Miller declared that they would not retreat from their goal, saying, “these are mostly minor, technical differences. Fundamentally, you are still going to have the same, basic policy…”
This new ban, like the one before it, is a horrible injustice—and a major step toward consolidating a fascist form of rule in this country. It signals a more openly aggressive military posture, and a major leap in molding a fascist population within the U.S.
The “New” Ban
Trump’s March 6 order will not only block hundreds of millions of Muslim people from immigrating, fleeing to, or even visiting the U.S., but also opens the door to including many more countries in the ban, as well as pointing a finger of suspicion at Muslims who have lived in the U.S. for decades, including citizens.
Donald Trump promised a ban on Muslims coming into the U.S. He told his close adviser Rudolph Giuliani to come up with such a Muslim ban, and to, according to Giuliani, come up with “the right way to do it legally.” Everything about this new ban is still in that mold. This is still a Muslim ban. David Cole, legal director of the ACLU, said the new ban is “still religious discrimination in the pre-textual guise of national security. And it’s still unconstitutional.” Shortly after the announcement, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the White House, and actions have taken place in cities and on campuses (see “PROTEST! MARCH 16: No Ban! No Wall! Resist Trump’s Muslim Ban 2.0“).
The people being denied entry into the United States are coming from countries that have been turned into a living (or unlivable) hell. The U.S. government is more responsible than any force in the world for the environmental, military, and economic conditions that are driving people from their homes in these countries. It is an obscene crime against humanity to demonize and ban the victims of what the U.S. has done in this region.
WHY Is This Ban Happening Now?
Many commentators, including right-wing ones like the Cato Institute, have pointed out that the refugees or immigrants from these countries have not even been accused of a single “terrorist” act on U.S. soil in the past 15 years. So why is this happening?
First, whatever the intent of the ban, it is clear that this signals a major change in the posture toward the many majority Muslim countries in the world. Trump’s key adviser Steve Bannon made clear in a 2014 speech in the Vatican that he saw the conflict between the “West” (that is, the imperialist countries of Europe and the U.S. in particular) and the Islamic fundamentalist jihadist movements as a continuation of and perhaps a once-in-a-hundreds-of-years concentration of a historic and defining clash of civilizations with the Judeo-CHRISTIAN side being the flower of civilization and Islam being the mortal enemy and threat to that.1
Trump has departed from even the stance of the fascist warmonger George W. Bush, as well as “who-do-I-drop-a-drone-on-and-kill-this-week” Obama, who took care to draw a distinction between the jihadists and most Muslims. (See “Murder by Drone.”) This travel ban effectively says that everyone in Muslim majority countries is guilty until proven innocent. This has extremely serious implications when you have someone like Trump, who has already stepped up U.S. military action in the Middle East, made a nauseating spectacle of the widow of a Navy SEAL war criminal in his address to Congress2 and has made a point of asking, “if we have them [nuclear weapons], why can’t we use them?” (For those who argue that the ban is inconsistent because it doesn’t take in other majority Muslim countries from which people who have committed terrorist acts in the U.S. did come from… well, be careful what you wish/ask for.) So, again, whatever the real intent of the ban, the effect will be to send a message to the people of this country and to the world at large that the U.S. regards every person from a Muslim-majority country as a potential enemy and to actually increase identification with and support for the reactionary jihadist forces in these countries; and this may very well be the intent, precisely in order to aggravate the dynamic.
Molding a Fascist People
The second purpose of the ban is to mold a fascist people—to feed raw meat to the hard-core Trump partisans who already hate Muslims (and immigrants in general) and to train the people at large to go along with these outrages, so long as it doesn’t directly affect them. People like Hitler needed and wielded both—his core of fanatical followers and the “good Germans” who turned their heads and pretended that they didn’t see, or who saw but did nothing.
Remember the words of Martin Niemöller, a German pastor imprisoned by Hitler from 1937 to 1945:
First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.
Now, in America, they are coming for the immigrants, and the Muslims. Niemöller’s quote drives home the urgency of acting against this ban and defeating it—both because it is extremely outrageous, unjust, and ominous in its own right AND because it is a step toward consolidating Trump’s utterly illegitimate election victory and inauguration into a full-out fascist regime.
The New Executive Order
The original order was met with a coming together of different forces. There was inspiring, important outrage from people from all walks of life and perspectives, people who see demonizing Muslims as utterly intolerable to values they consider foundational. And, at the same time, there were real concerns from sections of the ruling class who see this policy in particular, and even more the whole agenda it serves, as being very dangerous to the economic, political, cultural, and military stability and interests of the U.S. empire. In the context of all that, and the obvious unconstitutionality of targeting a religion, courts halted the ban.
The new ban is a move, in part and on some level, to clean up some of the more obviously, overtly unconstitutional parts of the original. Notably, the first order barred permanent legal residents (“green card” holders) from re-entering the U.S. if they went back to their home countries to visit; the new order exempts these people from the ban. The first order created scenes at airports where people with legal approval to come to or return to the U.S. were detained for hours and hours, subjected to cruel and degrading conditions, while their families and friends were kept in the dark. It applied to seven countries, the new one applies only to six (Iraq is now off the list). And the first order had an all-but-explicit exception prioritizing Christian immigration from the banned countries. The new order does not say that, although there is vague language allowing U.S. officials to use their “discretion” to override the ban even from these six countries—language that is obviously a wide-open door for admitting Christians but not Muslims.
