I've been all over the world and, of course, I have a list of favorite places I've visited. Always high up on that list was Afghanistan. Why Afghanistan? Same as any country I like-- the people. I mean I like the food and the scenery, the music, the ease of learning the languages... a lot of things. But it always comes down to the people. And the Afs I've met on my two extended stays in their country have been very friendly, loyal, generous... lots of admirable traits. Good spirit too. There were a few things I wasn't crazy about though. They are so, so, so conservative. I mean, not every single one of them. But as a people, they tended to be really conservative, especially the Pashtuns. And I suspect many of the 95,000 new Afghan-Americans are Pashtuns.
If the Republicans were smart, they would cultivate them. But Republicans wouldn't be Republicans if they were smart. Instead they're bigoted, intolerant, xenophobic racists. Not every single one of them. But as a people, they tend to be really bigoted, intolerant, xenophobic racists.
They could be like a Cuban constituency for a shrinking Republican Party. But the Republicans would rather demonize them than embrace them. And Afs don't take well to being disrespected... and they have long memories and a passion for retribution when someone wrongs them. Wait 'til they meet Stephen Miller and the other Trumpists who are in the process of putting together a vicious vilification campaign against them. The AP's Jill Colvin fleshed out what's going down yesterday: Trump aides aim to build GOP opposition to Afghan refugees. "[A] handful of former Trump administration officials," she wrote, "are working to turn Republicans against them. The former officials are writing position papers, appearing on conservative television outlets and meeting privately with GOP lawmakers-- all in an effort to turn the collapse of Afghanistan into another opportunity to push a hard-line immigration agenda." Welcome to America!
“It is a collaboration based on mutual conviction,” said Stephen Miller, the architect of President Donald Trump’s most conservative immigration policies and among those engaged on the issue. “My emphasis has been in talking to members of Congress to build support for opposing the Biden administration’s overall refugee plans.”
The approach isn’t embraced by all Republican leaders, with some calling it mean-spirited and at odds with Christian teachings that are important to the white evangelicals who play a critical role in the party’s base. The strategy relies on tactics that were commonplace during Trump’s tenure and that turned off many voters, including racist tropes, fear-mongering and false allegations.
And the hard-liners pay little heed to the human reality unfolding in Afghanistan, where those who worked with Americans during the war and many others are desperate to flee for fear they could be killed by the new Taliban regime.
But the Republicans pushing the issue are betting they can open a new front in the culture wars they have been fighting since President Joe Biden’s election by combining the anti-immigrant sentiment that helped fuel Trump’s political rise with widespread dissatisfaction with the Afghan withdrawal. That, they hope, could keep GOP voters motivated heading into next year’s midterms, when control of Congress is at stake.
“From a political standpoint, cultural issues are the most important issues that are on the mind of the American people,” said Russ Vought, Trump’s former budget chief and president of the Center for Renewing America, a nonprofit group that has been working on building opposition to Afghan refugee settlement in the U.S. along with other hot-button issues, like critical race theory, which considers American history through the lens of racism.
His group is working, he said, to “kind of punch through this unanimity that has existed” that the withdrawal was chaotic, but that Afghan refugees deserve to come to the U.S.
...“Who are all of the people coming into our Country?” Trump asked in a recent statement. “How many terrorists are among them?”
...When it comes to refugees, 68% of Americans say they support the U.S. taking in those fleeing Afghanistan after security screening, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll in late August and early September. That includes a majority-- 56%-- of Republicans.
The party’s leaders are far from united. Dozens of Republican lawmakers and their offices have been working tirelessly to try to help Afghans flee the country. And some, like Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., have admonished those in his party who have suggested the Afghans pose a security risk.
...Ken Cuccinelli, [a fascist] who served as Trump’s acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and is now a senior fellow at the Center for Renewing America, says he doesn’t believe it’s feasible that the refugees have faced sufficient review, given the time frame, number of people fleeing, and other challenges.
“It’s unachievable as a simple administrative matter,” he said of the process. While Cuccinelli, like Miller, believes that SIVs should be allowed to come to the U.S., he argues that the other refugees should be resettled in the region, closer to home.
The “mass importation of potentially hundreds of thousands of people who do not share American cultural, political, or ideological commonalities poses serious risks to both national security and broader social cohesion,” he wrote in a recent position paper on the group’s website that cites Pew Research Center polling on beliefs about Sharia law and suicide bombings.
Other former administration officials strongly disagree with such inflammatory language.
“Some of the people who’ve always been immigration hard-liners are seeing this wrongly as an opportunity ahead of the midterms to, lack a better term, stoke fear of, ‘I don’t want these people in my country,’” said Alyssa Farah, a former Pentagon press secretary who also served as White House communications director under Trump.
