In the same way that tin-pot dictatorships used to wreak havoc by nationalizing their economies overnight or suddenly rewriting constitutions, President Donald Trump’s ill-considered executive orders make the US look like a basket-case Third World nation. It is difficult to think of other new laws that have caused comparable levels of panic and confusion than his directives to ban entry to citizens of seven Muslim nations.
Pity the Jordanian student who dare not go home for fear that further measures will block his return to the US; the huge Iranian-American community, many of whom find themselves stranded; and those who fear being unable to see their loved ones indefinitely. I know of Syrian billionaires who, at the flick of Trump’s pen, are suddenly separated from their US business interests.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims are left wondering whether their green card is worth the paper it is written on. Multinational companies with diverse nationalities of staff face insurmountable obstacles. Are they supposed to simply sack employees of an inconvenient nationality?
Trump’s measures to “make America safer” will have precisely the opposite effect. By letting the genie of Islamophobia out of the bottle, he is unleashing tensions that will come back to burn us all. The promotion of Trump’s adviser, white supremacist Steve Bannon, to a senior national security position should terrify us all.
Trump knows his actions benefit Daesh. His regime wants to divide East and West, because without these divisions he would not survive for five minutes as a legitimate president. Trump’s ignorant and racist supporters will forgive him for ruining the US economy via tariffs, trade wars and protectionist policies, as long as he can present himself as the strongman who stands up to the Muslim menace.
The “leader of the free world” neither knows nor cares about the conventional processes of consultation and consensus by which laws are made. Trump believes the presidency makes him a deity who simply writes an executive order saying “let all Americans get burgers and coke,” and his wish becomes a reality. The inevitable result is chaos. Never have Leo Tolstoy’s words been truer: “Writing laws is easy, but governing is difficult.”
Perhaps the most shocking consequence of these directives is slamming the door on refugees whose plight is the consequence of previous US policies. Among those affected are Iraqi translators and staff who worked for the Americans and consequently found themselves targeted for assassination by Daesh. Let us not forget how Trump’s America rewards those who risk their lives in its service.
His pledge to ally himself with Russian President Vladimir Putin and “bomb the hell” out of Daesh will displace hundreds of thousands more citizens, none of whom will be welcome in the new America. We recall NATO’s pledges that intervention in Libya would establish democracy. Today, the US simply shrugs its shoulders and walks away, saying: “Oops, better luck next time.”
No leader in history has been taken to court more times than Trump. He thus cares little that the queue of those preparing to sue or impeach him grows longer. So what if banning Muslims is against the founding principles of the UN? Trump’s regime is the UN’s principal donor, and he has already threatened to halt financial contributions.
He burnishes his legitimacy by poking liberal opinion in the eye. Our hatred makes him stronger. We should thus focus on those who treat him like a real president, from British Prime Minister Theresa May to Republican senators who cheer him just as passionately as they opposed him when he first surfaced as a maverick outsider.
The US is a nation of conflicting tendencies: The same nation that voted for its first black president and his impossibly optimistic agenda of change, voted for Trump eight years later. In just 10 days, Trump has caused chaos and misery for millions. We can only hope that we do not have to wait four years until progressive America reasserts itself.
All of us have a moral obligation to jointly stand against these illegal and inhumane policies, not just as Muslims, but because we value basic rights and common human dignity. Our planet faces so many environmental, economic and political challenges. Humanity today requires heroes and giants as heads of state to steer us safely through these multiple threats.
• Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate, a foreign editor at Al-Hayat, and has interviewed numerous heads of state.