Image by Mstyslav Chernov via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0
Despite his missile attack against Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime and his claims that Assad’s use of chemical weapons against innocent Syrian civilians went “beyond a red line,” Donald Trump has yet to formally withdraw or apologize for his comments and actions regarding his “Muslim ban.” Also known as the “travel ban,” the measure sought to block individuals from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. One of the countries whose people would have been prevented from entering the country would have been Syria and its refugees.
Given the rate at which scandals and conflicts within Trump’s administration regularly come to light and the eagerness of news media to cover these events, it can be easy for one to forget that such a ban and all of the heinous intentions behind it had ever taken place.
At the very least, mainstream media outlets and supposed opponents of Trump appear to have forgotten about the ban and all who were hurt by it.
Following Trump’s missile strike on Syria, news outlets and politicians from both sides of the aisle proceeded to lavish the president with praise. News anchor Brian Williams of MSNBC called the sight of the missiles Trump launched “beautiful” three times within a span of 30 seconds. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, who once claimed that “Trump [was] degrading the office of the presidency,” later told his peers that Trump “became the president of the United States” following the missile strike.
Republican critics of Trump, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, released a joint statement which called Trump’s actions a “credible first step” which “deserves the support of the American people.” Even Democratic leaders, Senator Minority Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), individuals whom Trump has personally criticized and attacked, also gave the president praise, with Schumer claiming “it was the right thing to do,” and Pelosi calling it a “proportional response.”
Recently, the president declared that the United States would not be going to war with Syria, although he did stand by his decision to launch the missiles and reiterated how horrified he was by the attack. Interestingly, despite showing this much concern for the people of Syria, Trump has yet to mention any other alternatives aside from violence, including allowing Syrian refugees into the United States. This move could possibly aid some of the 5 million Syrian refugees who have fled their country since the start of the civil war in 2011. The United States’ vetting process for refugees is extensive and difficult. Given the geographic distance of the United States from the conflict, the U.S. is not faced with a refugee crisis of the same scale as their Middle Eastern and European counterparts. One-fourth of Lebanon’s population now consists of Syrian refugees, and recently, a migrant camp in France burned down following an argument between Afghan and Kurdish immigrants.
Only 18,000 Syrians have been admitted into the United States between October 1, 2011, and December 31, 2016, with none being involved in the terror attacks which Trump frequently cites in order to invoke fear within the United States. Meanwhile, over 321,358 people have been killed since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War. This death toll is more than the populations of major United States cities such as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, or San Bernardino, California.
For all of his talk of caring about the horrors that are taking place in Syria, Trump’s once-blocked travel ban is going to have an appeals hearing coming up in May to fully explore the legality of the order through en banc determination. News of this hearing comes at an interesting time in this current state of affairs; if injunctions against the ban are lifted following this hearing, the Trump Administration will be able to reinstate the travel ban on these six Muslim-majority countries, including Syria. Given its circumstances, things do not appear to be leaning in the ban’s favor — of 15 judges reviewing the case, nine are Democratic appointees, and as of right now, the ACLU is making headlines with its 13 lawsuits against the ban. However, one cannot be too assured, lest we forget the complacency which led to the results of the the November 8th election. As for right now, 139 lawmakers still support the travel ban while, contradictory enough, advocating for further military conflict with Syria to stop the killing. Seemingly conforming with military tradition, these lawmakers appear to deem it fit to send American soldiers into the Middle East in order to “fix” the problems there.
Reports of this appeal and discussion regarding the 139 lawmakers are being almost ignored by popular news media. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s comments about Hitler’s use of deadly gas during the Holocaust, made during the first day of Passover in 2017, has garnered outrage and attention. One of Trump’s campaign advisers, Carter Page, is now under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for possible links to Russia. The Trump Administration is going forward with cutting funding for several government agencies, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the African Development Foundation (to name a mere few).
Even the “exciting” missile launch seems to be sinking into obscurity. And behind that, the care and concern for the people of Syria which was once so vividly expressed by the President and his supporters.
One missile strike is not going to solve the civil war in Syria — the conflict is more complex than many people believe it to be. However, there are steps that the president can take, such as letting in more refugees, that do not involve impulsive uses of military weaponry and give some evidence of the care behind his decision to launch missiles. One can only hope that he will realize the hypocritical path he is walking on.
It is imperative that, not only as a country, but as human beings capable of empathy, the United States does not turn its eyes away from Syria and the heartbreaking atrocities facing its people every single day. The only time we seem to look at Syria is after news of a chemical attack or massacre, or when “beautiful” missiles catch our attention by lighting up the night sky.