Saturday, November 21, 2015

Profiles in Courage

Updated 11/22/2015
How can you be sure they're not Belgian terrorists? Their passports could be fake too! Image via LifelineSyria.
Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), in a position of unofficial leadership as former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, joined 46 other Democrats in support of the American Security Against Foreign Enemies SAFE Act to stop screening refugees for admission to the United States while regulations are written to lengthen the two-year period it already takes.

Because there may be a massive refugee crisis radiating out from destroyed Syria to the rest of the world, and it may have been caused by the terrible social and physical destruction brought on in the Iraq-Syria region in the ten-year war fought by the United States against, well, whoever they were fighting against, it kept changing from month to month, as the new Salafist forces that had never been in the region before began to establish themselves in the chaos outside the zone the US forces were able to control, and we may now regret our refusal to admit refugee Jews to the US in 1938-42 making us directly responsible for as much as a third of Hitler's six million, but—

But. But somebody in the crew that assaulted Paris on November 13 carried a fake Syrian passport which would have indicated that he had come to France as a Syrian refugee if it had been a real one, so now all Syrian refugees trying to enter the US by normal channels (not washing up on the shore of a Greek island) must come under increased suspicion that they are really Da'esh suicide bombers, because that would have been the case with one of the Paris bombers if it had been the case, which it wasn't.

Because why isn't Obama doing more to protect us against imaginary terrorists? Why does he insist on this narrow-minded focus on the real ones?

Israel remarked, on the administration's appeal to vote against the bill,
"I've seen better presentations in my time here," Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who voted with Republicans Thursday, told reporters. "They may have strong arguments on their side, but they're not expressing those strong arguments sufficiently."
That is, he knew the administration was right, but he just wasn't impressed enough by the style. Or as I put it over at Alicublog,
"I can't support a position with such lacklustre adjectives in it. I have my constituents to think of. There's a lot of literary critics in Suffolk County."
Big boo from me to those cowardly New York Democrats in the House, Steve Israel, Kathleen Rice, Sean Maloney, Louise Slaughter, and Chris Collins, for their vote on this; and of course deep thanks to my own representative Jerry Nadler and the other 14 New York Democrats who did the right thing.

In 1957, Senator John F. Kennedy published what became a famous book with the title Profiles in Courage celebrating senators in our history who had shown conspicuously brave leadership in standing up for what's right against an ill-informed public sentiment. (Apparently it was Ted Sorensen who actually drafted most of it, but JFK worked very closely with him, and was undoubtedly more familiar with the material than, say, Dr. Ben Carson is with his own autobiography.) That's a concept that used to be pretty powerful among Democrats back in the day, and we could sure use a little more of it now.

Update 11/22:

Apparently it's now established that two of the three men who blew themselves up outside the Stade de France on November 13 were fingerprinted at Greek passport controls on October 3, and as far as I can imagine—the statement from the Paris prosecutor's office offers no interpretation, just the narrowest conclusion their evidence allows, and no names or other identification—these guys, not Syrian refugees but French or Belgian nationals or permanent residents, may most likely have been evading the surveillance of their home countries as they traveled back and forth between Europe and Syria by taking the refugee path through Greece, and there's generally a clear danger that would-be French or Belgian terrorists (or Chechen or Dagestani ones in Russia), well known to the authorities where they live, could be hiding from them in this way, disguised as Syrians.

This is a problem for the integration of intelligence in the EU; they need an American-style system in which fingerprints taken in Greece can be collated with data on file in France, in real time. It's not a problem for the US, where we already have such a system, and it has no relation of any kind to the planned US program for settling Syrian refugees, which takes up candidates in camps in Turkey or Jordan or Lebanon and studies them thoroughly over and 18- or 24-month period before they can get anywhere near America. It's not in any way relevant.

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