Farah said she has been working to “politely shift Republican sentiment” away from arguments that she sees as both factually false and politically questionable. The Republican Party, she noted, includes a majority of veterans-- many of whom worked closely alongside Afghans on the ground and have led the push to help their former colleagues escape-- as well as evangelical Christians, who have historically welcomed refugees more broadly with open arms.
“It’s totally misreading public sentiment to think that Republicans should not be for relocating Afghan refugees” and those “who served along side the U.S.,” she said. “The Christian community is there. The veterans community is for it.”
So is Randy Bryce. Last night he told me his son had just turned 15. "Unlike me, he hasn't lived in the US when it hasn't been at war. We also have troops in the military now that can say the same. It's been the longest war in our country's history. Hard to say we lost it when we never knew what it would take to win! I can't say enough about how glad I am that we finally pulled out. We pressured Biden to make it part of his campaign pledge. Pulling out was the correct thing to do. Now we need to continue to do what is right. That means to protect those who risked their lives in order to help save our troops' lives. Unlike when Trump abandoned the Kurds we have an obligation to bring our allies home and welcome them as neighbors. They've already proven allegiance unlike too many on January 6th 2021 who are already here. This country was founded on being a refuge for those looking for a safe haven and I can't think of any more deserving than those who helped us communicate with the people in Afghanistan. They'll surely be hunted for what they did by the Taliban. (let's also not forget that it was Trump who helped release the new leader of the Taliban while he was in office. He also invited them for dinner and a movie at Camp David during the week of 9/11). Before getting on a plane to enter the US they are being thoroughly vetted and their backgrounds are checked. I wore an army uniform and I was proud to do so so that others who didn't want to wouldn't need to. I know what it's like to be in a foreign country and need help from those who live there. It's time to stop believing in the fear machine and welcome people who helped us. I'm glad Wisconsin is one of the places where they are being brought. I was at a peace rally a few weeks ago and met many who are also happy to welcome them asking how they can help. It's time to act like America. Let's welcome our new neighbors."
Steven Holden is the Central New York progressive taking on Republican John Katko this cycle. Since I've known him-- and before-- he's been working tirelessly to get interpreters and their families out of Afghanistan. He told me he wasn't surprised by the AP report. "What does come as a shock are the likes of Stephen Miller supporting SIVs coming to the US. Weekly, I and my US Air Force counterparts would call the Embassy in Kabul for the status of the SIV cases. The Trump Administration, with Miller as the point man on immigration, slowed the SIV process down to a crawl. At the core, if they had their choice, no Afghan would be here."
What people forget is that there are thousands of P2 visas-eligible Afghans who need to leave. These are extended family of the SIVs, such as parents, in-laws, and siblings. They are also people who did business with Coalition forces, members of the Afghan military, and human rights workers. If they are not evacuated, to put it bluntly, they are subjected to a death sentence. I call bunk on the idea that these people are not vetted and are terrorists. Most, if not all, have been through more security screenings and background checks than most Americans. Furthermore, I would call on security screenings for folks supporting the Jan 6th insurrectionists before I would these refugees, but that is another matter.
Cucinelli said the quiet part out loud, in that these people who do not have the same culture as us should not come here, and that they should be resettled in the region. Let us take the first part of his point. I would say that the people who are trying to flee do have the same values as Americans and our Allies. Most of them are forward-thinking, entrepreneurial, and believe in democratic governance. What Cucinelli meant, I am sure, had to do with the color of their skin. Second, just where in the region would we resettle these refugees? Afghanistan is not in a good neighborhood. If they go south, they would be embroiled in the India-Pakistan problem and further destabilize a situation with between two nuclear powers. Furthermore, Pakistan and Afghanistan have a longstanding feud over migration. If they go east, they would be in China, and we see how the Chinese treat ethnic and religious minorities, just as the Uyghurs or the Tibetans. If they go west, they are in Iran, a country where we have no diplomatic relations. If they go north, they are in the former Soviet Central Asian Republics. This area is under Russian influence. I know because I used to deal with financial issues in the region with the funding of Manas Air Base near Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. These countries do not have the infrastructure nor political will, thanks to Putin, to take the refuges either. Other countries in the region are not in the place to take them either due to ongoing conflict (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen) or to logistics due to size (Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, Oman). The only places they could go that would support them logistically and are more stable are in Europe, Australia, and North America.
Thankfully, there are people in the US who have been angels of mercy. People such as Congressman Ted Lieu, who I have had the honor of working with in this process, and the US Global Leadership Coalition who I spoke with yesterday, who work to build diplomatic solution to international conflict. Again, I call on everyone to support these Afghans, whether SIV or P2, and welcome them with open arms. It is one of the most patriotic things to do.