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For anyone paying attention, its no coincidence that two of the three countries have the highest numbers of refugees are Afghanistan and Syria—countries that have born a large brunt of the US’ War on Terror. (Photo: Getty)

For anyone paying attention, its no coincidence that two of the three countries have the highest numbers of refugees are Afghanistan and Syria—countries that have born a large brunt of the US’ War on Terror. (Photo: Getty)

Democrats Might Oppose Trump’s National Emergency, But They’re Hardly the Resistance

While Congress and Trump debate the legality of declaring a National Emergency, our violence abroad causing forced migration will continue unabated.

Maha Hilal

In a letter to Members of Congress yesterday, Nancy Pelosi wrote in response to Trump’s emergency declaration, that, "The President’s decision to go outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process violates the Constitution and must be terminated” and that “We have a solemn responsibility to uphold the Constitution, and defend our system of checks and balances against the President’s assault.” Though this challenge is important to ending the emergency declaration, like the 1.4 billion dollars afforded to the government to build a wall, neither democrats or republicans are willing to address the fact that the US is manufacturing an immigration crisis through the violence it conducts spanning the globe from South and Central America to Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.   

According to the UNHCR, there are 68.5 million forcibly displaced people in the world and 57% of refugees worldwide come from three countries: South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Syria. For anyone paying attention, its no coincidence that two of the three countries have the highest numbers of refugees are Afghanistan and Syria—countries that have born a large brunt of the US’ War on Terror.  

There are 2.6 million Afghan refugees alone—an appalling figure that stands as a reminder that this is the US’ longest running war in it’s history. But as old as the war in Afghanistan is, it's as new as the “virtual invasion,” Trump referenced in his speech is. Yet, the response from Congress has not been to end the violence directed at other countries that has caused forced migration—it is simply to call the legality of Trump’s actions into question. The irony of course is that for countries on the receiving end of the US’ violence, a “virtual invasion,” might be preferable than an actual one that leaves behind instability, death, and destruction—violence that both parties have supported.  

The immigration crisis is narrated as a story where the US is generous—with it’s generosity often being taken advantage of—a carefully constructed image that serves the purpose of justifying policies ranging from the Muslim Ban to the Border Wall.

However, there appears to be little questioning of whether US wars are legitimate and any accountability for the consequences. Nevertheless and whether or not the legitimacy of US wars passes any muster, they have consequences including death, displacement and forced migration. But the US doesn’t care about the dead—there over a million in several Muslim majority countries, including 1.3 million Iraqis, Afghans, and Pakistanis and 56,000 Yemenis between 2016-2018.  It only cares about those who survive—and specifically those who try to make it through its borders.

Instead the immigration crisis is narrated as a story where the US is generous—with it’s generosity often being taken advantage of—a carefully constructed image that serves the purpose of justifying policies ranging from the Muslim Ban to the Border Wall. Using this storyline, Trump asserted in his speech that, “If we didn’t have the wall up and if we didn’t have the wall secured and strengthened, they would have walked right through. They would be welcome to the United States.”  The Wall, in other words, is the US’ defense against uncontrolled immigration bearing no relationship to any actions taken by the US. Put differently, if the wall is the solution, the US’ actions abroad aren’t the problem. And to be clear, support for the wall from democrats has not only come through in the recent deal to end the government shutdown, there is a legacy of democratic support for the wall.  

That’s why the newfound democratic “resistance” is a hard fact to swallow—with the US fighting wars in seven countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen as mentioned above, in addition to Somalia, Libya, and Niger, with no vocal objections—save Yemen, that took years to build support for ending that war.  And when the US isn’t busy fighting wars in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, it’s busy creating unrest in South and Central America though under the guise of a different war—a metastasizing war on drugs.  It’s most recent casualty? A recent project aimed at unseating Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. In countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras where migrants were fleeing as part of a Caravan late last year, the US has facilitated coups, trained their militaries in brutal torture tactics at the School of the Americas, while also crushing their economies through the CAFTA agreement

A national emergency should be ended in terms of how the US is responding to a manufactured crisis on the Southern border, but perhaps redirected to curbing the breadth and scope of US empire.

This list of countries and regions hardly represents the extent of the US’ militarism across the globe and its subsequent consequences. In fact, the US has 800 military bases across the globe spanning over 70 countries.  While the functioning of the bases differs by country, there are at least eleven in Africa that are used in counter-terrorism operations including drone and surveillance flights. Thus, a national emergency should be ended in terms of how the US is responding to a manufactured crisis on the Southern border, but perhaps redirected to curbing the breadth and scope of US empire.

If Trump gets his way at least, 8 billion dollars will be spent to build a border wall—an amount that becomes ever more costly if you consider the fact that the total war appropriations and war related spending between 2001-2019 is 4.9 trillion dollars. Never mind, that this figure that does not include the multitude of ways that the US intervenes in other countries. But taking this number alone, means that the US is spending almost twice as much to build a wall to keep out people—many who have forcibly migrated as a direct result of its wars.  So while Congress and Trump debate the legality of declaring a National Emergency, our violence abroad causing forced migration will continue unabated. Thus, when it comes to US empire and state violence, maybe democrats and republicans are two sides of the same coin.


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Maha Hilal

Maha Hilal

Dr. Maha Hilal is a researcher and writer on institutionalized Islamophobia and author of the book Innocent Until Proven Muslim: Islamophobia, the War on Terror, and the Muslim Experience Since 9/11.  Her writings have appeared in Vox, Al Jazeera, Middle East Eye, Newsweek, Business Insider, and Common Dreams among others.  She is the founding Executive Director of the Muslim Counterpublics Lab, an organizer with Witness Against Torture and a Council member of the School of the Americas Watch. She earned her doctorate in May 2014 from the Department of Justice, Law and Society at American University in Washington, D.C.  She received her Master's Degree in Counseling and her Bachelor's Degree in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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