Don’t let Trump add to this horror

November 2, 2017

Danny Katch writes from New York on the reverberations of Tuesday's truck attack.

HALLOWEEN IN Lower Manhattan was the latest scene of the mass murder of strangers in a public place. Costumed children just getting out of school ran screaming for their lives away from a truck rampage by Sayfullo Saipov, carried out on a picturesque bike path along the Hudson River.

Eight people were killed--five of them longtime Argentine friends who were in New York City on a reunion they had planned for years. Among the injured were children and adults sitting in a school bus for special needs students that Saipov plowed into.

Coming less than a month after Stephen Paddock gunned down 58 people at a country music concert in Las Vegas, it seems like would-be killers are competing to come up with the most horrifying atrocities, whether or not they pledge allegiance to ISIS, as Saipov allegedly did.

It's too early to know much more about Saipov and his motivations, but it can be clearly stated from the beginning that if he did think murdering innocent people in New York City would in any way strike a blow against the forces of U.S. empire that are oppressing Muslims across the world, he was horribly wrong.

The scene of the attack in Lower Manhattan
The scene of the attack in Lower Manhattan

The victims had nothing at all to do with U.S. government policy. That it was almost impossible they would have any such connection shows the bankruptcy of the reactionary ideology Saipov allegedly took from ISIS.

The effect of this attack, whatever Saipov's motives, will be to strengthen U.S. imperialism.

That much was obvious within minutes on Tuesday: Donald Trump and the most anti-Muslim right-wingers in U.S. society are going to try to use this attack to further the agenda of war and racism that both U.S. imperialism and ISIS are committed to--and that is a disaster for ordinary people of all religions and nationalities.

Trump immediately responded to the attack by calling for increased vetting of people coming into the U.S. and the cancellation of the Diversity Immigrant Visa program through which Saipov emigrated to the U.S. from Uzbekistan in 2010.

The diversity visa system is a small part of the U.S. immigration system that was created in 1990 and grants 50,000 visas each year via lottery to people from countries with relatively low immigration rates to the U.S.

Trump was cynically targeting a program that is a liberal drop in the bucket--and in no way counteracts the impact of over a century's worth of discriminatory immigration laws, which have resulted in fewer family and professional connections for current immigrants from the global south.

As for vetting, Al Jazeera pointed out that the visa program already involves rigorous background checks and security screening. And the Washington Post reported that the Bush administration "reviewed the program in 2007 and found no documented evidence that diversity immigrants posed a terrorist threat."

Although, again, it's too early to be certain about Sayfullo Saipov's motives, it's a safe bet that whatever led to him to commit Tuesday's horrific violence was learned in the good ol' U S of A.

OF COURSE, facts don't matter to Donald Trump. At this point, we've all gotten used to his blatantly self-serving use of tragedies to advance his own interests and hateful agenda.

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy tweeted for many when he pointed out the clear double standard between the president's reaction on Tuesday and his more cautious take on the Las Vegas massacre: "Now I get it. If the killer is an immigrant you can talk about policy change, but if he's natural born, you're 'politicizing the tragedy.'"

We also shouldn't forget Trump's repulsive history of calling into question the loyalties of nonwhite political leaders in the aftermath of terrorism.

After the mass shooting at Orlando's Pulse nightclub, Trump bizarrely tweeted: "Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism."

The next day, he implied that then-President Barack Obama might be conspiratorially linked to the attack. "Look, we're led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he's got something else in mind," Trump said on Fox News. "And the something else in mind--you know, people can't believe it. People cannot, they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can't even mention the words 'radical Islamic terrorism.' There's something going on. It's inconceivable. There's something going on."

Trump made the same cowardly insinuation against London's first Muslim Mayor Sadiq Khan following a deadly knife attack earlier this year--Trump deliberately twisted Khan's words to imply that he was unconcerned about the attack.

It gets tiresome to be outraged at Donald Trump's endlessly revolting behavior and personal character. But we have to recognize that he will exploit this moment, too, to step up his campaigns against immigrants and Muslims--especially now as he scrambles for ways to distract public attention from Robert Mueller's escalating criminal probe of his campaign and administration.

While Trump and his right-wing allies plot how to take advantage of the tragedy in New York, millions of American immigrants and Muslims are wondering how they will be affected by another wave of the racist backlash openly promoted by the White House.

How will this affect people like Riaz Talukder, whose campaign to not be deported from his Queens community was reported on yesterday at "Talukder is one of 2.3 million people in this country living under an order of supervision requiring them to check in with ICE officials who wield the power to change their lives with the stroke of a pen," the article noted.

And how will it affect the millions of people in majority Muslim countries who have been bearing the brunt of the now-16-year-old U.S. "war on terror"? They already faced difficult obstacles in entering the U.S. under the supposedly liberal policies of Barack Obama--but Trump will make things even worse.

IT'S CRITICAL for the majority of people in the U.S. who disagree with Trump's racist scapegoating to make their voices heard against xenophobia and Islamophobia. But we can't do that by following the lead of the supposed opposition party in mainstream politics.

When Trump blasted New York Democrat Chuck Schumer on Twitter for helping to write the Diversity Immigrant Visa program into law nearly three decades ago, Schumer had a golden opportunity to denounce the president's cynical smear after his own constituency had just been attacked. Here's how Schumer chose to respond from the Senate floor:

President Trump, where is your leadership? President Trump, instead of politicizing and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy, should be bringing us together and focusing on the real solution--antiterrorism funding--which he proposed cutting in his most recent budget.

Sixteen years since the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the "war on terror" has accomplished nothing but turning the entire world into an endless battlefield.

And now--at a moment when that strategy has been revealed as so bankrupt that another attack happened in almost the exact location as the old World Trade Center--the "real solution" put forward by the Democratic Party's Senate leader is to keep up the same "war on terror" that fueled the toxic Islamophobia of Donald Trump.

Instead of the likes of Schumer, we need to look instead to the example of the people of Barcelona. One week after 13 people were killed by attackers driving a van through Las Ramblas, the city's famous pedestrian walkway, hundreds of thousands of people returned to the same spot to declare "I'm not afraid"--and many participants carried signs denouncing Islamophobia.

That same sentiment exists among at least as many people in New York City. We need to send a message that we will never sign up for the violence and racism that political leaders like Donald Trump and, yes, Chuck Schumer want to consign us to.

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