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White Al-Qaeda, Trump and Economic Terrorism Against El Paso

Both Trump’s rhetoric and the shooter’s murders target El Paso’s economy in classic terrorist style.

By depicting El Paso as crime infested when Mexicans were supposedly unconstrained by a wall, Trump implied that Mexicans are criminals, bringing their crime over the border. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

By depicting El Paso as crime infested when Mexicans were supposedly unconstrained by a wall, Trump implied that Mexicans are criminals, bringing their crime over the border. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Trump’s visit to El Paso on Wednesday was unwelcome to most of its residents. They understood that his anti-Latino rhetoric and talk of “infestation,” “crime” and “invasion” had inspired the white terrorist who massacred them, and they are inconsolable in the grief for the 22 dead among them, as are all people with a heart.

The people of El Paso also understand something most outsiders do not. Both Trump’s rhetoric and the shooter’s murders target El Paso’s economy in classic terrorist style.

One of the longstanding tactics of al-Qaeda and other extremists in the Middle East has been to attempt to destroy a tourist economy so as to weaken a society and a government, softening the latter up so that it could be more easily overthrown.

For instance, beginning in 1992 the al-Gama`a al-Islamiya [the Islamic Grouping] launched a campaign to destabilize Egypt, killing over the next several years some 1,000 persons, including about 60 tourists. In 1997, the al-Gama`a al-Islamiya [Islamic Grouping] methodically shot 57 tourists to death at Luxor in Upper Egypt. Luxor is the site of the Valley of the Kings and a prime tourist destination for those interested in ancient Egypt. At that time, two million tourists a year visited. In good times, tourism generates ten percent of Egypt’s gross domestic product.

The hope of the radicals was that the tourists would abruptly stop coming and the lost revenue would push the government into bankruptcy, and then the Gama’a could lead a popular uprising and overthrow the government.

ISIL’s attacks on Paris in 2015 were intended to harm the Parisian and French economies. France is the world’s leading tourist destination, and 85 million visitors were expected in 2015. International tourism is worth around $24 billion a year in France, and domestic tourism generates another $56 billion. Making people afraid to travel for pleasure can profoundly harm an economy. Luckily France rebounded.

Likewise, the ISIL attacks in Sri Lanka in April targeted the country’s tourism industry (and did harm it).

Radicals in the Middle East and South Asia have frequently adopted this tactic.

It is the same tactic adopted by the El Paso shooter. El Paso is Texas’s 6th largest city and is in the top 20% for economic performance in the United States.

The synergy between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez helps ensure the health of the economy.

That synergy is now in danger, at least for a while. Joy Diaz & Kristen Cabrera at the Texas Standard report that Mexicans may make fewer cross-border shopping trips for a while because of the fears generated by the massacre of 22 persons, almost all Mexican-Americans or Mexicans.

That’s one of the things the shooter was going for.

Trump began this process by calling them rapists and killers. Singling out and demonizing an ethnic group is the first step toward attempting to destroy them.

But it is more than just El Paso. The Trump-Bannon-Miller line is to target the lives and livelihoods of the 60 million Latino-Americans across the board. Trump began this process by calling them rapists and killers. Singling out and demonizing an ethnic group is the first step toward attempting to destroy them.

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People in El Paso know this, and that’s why they never wanted to see Trump in their town.

Let’s remember exactly how Trump set them up.

Trump is an inveterate liar, having told thousands and thousands of lies during his 2.5 years in office.

One of the things he has repeatedly lied about is El Paso.

In his State of the Union address, Robert Moore wrote for Texasmonthly.com, Trump alleged that El Paso had been one of the worst cities in the US for crime but that since the partial border wall built in 2008-2010 it had abruptly become safe:

    “The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime—one of the highest in the country, and (was) considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities. Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities.”

Rep. Veronica Escobar tweeted out newspaper headlines from 20 years ago touting El Paso as the third safest city in the US:

The year 2000 was eight years before the wall started being built.

Moore points out that border towns across the US have low crime rates, exactly the opposite of what Trump would expect.

By depicting El Paso as crime infested when Mexicans were supposedly unconstrained by a wall, Trump implied that Mexicans are criminals, bringing their crime over the border.

In other words, their commerce itself is undesirable.

That’s rhetorical economic terrorism. But then some young man heard the words and took them to heart and implemented them. That is White al-Qaeda.

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Juan Cole

Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His new book, The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East (Simon and Schuster), will officially be published July 1st. He is also the author of Engaging the Muslim World and Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East (both Palgrave Macmillan). He has appeared widely on television, radio and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. His weblog on the contemporary Middle East is Informed Comment.

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