The two are not synonyms.
According to a number of people (including some I know personally) the lesson of the Boston bombing is that we need to stop letting so many immigrants into this country.
And those people certainly have a point. If we had stricter immigration policies, that crazy foreigner Timothy McVeigh would never have'oh. Wait.
Ah, but certainly if right-to-life Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph hadn't been allowed to immigrate, he'd never have been able to'what? American too?
The "ban immigrants to stop terrorism" is on a par with the "ban Islam to stop terrorism"'just a convenient excuse for lashing out at a group some people object to anyway (as I said in an earlier column
, it's always easy to look at a tragedy and decide it confirms everything you already think). As a strategy for stopping terrorism, targeting immigrants is pointless. The history of American terrorism shows it's overwhelmingly the work of the native-born.
The KKK may have been the first American terrorists, using fear and violence against American blacks, Jews and immigrants in the 19th and early 20th century. The 20th century's Black Legion followed in the Klan's wake, targeting many of the same threats to white Protestant America.
In the first few decades of the 20th century, business owners ruthlessly used murder and violence against labor to terrorize the union movement. Labor organizers fought back, often just as violently.
In the 1960s we had, let's see, black militants, die-hard segregationists, the Weather Underground, Puerto Rican separatists and countless small and now-forgotten groups committing terrorist attacks and blowing up buildings and people. Since then, we've had 30 years of Rudolph and other right-to-life terrorists murdering people while insisting they're doing it because they love Jesus and life so much. Ecoterrorists have blown up their share of buildings too.
Post-9/11, we have Jim Adkisson shooting up a Unitarian church because he wanted to kill all liberals. All-American Scott Roeder murdered abortion provider George Tiller in Kansas. Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hassan was US-born. So was William Krar, who was busted in 2003 for possession of a sodium cyanide bomb. Ditto Kevin William Harpham, an alleged white supremacist who planted a pipe bomb at a Martin Luther King Day parade in 2011.
A protest of the Patriot Act, enacted in October of 2001. | Photo: |
Terrorism isn't some sinister foreign ideology, it's as America as apple pie. Well, apple pie laced with arsenic. The idea we could just get terrorism under control if we keep out immigrants or control or expel all Muslims is just an appealing fantasy for people who want us to do those things anyway. It makes as much sense as expelling the right-to-life movement: some are terrorists, but the majority are not.
Of course, it's always easier to scream "terrorism!" when the ones you're pointing at are someone unlike yourself. Irish-American Rep. Peter King, for example, has called for putting Muslims under surveillance while insisting that the IRA is a noble, freedom-fighting group and never committed terrorism (I'm sure the victims of IRA car bombs will be comforted to know that). If the right-to-life movement got one fraction of the surveillance American Muslims do, they'd scream bloody murder.
Nobody likes thinking of their own side as terrorists. It's much more comfortable believing that the Others are terrorists, and that your side would never do such evil things, and if it did, they'd be totally justified because everyone they kill is just evil and you're fighting for freedom, so there!
That sort of self-delusion is understandable, but it's not a good basis for national policy.