LETTER TO THE EDITOR: We need a rational response to terrorist violence

If I hear one more Republican presidential candidate start the party-line prohibition against immigrants with “America has always been a welcoming nation, but … .” The truth is that many Americans have always been anti-immigrant, whether the latest immigrants were Catholic Europeans, Jews, Asians or Hispanics.

The latest targets of American xenophobia are the victims of war and terrorism in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, which are all places we’ve bombed and destabilized. Our opposition to these unfortunates makes us selfish hypocrites.

It also overlooks the fact that the Obama administration’s vetting process has been so ironclad that only a mere handful of refugees have been admitted here and that applicants have to endure years of screening in order to be approved.

Donald Trump’s call for a total ban on Muslims was outrageous. However, the truly disturbing issue was not that some blowhard could express such a nutty idea, but that so many Americans support it. What better way to verify that America is anti-Muslim? Could there be a better demonstration that many Americans are anti-Muslim? Could there be a better way to radicalize and recruit people to be angry with America?

It is ironic that we are occupied in a discussion of whether Islam is a violent religion at the same time that “Christian” America has military stationed around the world to intimidate or kill people in numerous other countries. Is Christianity a violent religion? The passive Jesus now has adherents who are armed to the teeth and possess a history of using its might to deal death. Have Christians strayed from the message of Jesus, or did Jesus instruct his followers to kill those who oppose them? Think about it. Shouldn’t this be a concern for Americans?

Critics of the Obama administration fail to acknowledge that America has already been bombing and drone-striking suspected militants in Syria and Iraq (plus Somalia, Yemen and who knows where else). According to recent Pentagon estimates, we’ve killed about 3,500 jihadists while causing the deaths of “only” about 250 innocent civilians. The latter are what are often referred to as “collateral damage.”

If these figures are even close to being accurate, this is a remarkable record, considering our admitted lack of local intelligence in the region. Nevertheless, it still means that we’ve already killed at least 10 times more innocent noncombatants in Syria and Iraq this year than Americans have been killed by Islamic extremists in the past decade! We’ve reportedly killed more women and children in Syria in the past week than two self-professed jihadists were able to shoot at their office Christmas party in San Bernardino, California.

The air strikes conducted by the Russians in Syria are reportedly killing more civilians than militants. If each civilian death creates more angry members of the armed opposition, then, the Russians, now augmented by the French, are making rebels faster than they are eliminating. As the number of jihadist fighters in Syria and Iraq are reportedly growing faster than even we have been able to kill them off, the bombing campaigns are driving the local people into active enemies.

Our Sunni opponents, the so-called Islamic State of Syria (or the Levant) or the fundamentalist Caliphate, will not be defeated by bombing. Neither will we find anyone else to be our “boots.” The Islamic State of western Iraq and eastern Syria are the residents of that region who first coalesced as our opponents during the Iraq War and have subsequently been victims of the US-created Shiite Iraqi government and the Assad minority-Shiite government in Syria.

The Assad government has been a Soviet-now-Russian client for generations. In order to preserve their own strategic presence in the Middle East, the Russians are bombing all of Assad’s opponents. These include the “moderate rebels” we have supported, including the Syrian Kurds. We dare not bomb the Russians without creating a huge mess in place of the limited one that exists. To complicate matters, our Turkish allies, who support the Turkmen whom the Russians are bombing, have been bombing the Syrian Kurds. Talk about a mess!

We should be angry with the Saudis who spawned intolerant, violent jihadist Islam, as well as the American administrations that let us become slaves to the oil reservoirs beneath the sands of the Middle East. America should have made energy substitutes for oil a national security priority long ago. Imagine the misery and treasure that could have been spared in that region!

Rather than foam at the mouth and criticize each other, we ought to step back and think. It should be obvious that we can’t “win” through military action [and] that the Islamic State is not an existential threat to the U.S. They may yet inspire some disaffected young men to strike out against Americans in their own country. However, they are nowhere near capable of the carnage we are accustomed to: about 30,000 deaths by gunfire annually, including more than 350 incidents of shootings which have killed or wounded at least four people.

Let’s stop killing people on the other side of the world and be courageous enough to help their victims. America should continue to press for a political solution to the current violence. Hopefully, the ongoing efforts of Barack Obama and John Kerry to end the Syrian civil war will bear fruit. The world needs peacemakers, not more killers.

By the way, we already have our own religious-fanatic terrorists here. Some of them shoot people that our polarized political process has demonized, such as the recent murders at the Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs. It would be comforting, but unrealistic, to believe that all those claiming to be Christians deplore and resolve not to further encourage such outrages by using rhetoric such as “baby-killers” … but that’s the subject for another op-ed.

Mike Apgar

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