The Wrong Side of the Debate

Yesterday afternoon, AC Voice was sent a draft article for immediate publication which purported to show “the other side” of the debate surrounding President Donald Trump’s travel ban. After reviewing the submission, we discovered that the article fell well below our usual standards in terms of factual accuracy and writing quality. Although we reserve the right to reject guest posts, and have done so many times in the past, our editorial staff made the decision to publish “‘Still your president’ – the other side of the immigration ban!” in order to communicate to our campus the intellectual quality of some of the arguments supporting President Trump’s actions, and to confront the alarming reality that there are individuals at institutions like Amherst who uncritically subscribe to these dogmas.

Now that the article has been up for almost twenty-four hours, we at AC Voice are publishing this point-by-point response to this article, although we realize that we will not be able to correct every problematic assumption and alternative fact.

The article begins with an astounding falsehood – “President Trump has proved to be a man of his word.” Even if we put aside the vast number of lies that Trump engaged in during his pre-Presidential career – from birtherism to inflating his net worth – there are still a number of ways that he has already broken his campaign promises.

To start with, the key promise of the Trump/Pence campaign was to build a border wall that Mexico would pay for. Now the price of that border wall – which won’t stop undocumented immigration or smuggling – is to be paid for initially by American taxpayers. When Mexico’s President recently reiterated his refusal to pay for the wall, Trump’s administration responded by proposing a tax on Mexican goods instead. As numerous commentators have noted, this would just pawn the price onto the American consumer instead.

Moreover, Trump ran on a promise to drain the swamp and reject big money in politics, arguing that his own time meddling in politics from without had shown him the corruption of the system. And yet, since his election he has stocked his cabinet and retinue with Goldman Sachs alums, establishment Republicans, and billionaire donors.

The author then goes on to argue that Donald Trump’s executive orders will bolster American hegemony, “because America truly is the greatest country in the world.” Seeing as the United States ranks 14th in education, 31st in health care, 137th in income equality, 20th in freedom, 16th in democracy, 13th in happiness, and 42nd in life expectancy, it’s hard to imagine we’re number one in anything (aside from percentage of population incarcerated).

One of these famed executive orders, the author notes, is the direction to Secretary of Defense Mattis to create a plan to defeat ISIS/Daesh, which “imposes an immediate threat to our country.” Putting aside the fact that Daesh has never committed a terror attack on US soil, the author is implying (though not stating outright) that the US had not been fighting its hardest against Daesh already. Yet, the war against Daesh began in earnest in the summer of 2014, and has continued through to today. Fallujah and most of Mosul have been recovered, and the offensive on Daesh’s capital in Raqqa, Syria, has been halted by Trump’s administration.

Another executive order that the author cites is Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. She states that Trump “is putting America first by bringing jobs and business back to the States.” I sincerely hope that she is aware of the overt Nazi symbolism of the term “America First.” Furthermore, the notion that Trump is attempting to protect American workers is laughable, as his party continues to bust unions throughout the country – her next line on Trump’s federal hiring freeze points to a major slap in the face to working people from the Trump administration.

Then the author moves on to the real meat of her argument, bringing in Trump’s travel ban on immigration from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria, and Sudan. She errs in saying that these nations are “are highly known for embedding terrorists to the United States,” seeing as since 9/11, no one has been killed in the United States by anyone of any of these nationalities. If Trump truly cared about preventing terrorism and saving lives, he would target the greatest source of terror attacks in the US – white right-wingers.

The author ignores these facts and chooses to side with Islamophobic fear-mongering instead. She also insists that the executive order is constitutional, citing the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 as her evidence. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, however, states that “no person shall receive any preference or priority or be discriminated against in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of the person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth or place of residence.”

Moving on to a new deception, the author cites a popular right-wing talking point – why did no one cry out against President Obama’s “6-month ban in 2011?” In part, that might be because there was none. Obama’s administration did reshuffle their immigration and refugee vetting processes after the non-existent Bowling Green massacre, resulting in a delay in admissions, but there was no overall ban.

The author cites more examples of immigration slowdowns or bans under Obama, particularly bans covering “those who helped Syria or Iran or involved in human rights abuses for those governments, and entry of those claiming government authority in the Crimea region of Ukraine. He also banned anybody involved in war crimes or any other crime including human rights violations and anyone known to threaten South Sedan. [sic]”

She concludes this list by noting that “It’s amazing how two similar policies designed to protect our nation can be perceived so differently because of a difference in political view.” I would imagine that these policies are perceived differently because some of them target specific individuals and those suspected of specific crimes, while Trump’s policies target anyone who had the misfortune of being born in one of seven randomly-picked Middle Eastern countries.

It is truly astounding that an intelligent Amherst student could accidentally interpret blanket bans on people of seven nationalities as similar to banning war criminals. Especially because, for the record, Trump’s ban includes Christians fleeing genocide in Syria, Jews fleeing persecution in Yemen, and Muslims fleeing sectarian violence in a number of countries, innocent students (including Amherst students), and people who already have visas and have been vetted.

At the end of her article, the author engages in some rhetoric about unity, and then says “We must buy in to the system and believe that we are doing what is best for America.” This statement fits in with the authoritarian trend that Trump and many of his supporters have displayed. The notion that we should follow the system blindly is what enabled history’s atrocities, massacres, and genocides.

There are then more rhetorical flourishes, such as the point that “America does not lose” (Vietnam and Iraq aside, I suppose). But we at AC Voice do agree with one of the author’s final statements: that “All eyes are on the United States of America and we can either succeed together or we can fail alone.”

It is up to us as journalists, activists, and students to ensure America succeeds together in avoiding the mistakes of history, in standing up to authoritarianism, fascism, and insidious misinformation. Or else we can fail alone, in some Orwellian fugue of doublespeak and mindless conformity.