Chicago (Special to Informed Comment) – Stoking fear of Afghan refugees, Stephen Miller — architect of Trump’s ethno-nationalist agenda — used the Afghanistan withdrawal and the ISIS airport attack as another opportunity to spread Islamophobia. Just hours after Kabul fell to the Taliban, Miller focused on an anti-immigrant message: “It is becoming increasingly clear that Biden and his radical deputies will use their catastrophic debacle in Afghanistan as a pretext for doing to America what Angela Merkel did to Germany and Europe,” he wrote, referring to Syrian refugee resettlement through 2016. In Miller’s racist imagination, Merkel allowed the masses of Middle Eastern refugees to “defile” Europe’s traditional heritage while failing to identify Muslim terrorists hidden in their midst.
In fact, Miller — as Trump’s immigration czar — helped cause the “catastrophic debacle” that he blamed on the Biden administration by constructing a Kafkaesque bureaucracy of onerous restrictions that produced a huge backlog of visa applicants. He worked fanatically to “devastate” the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) system “in an effort to prevent refugees from ever entering the United States,” said Olivia Troye — former Homeland security advisor to VP Pence. She described “cabinet meetings where Miller would peddle his racist hysteria about Afghanistan” while undermining anyone who worked on solving the system.
With a single-minded fixation on immigrant hatred, Miller later sharpened the MAGA propaganda stance saying, “The Administration is lying. Unvetted refugees are being resettled en masse in the USA while our own citizens remain stranded.” Apparently inspired by Miller, both the Mar-a-Lago Liar and GOP House leader and Trump puppet Kevin McCarthy stopped criticizing President Biden for leaving Afghans behind and started denouncing him for opening the United States to what they characterized as dangerous foreigners.
“We’ll have terrorists coming across the border,” McCarthy said last week on a call with a group of bipartisan House members. The former Xenophobe-in-Chief, who never bothered to evacuate or help even one of our Kurdish allies when he withdrew from Syria, added his usual hyperbolic fabrication: “We can only imagine how many thousands of terrorists have been airlifted out of Afghanistan and into neighborhoods around the world” and falsely claimed that evacuees undergo “no vetting.”
As for vetting, Afghan refugees are subjected to extensive background checks before receiving SIVs, a lengthy and complex process available to those who fear Taliban reprisals because of work for the U.S. government. Administration officials have sought to counter any notion that they will flood the country with unvetted refugees in the rush to provide safe harbor to Afghans. Major General Hank Taylor asserted that “Intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals are conducting screening and security vetting for all applicants before they are allowed into the U.S.”
In reassuring Americans about the immigration process, Biden said, “We must all work together to resettle thousands of Afghans who ultimately qualify for refugee status. The United States will do our part, and we are already working closely with refugee organizations to rebuild a system that was purposefully destroyed by my predecessor.”
Aside from subverting the SIV system, the treacherous former President signed a deal with the Taliban — without the input of the Afghan government — that his own national security adviser called “a surrender agreement.” The ex-president forced Afghan officials to release 5,000 Taliban fighters, many of whom likely entered Kabul when it fell. Betraying our Afghan allies, Trump even agreed that the Taliban could continue to fight the government that we were there to support. A former state department official called it “one of the most disgraceful diplomatic bargains on record.” Trump withdrew all but 2,500 American troops leaving Biden no choice but to escalate the war or complete the withdrawal. As Olivia Troye wrote, “Trump had FOUR years to evacuate Afghan allies.” Biden is cleaning up the mess created by Trump, who shamelessly and ignorantly criticized the vetting process he sabotaged.
Rather than expressing facts about vetting, MAGA propaganda networks and their GOP allies echoed Miller’s fear-mongering message hoping to move the conversation to nativist culture war turf. “Biden’s pro-migration deputies are importing many unvetted Afghans into Americans’ homeland,” deceived the Breitbart website. “The arrivals will likely get work permits and citizenship.”
A former anti-Trumper J.D. Vance — the Yale Law school grad and urbane author of Hillbilly Elegy — radically changed his political tune and cozied up to the former liar-president when he became an Ohio Senate candidate. Vance asserted that we must not “accept thousands of unvetted people from Afghanistan into our country.” With apparently omniscient wisdom, he judged some Afghan refugees as “bad people who do not like Americans or our Western way of life. Resettling them in the United States so that our country becomes a refugee camp is not the answer.” He failed to supply the answer.
Characterizing trusted allies as easy fodder for terrorist conversion, Miller said — as he scurried around from various Fox News shows to right-wing podcasts: “When you have large pockets of migration from places where jihadist ideology is prevalent, large numbers of people especially young people can become radicalized or swept up into a radical fervor.”
