Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz wasted no time following the horrendous terrorist attacks in Brussels to call for surveillance of Muslims in the United States. This is an easy response, playing to the fears of the American people, who understandably are anxious about what happened in Brussels.
But would the surveillance of which Trump and Cruz speak also include Muslims who serve in the U.S. military? For Muslims have served since the Revolutionary War, and have made the ultimate sacrifice in that service. Rationalizing the knee-jerk, convenient responses of the Republicans’ White House contenders is not so easy when the truth is confronted, the truth that American Muslims are soldiers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, social workers, business owners and more, all part of the fabric of this country. Trump and Cruz would apparently declare them enemies.
It is true that the U.S. and its allies have a serious challenge that must be met, to root out the terror cells around the globe, including those that exist within their own borders. It is true that peace-loving nations cannot tolerate — not that they have tolerated — the violent notions of terrorists who kill out of hate of all people who do not share their twisted beliefs.
But stoking hate is not the way, and while Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate, could play to the fears, she admirably does not, calling instead for cooperation among allies to focus surveillance on where it belongs, on the people and in the countries where Islamic extremists, flying under the banner of the Islamic State or other terror groups, plot their next murderous acts.
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In reaction to the Brussels attacks, Clinton said Trump’s call for more waterboarding and other torture techniques would amount to an “open recruitment poster for more terrorists.” She cited the beliefs of intelligence and military leaders that torture is “not effective,” and instead Clinton stressed the need for more and better intelligence in an age when the Internet is a recruitment tool for terror groups.
She’s right, befitting a former secretary of state who knows considerably more about terrorism and intelligence gathering than any of her opponents.
The measured response of President Obama, who like Clinton stressed the importance of intelligence gathering, was likewise appropriate. Critics who suggested the president should have cut short his trip to Cuba would have him give terrorists the disruption they seek.
Brussels was no victory for terrorism, and it may bring the U.S. and its allies together in a stronger-than-ever intelligence effort to bring the radicals to justice.