At the n+1 website, Nikil Saval provides an essential reminder that Trump’s appalling executive order intended to ban Muslims from entering the US would not have been possible without the calamitous War on Terror waged by his two predecessors, Obama and George W. Bush. While the Obama administration now seems innocuous or even heroic in light of Trumps first week in office, it is crucial to remember that Obama targeted, surveilled, and singled out Muslims too—both in the US and abroad. Trump would not have such a sophisticated and frightening apparatus of racist surveillance and punishment at his disposal if Obama and Bush had not built it before him. Here’s an excerpt from Saval’s text:
In the supposedly halcyon days of the Obama administration, its covert assassination program abroad was accompanied by intrusive surveillance of Muslim communities at home. During Trump’s campaign, Obama forcefully repudiated Trump for his anti-Muslim comments. “Are we going to start treating all Muslim-Americans differently?” he asked. “Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminating against them because of their faith?”
These were questions posed in bad faith, since Obama was referring to things his administration already did. As reported in Politico by Arjun Singh Sethi, the NSA and FBI monitored the email accounts of Muslim-American leaders; law enforcement marked Muslims who made large orders at Best Buy; people ended up on terrorist watchlists based on a stray Facebook post; and dense Muslim communities were singled out: Dearborn, Michigan, with its heavy Arab-American population, had more people on the watchlist than any American city save New York. The FBI opened its investigations without any specific criteria and was known to harass dozens of people. An official rhetoric of preferring “good” Muslims to “bad” Muslims, itself worthy of derision, undergirded a practice in which everyone was subject to unwarranted scrutiny, much as any Muslim, anywhere in the world, was subject to drone strike.
The US has been at war, either openly or by proxy, in the seven blacklisted countries for years. One—Iraq—has been subject to repeated American invasion and bombings over nearly three decades. There could never be a world in which people from these countries were repeatedly murdered, sent to black sites and tortured (and their torturers freed from any sanction whatsoever), maintained without charge in American prisons, tried in non-civilian courts, yet somehow be sufficiently protected against bigotry in the US. Under chauvinist Bush and worldly Obama alike, the consensus has been that some form of the war on terror is inevitable, and that, inevitably, some Muslims must be doggedly policed (or killed). The climate of fear is fostered, the violence tacitly sanctioned from above. Such is the price of freedom.
Image via Occupy.com.