Fox News hosts parroted Miller’s xenophobic “analysis.” Tucker Carlson, who fetishizes Hungary’s ethno-nationalist authoritarian leader Victor Orbán as a model for America, moaned that Afghans had “invaded” the country and that “millions” of refugees would swarm over the U.S., “probably in your neighborhood.” Laura Ingraham wondered whether America’s promises to Afghan employees and soldiers were really valid in the face of “thousands of potentially unvetted refugees” entering the United States. Sean Hannity condemned Biden for allowing ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and ISIS-K to sneak into our country. Always shrieking about foreign terrorists, Carlson, Ingraham, and Hannity embrace the homegrown MAGA terrorists who attacked the Capitol on January 6. Their incendiary rhetoric that denigrates refugees and fuels hatred might easily provoke attacks on Afghan migrants by MAGA militia mad-boys.
Thus far, demagoguery has proven less politically potent than it is morally repulsive. More than nineteen governors, including nine Republicans, have expressed a willingness to admit Afghan migrants. The most compelling reason to welcome them is the moral and humanitarian one. They helped us and are now in grave danger. They are targets because they helped us, and we have made a commitment — enshrined in U.S. law — to protect them in return.
Those governors are also making a smart commitment. Besides extending the traditional humanitarian welcome that the pre-Trump United States gave to refugees willing to endure the extensive vetting procedure, these leaders will make an immediate addition to their states’ labor pools at a time when headlines all over the country scream about labor shortages. As the Washington Post pointed out: refugees are good for the U.S. economy. Aside from that, many of these refugees have a history of working with Americans and many are interpreters and translators that obviously speak English, making their transition to America easier.
Aligning herself with the MAGA morons, South Dakota Republican governor Kristi Noem spurned decency and human compassion in rejecting Afghan refugees. But, she enthusiastically welcomed, at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, 700,000 unvetted, possibly un-vaccinated, and potentially infected cyclists. Last year’s rally was a “superspreader” event that infected over 200,000 people nationwide, killed some of them, and cost the state billions in public health. Refusing to accept one Afghan evacuee, she said, “We do not want them coming here.” She claimed not to trust the vetting process without explaining why.
Vetting and jihadist radicalization is only part of the Afghan refugee problem for Stephen Miller. He supplemented his fearmongering with a dose of white nationalist, replacement conspiracy theory, telling Fox News that those calling for refugee resettlement in the U.S. were not in the business of “solving a humanitarian crisis,” but rather were trying to accomplish “an ideological objective — to change America” by replacing native-born white Americans with non-white immigrants. Neither Miller nor Tucker Carlson, for that matter, knows anything about solving a humanitarian crisis. Carlson — who has repeatedly promoted the replacement theory — declared that left-wing politicians want to replace white Americans with obedient, non-white Afghans.
With mind-boggling absurdity, MAGA stalwart Charlie Kirk — of Trump-worshipping Turning Point USA — saw Biden unfolding a fiendishly clever strategy: Kirk claimed that Biden “intentionally” let Afghanistan fall because he “wants a couple hundred thousand more Ilhan Omars to come into America to change the body politic permanently.” Miller, Carlson, Kirk and the MAGA acolytes want to spread the message to the GOP base that hordes of Afghan refugees are the shock troops that will permanently entrench the liberal elite and Democratic Party’s power.
In their despicable expressions, one can even detect strains of respect for the Taliban who in their view are owning the libs. Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert declared, “The Taliban are the only people building back better.” Carlson essentially gave props to the Taliban saying that they and their Afghan supporters rejected “radical gender politics” that U.S. officials “kept pushing on these stone-age people. They don’t hate their own masculinity. They don’t think it’s toxic, they like the patriarchy, some of their women like it too, so now they’re getting it all back.”
The suffering and trauma experienced by our Afghan partners is nothing more than a talking point to the MAGA crowd, who find creatively bizarre ways to infuse culture-war grievances into the evacuation and resettlement of Afghan refugees. The dangerous plight of thousands of our allies as a direct result of our brutal occupation, imperial hubris, and massive corruption is reduced to nothing more than a problem of wokeness and cultural decadence. As Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton ludicrously explained: “It’s clear President Biden and his Department of Defense have been more concerned with critical race theory and other woke policies than planning an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
In spite of the right-wing propaganda barrage, recent polling contradicts Miller’s assertion that “there is no desire among the American public at all for a large-scale resettlement of generalized refugees.” The poll suggests widespread bipartisan support for helping Afghan translators and others who aided the U.S.-led war effort. Some 81 percent of Americans said the United States should support those Afghans, according to a CBS News/YouGov poll published a week ago, with 90 percent of Democrats and 76 percent of Republicans backing resettlement efforts.
Still, once the perilous evacuation ends and attention turns to the more than 100,000 Afghan refugees, heated political battles will escalate and the anti-immigrant MAGA snakes will be spitting their venom. Progressives expect Biden to ignore the barrage of hatred and increase the 2022 refugee cap from 62,000 to 200,000 while further urging him to expand “humanitarian parole” — a stopgap measure to provide refuge to vulnerable Afghans who remain in serious danger, but are not eligible for an SIV. The sudden influx of refugees means that resettlement agencies across United States must receive increased federal financing and private donations to secure housing, schooling, groceries and furniture as well as provide cultural orientation, trauma processing, job-skill training, and employment hunting for the Afghan refugees forced from their homeland. The need to plan for their arrival is immediate.
Bonus Video added by Informed Comment: