The Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) — The more Donald Trump tries to build support for his refugee and immigration ban, the darker the world seems to get.
In defending his policies barring refugees and curbing immigration, the president is painting an increasingly ominous picture of the danger posed by Islamic extremists. In his speeches, tweets and an imposing new tally of what Trump calls an unreported “genocide” by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant group, he has raised the prospect of imminent attacks on the United States and cast the debate over safety as a clash between radical Islam and the West.
To Trump’s supporters, the president’s dark warnings show that he has a clear-eyed view of the terror threat facing the United States — a threat they believe Barack Obama downplayed. Trump’s critics fear he is hyping one threat at the expense of others.
Islamic extremism is “an enemy that celebrates death and totally worships destruction,” Trump said Monday while visiting the headquarters of the military’s Central Command.
The list his administration is circulating highlights the debate. The White House points to the 78 incidents as evidence that the news media are intentionally downplaying the dangers of ISIL. “Most” incidents on the list haven’t received sufficient attention, the White House says.
Trump’s terror list, however, focuses only on attacks the White House says were “executed or inspired by” the Islamic State. Terrorism carried out in the name of other causes didn’t make the list.
For example, Trump’s list does not include violence by Boko Haram, an Islamist insurgent group operating in West Africa that pledged allegiance to ISIL in 2015. It is responsible for far more deaths than ISIL, including suicide bombings, mass shootings and massacres of civilians in Nigeria and neighboring countries.
The White House list also leaves off last month’s attack on a mosque in Quebec, where six Muslim men were shot and killed. A French Canadian man known for far-right, nationalist views has been charged and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called it an act of terrorism against Muslims.
The White House says Trump did call Trudeau to express condolences. But his failing to mention it now appears to reflect his narrow focus on the Islamic State.
Although he has been vague about his plans for countering ISIL in its strongholds in Iraq and Syria, he has moved swiftly to try to keep the group’s followers out of the United States, signing an executive order in his first week in office that banned all entries from seven Muslim-majority countries with terror ties. Trump’s directive also halted the entire U.S. refugee program for four months and banned Syrians from the United States.
The ban is now held up in the courts, prompting a fierce response from the president.
In a strikingly personal attack on the judiciary, Trump said the judge should bear the blame if an attack occurs while his ban is paused. He’s warned that the court order has allowed people to start “pouring in” to the United States, despite the fact that those who do not currently hold legal visas must go through lengthy vetting procedures before entering the country.
“ISIS said we are going to infiltrate the United States and other countries through the migration,” Trump said during a White House meeting with sheriffs Tuesday. “And then we’re not allowed to be tough on the people coming in? Explain that one.”
Evelyn Farkas, who served as deputy assistant defense secretary during the Obama administration, argues that the president’s warnings are creating “a level of concern that probably isn’t warranted by the threats assessment.”
In recent years, federal law enforcement agencies have focused more on the threat posed by homegrown extremists — people, usually men, who are already in the United States and who find themselves attracted to ISIL propaganda of violence and mayhem. Still, officials concede that it’s impossible to guarantee a mistake-free screening process for people seeking to come to the United States, particularly given the paucity of information sometimes available on people entering from Syria.