The new order in some ways “outsources” the ban. People who have visas are being told—for now—that they can come to or return to the U.S. But people who have applied for visas—to visit family and friends, or to come to the U.S. for a whole range of reasons—are locked out. It still promotes and enforces racist xenophobia. It still bars immigrants from six predominantly Muslim nations for 90 days with the underlying assumption that all of them are suspected terrorists unless and until they can “prove” that they are not. This despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of these immigrants and refugees are not connected to any terrorist group, and in many cases are actually fleeing from ISIS, the Taliban, or other Islamic fundamentalist forces.
The new ban applies to people from six Muslim majority countries for now, but it adds that “The Secretary of State, the Attorney General or the Secretary of Homeland Security may also submit to the President the names of additional countries for which any of them recommends other lawful restrictions or limitations deemed necessary for the security or welfare of the United States.” This poses the real danger that this initial order is only the first step in a wider ban on Muslim people.
The order also lays the basis for attacking Muslims already in the U.S., including permanent residents and citizens. For instance, the order alleges that “hundreds of persons born abroad have been convicted of terrorism-related crimes” in this country, and it specifically brings up the case of “a native of Somalia who had been brought to the United States as a child refugee and later became a naturalized citizen” (emphasis added)—and then allegedly became involved in a terrorist plot. The point of including this in the order is to say that all Muslims are suspects, no matter how long they have been here. Even refugee children should be viewed as “potential terrorists.”
And to drive this home, the order calls for issuing regular reports to the U.S. public about any “foreign nationals … who have been charged with terrorism-related offenses while in the United States” or “who have been radicalized after entry into the United States,” or who are involved in “gender-based violence against women, including so-called ‘honor killings.’” This program has the obvious intention of demonizing all Muslims, and of whipping up racist hatred and attacks against them—which are already on the rise. (And we just have to say, it is truly mind-blowing hypocrisy for Donald Trump, that open sewer of rape culture, the “pussy-grabbing” president of a country where one in three women is a victim of sexual assault already, to pose as defending women against gender-based crime!)
March 16: A Critical Moment
The Hawai’i attorney general has gone to court to block implementation of this new ban. More than a dozen other states have gone to court to block the new ban, or have taken the position that their cases against the original ban apply to the new one. Immigrants’ rights and civil liberties groups have made compelling arguments against the ban in court.
The ban is unconstitutional. Omar Jadwat, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said, “The only way to actually fix the Muslim ban is not to have a Muslim ban. Instead, President Trump has recommitted himself to religious discrimination, and he can expect continued disapproval from both the courts and the people.”
But this time around, the Trump/Pence regime has tweaked the wording in ways that may make it more difficult to fight the ban in court and to try to mollify objections from some forces in the ruling class like the tech industry (which strongly objected to people with existing visas being denied re-entry or entry into the U.S.). And if courts do block implementation of all or part of this ban, who can guarantee that Trump will respect that? After the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the implementation of Trump’s original ban, White House policy adviser Stephen Miller made a series of high-profile appearances on Sunday network news shows. In response to the Ninth Circuit ruling, he told Fox News, “The president’s powers here are beyond question.” And, “We do not have judicial supremacy in this country.” Immediately after this, Trump tweeted, “Congratulations Stephen Miller―on representing me this morning on the various Sunday morning shows. Great job!” If there were to be some kind of “national security incident,” real or not, this regime might well use that as a pretext to simply ignore and dismiss any court orders in the name of “protecting the American people.”
All of which points with great urgency to the need to resist Muslim Ban 2.0, and to drive out the Trump/Pence fascist regime in the name of humanity.
1. In this talk, Bannon quite clearly lays out a “holy war” perspective of “Judeo-Christian capitalism” versus Islam. He traces this back to religious wars of the past and in the process accuses “secularism” of sapping the “strength” of the West. The entire talk is found here.
To get a sense of this, read the following question/answer from this talk:
Questioner: One of my questions has to do with how the West should be responding to radical Islam. How, specifically, should we as the West respond to Jihadism without losing our own soul? Because we can win the war and lose ourselves at the same time. How should the West respond to radical Islam and not lose itself in the process?
Bannon: From a perspective—this may be a little more militant than others. I think definitely you’re going to need an aspect that is [unintelligible]. I believe you should take a very, very, very aggressive stance against radical Islam. And I realize there are other aspects that are not as militant and not as aggressive and that’s fine.
If you look back at the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam [editor’s note: Islam full stop, not “radical Islam”], I believe that our forefathers kept their stance, and I think they did the right thing. I think they kept it out of the world, whether it was at Vienna, or Tours, or other places… It bequeathed to us the great institution that is the church of the West.
And I would ask everybody in the audience today, because you really are the movers and drivers and shakers and thought leaders in the Catholic Church today, is to think, when people 500 years from now are going to think about today, think about the actions you’ve taken—and I believe everyone associated with the church and associated with the Judeo-Christian West that believes in the underpinnings of that and believes in the precepts of that and want to see that bequeathed to other generations down the road as it was bequeathed to us, particularly as you’re in a city like Rome, and in a place like the Vatican, see what’s been bequeathed to us—ask yourself, 500 years from today, what are they going to say about me? What are they going to say about what I did at the beginning stages of this crisis?
Because it is a crisis, and it’s not going away. You don’t have to take my word for it. All you have to do is read the news every day, see what’s coming up, see what they’re putting on Twitter, what they’re putting on Facebook, see what’s on CNN, what’s on BBC. See what’s happening, and you will see we’re in a war of immense proportions. It’s very easy to play to our baser instincts, and we can’t do that. But our forefathers didn’t do it either. And they were able to stave this off, and they were able to defeat it, and they were able to bequeath to us a church and a civilization that really is the flower of mankind, so I think it’s incumbent on all of us to do what I call a gut check, to really think about what our role is in this battle that’s before us. [back]
2. This “hero” had been part of a raid that murdered 10 children under 13, as well as a number of other non-combatants. [back]