After Brussels, Trump and Cruz Embrace Fear, Abandon Law

Since we first learned of the attacks on Brussels, the air has been acrid with the dangerous, illegal and unconstitutional promises of the GOP front runners, Senator Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.

Cruz’s comments about patrolling Muslim neighborhoods shows not only his ignorance of the assimilation of the Muslim community in the United States, but also that he is willing to push aside the protections of the Fourth Amendment (prohibiting illegal searches and seizures) and the Fourteenth Amendment (guaranteeing equal protection under the law for all) for certain Americans.  It’s hypocritical, considering he’s campaigning on fidelity to the Constitution.  It’s clear that Cruz cares more about some Constitutional Protections – such as religious liberty (for Christians, anyway) than others.  Surely fidelity to the Constitution means fidelity to the entire Constitution?

Beyond assimilation and constitutional protections, Cruz’s “patrol” comment also shows a lack of understanding about the conditions that are leading to the terror attacks on the European continent that simply do not exist in the United States.  Although clearly, this threat is real and rising, Cruz is inciting fear based on incorrect premises:

  • European borders are porous.  You can drive from Brussels to Damascus (and back) almost unchecked.  In the US, the vast majority of our border is highly controlled and accessed only through air traffic.
  • European countries do not have robust security sharing mechanisms., in part because privacy laws in each country are particularly strong (Germany and France in particular) and because some countries’ resources are limited (Belgium being one of them).  Post 9-11, the US has dramatically increased its resourcing of anti-terrorism activities, and shifted its strategy towards sharing across agencies as well as across local, state and federal government.
  • Muslims, particularly from former French Colonies in North Africa, live together in impoverished communities in cities like Paris and Brussels.  These neighborhoods have been described as ghettos, soaked in crime and desperation, where and upward (and outward) mobility is all but impossible.  They are a breeding ground for contempt of western culture, isolation, and radicalization. In the United States, Muslims, like many other other religious and ethnic groups, are much more assimilated, with equal economic opportunities and freedoms. There is simply less isolation, and less “them versus us.”

Donald Trump also rushed in, within minutes of the news from Brussels, calling for a closure of U.S. borders (later – of course – retracted).  The terrible events of Brussels also provided an opportunity for Trump to again raise his pro-torture views, which are both ignorant and dangerous.  The Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture, to which the U.S. is a signatory, prohibit the acts he speaks of.  As does  U.S. federal law, and the U.S. Military Code of Justice.  Republicans are angered at the extent to which President Obama has acted unilaterally – well, Donald Trump is proposing unilateral – and clearly illegal – action, immediately upon achieving office.  Besides the fact that the U.S. Military would follow no order that violates federal, military, or international law, a curious twist is that U.S. law allows victims of torture to sue their tormentors in U.S. courts.  Could a President Trump get sued  for carrying out his threats?

Finally, both Cruz and Trump are wrong to criticize President Obama for not flying home after the Brussels attacks.  Terrorists want to disrupt, and they want to spread panic and division.  By acknowledging the tragedy, vowing to keep fighting, but continuing business as usual, the President takes power from the terrorists.  To do the opposite is to give them exactly what they desire.

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