Terrorist is the new N-word

Until recently, the provocative media and politicians liked to label a person they disagreed with a “Nazi.” Yes, even President Obama has been accused of acting like a Nazi, as absurd as that is. It didn’t matter if the person they accused of being a Nazi opposes everything the Nazis stood for—it only mattered that the accuser disliked the actions the supposed Nazi was taking. But now there’s a new word that has replaced Nazi: terrorist.

Just like the media and politicians frequently called people who behaved in no way like a Nazi “Nazis,” they have now taken to calling people “terrorists” with no regard to what the word means. Let’s take a closer look at that.

  • terrorist: noun, a person who uses terrorism in the pursuit of political aims
  • terrorism: noun, the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion

That means a terrorist must act in a manner that strikes fear into the hearts of the people he or she opposes. And the terrorist must intend for their actions to coerce the people to act according to the terrorist’s political aims.

The latest people that have been accused of being terrorists are the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom who recently occupied a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon. However, this militia has explicitly stated that “we have no intentions of using force upon anyone…this is about taking the correct stand without harming anybody.” Without any threat of force or harm against the people, the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom lack one critical element to be terrorists: terror.

Robert Lewis Dear, who shot a dozen people in a Planned Parenthood facility, killing three, last November is a terrorist. He intended to coerce Planned Parenthood into ceasing abortions by terrorizing its staff and consumers. Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, who killed fourteen people at a San Bernardino county holiday party last month, are terrorists. They intended to coerce “infidels” into converting to Islam by terrorizing people who were presumably Christians (or, at least, not Muslims). The Citizens for Constitutional Freedom and the Bundy brothers who lead them are not terrorists—they are traitors.

Oregon militants: Patriots or Owl Qaeda?

The path of most resistance

Back in September, President Barack Obama called for the USA to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year. Since then, there have been cries from all levels of government to not permit this immigration from Syria. Not surprisingly, those cries have increased and gotten louder since ISIS perpetrated the terrorist attack on Paris earlier this month.

I sympathize with most of the people voicing those sentiments. While some criticize the plan simply to oppose the president, most sincerely feel that their security would be threatened by Syrian refugees in the USA. They are concerned for the safety of their loved ones. The problem with this sentiment is that it’s based on faulty logic—it would not help prevent a terrorist attack in the USA.

Yes, as the name Islamic State of Iraq & Syria implies, ISIS occupies portions of Syria. And yes, ISIS uses terrorism to control Syrians and terrorize people like the French and Russian. But if an ISIS terrorist wanted to attack inside the USA, posing as a Syrian refugee would be the last method he would use to enter the USA. Just about any other way in would be more suitable for a terrorist. That’s why the odds of being killed by a refugee in a terrorist attack are about 1 in more than 3.6-billion, according to a Cato Institute study (PDF).

The process for a Syrian refugee to resettle in the USA is long and arduous, involving numerous federal agencies and intense background checks. It must begin in a refugee camp run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) somewhere outside of but neighboring Syria. After registering with them, not only does the UNHCR decide whether it will resettle the refugee at all, it also decides to which country it refers the refugees who get resettled. Well over 95% of Syrian refugees resettle in five Muslim countries around Syria. Only about 0.05% of the 4.3-million Syrian refugees have arrived in the USA.

For the small number of Syrian refugees the UNHCR refers to the USA, the U. S. Department of State takes over the admissions process. But they do so in the refugee camp—it will be about two years before the refugee makes it to the USA. In the meantime, they undergo the most rigorous screening of any traveler to the USA and only about half of them will be accepted. They have an adjudication interview then, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security, they conduct an enhanced security screening on refugees from Syria. If the refugee passes all this, they undergo a health screening and those with a contagious disease, such as tuberculosis, do not enter the USA. A U.S.-based resettlement agency provides a “sponsorship assurance” before those that can clear all these hurdles steps foot on American soil.

It’s far faster and easier for someone to enter the USA as a tourist, a student, or a businessman—and with less scrutiny—than it is as a refugee. Any Syrian wanting to commit an act of terrorism inside the USA would follow the path of least resistance to get here, which would be just about any method other than as a refugee. A terrorist could easily get a counterfeit Syrian passport in just a few days for less than $1,000 in places like Istanbul. The only people who would take all the time and deal with all the difficulties of the refugee process to get to the USA are Syrians desperate to escape the terrorists in their homeland.

Doonesbury comic strip about Jihadis entering the USA as a refugee
Doonesbury