The War on Terror Created the Muslim Ban

As promised, on the first day of his presidency, Joe Biden signed an executive order rescinding the Muslim ban and overturning one of Trump administration’s signature anti-Muslim policies. The country was “built on a foundation of religious freedom and tolerance,” declared the Biden administration’s proclamation, callin the ban “a stain on our national conscience” and “inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all.”

The expected move was welcomed by civil liberties and American Muslim organizations. The Council on American Islamic Relations commended President Biden on “an important first step toward undoing the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant policies of the previous administration.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called the Biden Administration’s executive orders “welcome first steps after four brutal years of attacks on Black and Brown people.” 

Much of the subsequent discussion has revolved around the steps needed to undo the significant harms caused by the Muslim Ban. The ACLU, for example, called on the Biden administration to “provide justice by restoring lost diversity visas, waiving fees for those who were denied, and expediting processing, among other necessities.” 

Continue reading “The War on Terror Created the Muslim Ban”

Fascists on Capitol Hill

The attempt to overturn the results of the elections reached a crescendo in Washington, DC as supporters of President Trump stormed Capitol Hill, briefly occupying it and triggering a city wide lockdown. 

Many will see this coup attempt as the final attempt of a flailing President and his supporters to secure power by any means. This interpretation, while technically correct, fails to account for the development of the far-right as a significant political force in the United States along with its attendant culture of fascism. 

The past four years have seen a vigorous debate among scholars over whether President Trump qualifies as a fascist. Those who argue against such a designation point out that for much of his presidency, Trump has functioned within democratic institutions and repeatedly found himself rebuffed when faced with their limits. His public statements, the argument continues, while not adhering to democratic norms, do not adequately reflect the far more mundane reality of a legislatively constricted President. Missing from this argument, however, is any account of Trump’s relationship with a mobilized far-right.

Continue reading “Fascists on Capitol Hill”

Incel Terrorism and Sex Work

There were murmurs of celebration in some progressive circles regarding the classification of a recent attack in a Toronto massage parlor as an act of “incel terrorism.” The attack was carried out by a minor who identified as an involuntary celibate or incel and left one person dead. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) took the unusual step of classifying this act of violence as an act of terrorism under the Canadian Criminal Code.

Incels, as a recent report by the Organization for the Prevention of Violence notes, “are predominantly young men who believe that their physical appearance coupled with women’s liberation and feminism has impeded them from forming physical relationships with women. From this grievance, they have developed an ideology that encompasses anti-feminism, misogyny, nihilism, and self-abasement.” Continue reading “Incel Terrorism and Sex Work”

Abolition and the War on Terror

The rage palpable on the streets after the police murder of George Floyd has coalesced into a demand for abolishing the police and there is once again an increased focus on how US law enforcement has become militarized in the past three decades.

“For the past week,” writes Stuart Schrader, “our social media and television screens have been dominated by images of police officers in head-to-toe body armor wielding batons, pepper-ball guns, riot shields, and teargas against mostly peaceful protesters.” These images may be shocking but the spectacle is hardly new. It was on full display during the police response to protests in Ferguson following the murder of Michael Brown in 2014 and during the first public iteration of the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of Travyon Martin a year before. Continue reading “Abolition and the War on Terror”

How Community Policing Endangers Black and Muslim Communities

(CC BY-NC 2.0)

The protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd have catapulted police brutality and criminal justice reform into the mainstream. The routine killing of Black people at the hands of police officers can no longer be plausibly attributed to a few bad cops. The issue is now understood to be systemic and requiring structural reforms. But as demands for defunding and abolishing the police have become the rallying cry for activists, liberal politicians are instead offering community-oriented policing initiatives as a solution. 

In an op-ed for USA Today, the Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called for “an additional $300 million to reinvigorate community policing” in the United States. Like many liberal politicians, Biden believes in “the power of community policing — getting cops out of their cruisers and building relationships with the people and the communities they are there to serve and protect.” Continue reading “How Community Policing Endangers Black and Muslim Communities”

Prevent and the London Tube Bombing

The verdict in the Iraqi teenager’s trial came as no surprise. Ahmed Hassan, who had arrived in the UK as an asylum seeker, was found guilty of attempted murder by a jury unconvinced by his defense that he had not meant no harm and merely sought attention when he placed a homemade bomb on a train at the Parsons Green Station in London.
The bomb, packed with “metal shrapnel including screws, bolts, nails, knives and screw drivers,” failed to fully explode but still managed to injure 30 people.

According to the police and prosecutors, Hassan’s motives were “unclear” despite the teenager having previously claimed to a lecturer that he had “a duty to hate Britain” because of the country’s role in the invasion of Iraq and the death of his father in an air raid. He had once complained to the same lecturer that the UK “continues to bomb my people daily.” Continue reading “Prevent and the London Tube Bombing”

How the United States Creates Terrorists

A string of recent attacks in Paris and Orlando have led to renewed calls for surveillance of American Muslim communities from both Republican and Democratic politicians. Donald Trump wants surveillance of “certain mosques.” Ted Cruz thinks mosques are only the beginning and law enforcement should “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods.” Liberal darling Barney Frank has similarly called for “significant surveillance” of Muslims who adopt “angry Islamic hate views,” regardless of whether there is any reasonable basis to believe they pose a threat.

Such misguided calls for surveillance have recently become far more common, along with an upsurge in violence against American Muslims. They also betray a complete ignorance of the ongoing surveillance efforts against American Muslims, a luxury not afforded to those who have been on the receiving end of such untoward government attention. Various law enforcement and intelligence agencies have pursued extensive surveillance of American Muslim communities since 9/11, a project which now includes the Obama administration’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program.

Continue reading “How the United States Creates Terrorists”

Obama’s Drone Legacy

In the waning months of his presidency, the Obama administration has finally released an assessment of civilians killed in its drone strikes outside areas of “active hostilities.” An Executive Order accompanying the assessment also promises the protection of civilians in counter-terrorism operations, an acknowledgement of responsibility for civilian casualties, and financial compensation for victims or their families.

According to the three-page summary released by the Director of National Intelligence, the US has killed 64 to 116 “non-combatants” in 473 US drone strikes since 2009. It is impossible to compare the government’s aggregate assessment to much more thorough, case-specific information compiled by independent sources such as the The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Even still, the government figure is absurdly low and previous reporting on civilian deaths in just a handful of drone strikes already approaches the high-end of casualties admitted to by the government.

And yet to quibble with the numbers, even as it is necessary, would be to miss the point. The release of the assessment and the Executive Order has precious little to do with the long-awaited transparency. Instead, it is a calculated attempt to ensure Obama’s legacy is untainted by a program of extrajudicial murder and wanton killing, one which extends beyond any recognizable battlefield.

Continue reading “Obama’s Drone Legacy”

The Longest War Gets Longer

A few days ago, the United States killed the leader of a militant group it does not consider to be a terrorist organization, with which it is attempting to engage in peace talks, as part of the longest war it has ever been engaged in.

So far the justifications offered for the killing of Taliban leader Mullah Mansour only reveal the myopic mindset and desperation which must have led to the decision to authorize the killing.

Continue reading “The Longest War Gets Longer”

CVE Watch

I have been working with MuckRock on an investigative project around Countering Violent Extremism programs being developed and implemented around the country. Here is a brief synopsis of the project:

The programs being designed and implemented across the country under the auspices of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) have drawn fire from Muslim community members and civil rights activists. They are criticized for unfairly targeting Muslims, being used for surveillance under the pretext of community outreach, and being based on an unfounded theory of radicalization.

Despite the heavy criticism CVE has been subjected to, there remain lingering questions about precisely which communities are targeted, what research (and which experts) agencies are relying on for their approaches, how (or if) government agencies are planning to safeguard civil liberties, which community leaders are being supported and for what reasons, etc.

By making the relevant government documents public, we hope to help answer some of these questions.

You can read my introduction to CVE (and the project) here and an analysis of documents on the drafting of Boston’s CVE strategy here. The project page will be updated as I publish more stories. You can also subscribe to the blog if you want to stay updated.