Crazy American double standards on terrorism

Even John McCain (middle) might blanch at being bookended by "warriors" Lindsey Graham (left) and Bill Kristol (right)
John McCain (middle) bookended by “warriors” Lindsey Graham (left) and Bill Kristol (right)

W.J. Astore

In his latest introduction at, Tom Engelhardt reveals a remarkable double standard — perhaps craziness is a better term — in the U.S. approach to terrorism in the wake of the Paris attacks.  Prominent “conservative” leaders are calling for a major U.S. military invasion of territory controlled by ISIS, even though they know that ISIS has the “home field advantage.”  They know, in short, that such an invasion will be both risky and costly, spreading chaos even further in the region, but they just can’t help themselves: they must “do something,” and the “something” in this case is sending other people’s sons and daughters into harm’s way.

But when it comes to incurring any risk, no matter how remote, to the American “homeland” from allowing refugees fleeing the chaos of the Middle East (chaos partly made by the USA and its previous military interventions, of course) to enter, these same conservative leaders cower.  We can’t let “them” in. Too dangerous!

So, where the U.S. has an overwhelming “home field” advantage, these self-styled warriors retreat into paralyzing timidity.  “Not in my backyard,” they say.  But we sure as hell will send “our” troops into their backyards.  See how brave we are in taking the fight to ISIS?

Here is Engelhardt’s introduction that so clearly highlights this tension:

In Washington, voices are rising fast and furiously. “Freedom fries” are a thing of the past and everyone agrees on the need to support France (and on more or less nothing else). Now, disagreements are sharpening over whether to only incrementally “intensify” the use of U.S. military power in Syria and Iraq or go to “war” big time and send in the troops. The editor of the right-wing Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol, is already calling for 50,000 American troops to take the Islamic State’s “capital,” Raqqa. Republican presidential candidate Senator Lindsey Graham, who has been urging that another 20,000 troops be dispatched to the region for months, offers this illuminating analogy to sports: “I’m looking for an away game when it comes to ISIL, not a home game. I want to fight them in their backyard.”

And don’t forget that increasingly angry sideline discussion about the Obama administration’s plan to let 10,000 Syrian refugees, carefully vetted for up to two years, trickle into the country.  Alternatives proposed include setting up even harsher, more time-consuming vetting processes to insure that few of them can make it, allowing only certified, God-fearing Christian Syrians in while — give a rousing cheer for the “clash of civilizations” — leaving Muslims to rot in hell, or just blocking the whole damn lot of them.

I’m all for Bill Kristol and Lindsey Graham’s warrior fervor.  I wish them every success as they deploy to Raqqa in their “away game” against ISIS.

8 thoughts on “Crazy American double standards on terrorism

  1. What is most striking in those who want to deploy U.S. troops in a substantial way to Iraq again is that they avoid any discussion about the Moslem world including Iraqi troops, who are probably mostly Shiites, to confront the “Islamic State.”

    The refugees flowing into Europe are from other countries in the Middle East, not just Syria.

    The religion of Islam is off the table in the article, but there is an Islamic history that Englehardt ignores. Islam is more than a religion, it is a way of life and laws which embrace government. How compatible is Islam with democracy and freedom? One only has to view how Islam is practiced to see that are conflicts. Islam does not have a recent history of tolerance towards other religions. Also, Islamic countries and organizations have ignored the Armenian Genocide and some have sided with Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide. To ignore history to fit into a perceived agenda may be disastrous. Of course, we want and desire people of all religious to live harmoniously. But wanting it is not enough.

    The mess of the Iraq War has created chaos in the Middle East so a combination of guilt and responsibility drive policy and attitudes. Do Islamic countries have any major role to play in solving the refugee crisis or confronting the “Islamic state”? International humanitarian efforts in resettlement are needed including those in the Islamic world.

    The tragedy is the U.S. foreign policy interventions in the Middle East have been a failure for generations costing trillions of dollars without political accountability. Have we created a two party system with a lock on power that is immune to fundamental accountability or change?


    1. You make good points, Henry. But I’d add that all serious religious practice constitutes “a way of life.” Islam has many beneficial and compassionate qualities. Charity, after all, is one of the five pillars of Islam.

      There are something like six million American Muslims. I worked with a few of them at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey. I served with them in the U.S. military. They were as patriotic and devoted to service as any other American.

      Refugees, of course, may fall into a different category. But how many of us come from parents or grandparents who came to the USA fleeing persecution? Italian ancestors on my father’s side were deeply distrusted for their “foreign” ways and their alleged obedience to the Pope before all other authority. Those concerns were almost entirely groundless.

      My mother’s ancestors supposedly came over on the Mayflower in 1620, but we probably shouldn’t ask the Indians of that time to comment on their behavior. 🙂


  2. Before Senator Graham and scrivener/bloviator Kristol depart to launch their Holy War, I insist that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld be slipped into their duffel bags!! Hey, there should be no upper-age-limit on those truly committed to being mujahadeens on behalf of “American values”!! Ship ’em out, damn it, ship ’em out!!!


  3. Seems to me that what happened in Paris is an updated version of the Muslim invasion that was turned back at Tours in 732.

    Islam is spread by the sword, with “convert or die” the Schwerpunkt of it. For those who might disagree, I have a church to sell you in Riyadh.


    1. Which Islam are we talking about, Walter? There are over a billion Muslims, and their practices and cultures vary widely.

      Radical jihadists and their terrorist acts need to be stopped. But throughout history there have been many times and places where Muslims have lived side by side in peace with Jews and Christians. Just ask the Jews, for example, fleeing the Spanish Catholic Inquisition who found tolerance in the Ottoman Empire.

      Conflict is not inevitable — unless we make it so.


      1. Bill, Just ask the Armenians who are Christians about Turkey’s tolerance. Citing a 15th Century reference does little to bolster the claim of tolerance when measured against the Armenian Genocide in the 20th Century. Do the Arabs in the Middle East consider the Turkish Empire a era of tolerance?


      2. William.

        I go with inevitable.

        Although the great majority of Muslims are peaceful, absent a reformation, their religion will always be “convert or die.” Wish it wasn’t so, and our leaders should encourage change, but the reality of a death sentence to Muslims who convert to Christianity says it all.

        Unlike the dictates of the Koran, the injustices of the Inquisition had nothing to do with the New Testament. Inquisitors must surely be burning in hell.


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