During the fag end of the recent G-20 meet in Turkey, which took place in the aftermath of the recent Paris attacks, United States President Barack Obama lambasted the unwillingness of certain American states to take in Syrian refugees. More pertinently, Obama went all guns blazing against the idea popular among Republicans that the US should only take in refugees if they are Christians. The unwillingness of certain Republican-backed Governors to take in Syrian refugees into their state is not only a rejection of American ethos, but downright shameful. After news reports trickled in that the perpetrators of the Paris attack may have entered Europe alongside the refugees escaping Syria, the Republican governors of Michigan and Alabama publicly announced that their states would refuse Syrian refugees. On Monday morning, two more Republican governors from Arkansas and Texas followed suit. The Governor of Texas went as far as writing a letter to Obama, asking him, “to halt your plans to allow Syrians to be resettled anywhere in the United States.” Even the much celebrated Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who is celebrated by Indians at home and abroad, issued an executive order to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the state. In the “land of opportunity”, made up primarily of immigrants, we are witnessing racism, xenophobia, and fear-mongering of the worst kind. Suffice to say, it has not even been definitively confirmed whether the reported Syrian passport belonged to the attacker. Turn the tables and it is amply clear that the refugees are trying to run away from the very horrors that Paris suffered late on Friday night. Terrorist organisations like the ISIS are exactly the kind of danger that many Syrian refugees are fleeing from. It is ISIS, after all, that has terrorised so much of Syria and forced people to flee their homes. We must constantly remind ourselves that they are vulnerable people on the run from the same forces responsible for the attacks in Paris.
Many civil society organisations and Arab-American leaders have criticised the move as alarmist. However, it is interesting to note that up until the Paris attacks, the discourse surrounding the entry of Syrian refugees into America revolved around that the vetting process was far too strict and time-consuming. Humanitarian advocates have argued that vetting of immigrants can take up to almost two years. “The ostensible reason for the delay is a concern for national security, but, in fact, the obstacles are mostly bureaucratic,” wrote George Packer, a writer with The New Yorker. “Throughout the region, refugee-processing centers are understaffed and underfunded. For more than a year, interviews with refugees in Lebanon—where a million displaced Syrians live—have been suspended while the U.S. Embassy undergoes renovations.” What’s more baffling is that before the Republicans called for a ban on Syrian immigrants, America had set a measly target for the resettlement of only 10,000 Syrian refugees, which a fraction of the estimated 4.3 million people who have fled the war-torn country. Meanwhile, Lebanon, which about 0.7 times the size of the American state of Connecticut, has taken in more than a million Syrian refugees. Suffice to say, without the policies implemented by successive US governments in the Middle East, led by a Republican and Democrat administration respectively, there would be no ISIS in either Iraq or Syria.
In a recent interview to Al Jazeera, former director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency Lieutenant General Michael Flynn confirmed that the White House’s sponsoring of radical jihadists (that would emerge as the Islamic State and Al Nusra) against the Assad regime in Syria was “a wilful decision” by the Obama administration in 2012. However, such a policy has precedent in the previous Bush administration. “Following the US military failure in Iraq in 2006, the Neocons persuaded Vice President Dick Cheney in 2007 to support initiatives to topple the Assad regime by driving “a wedge between Syria and Hezbollah”; this would be done by backing the establishment of a ‘Salafist principality’ in eastern Syria,” according to a recent column by Talmiz Ahmad, a former Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE. What further propelled the rise of IS was the US-run prison system in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, which began with the rampant abuses at Abu Gharib. The facility soon sparked the creation of mass detention facilities across Iraq. In an interview to The Guardian, the IS terrorist, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed, said that the prison system was their most effective organising tool. Without the Camp Bucca prison facility in southern Iraq, where Abu Ahmed and the rest of the current ISIS senior leadership were detained, the world would not have witnessed its rise. The world is now paying for the sins of US government’s policy. And it is a crying shame that America will not take in those refuges, whose lives have been torn apart by the very policies implemented by Washington.