In the second chapter of Confronting Injustice, Umair Muhammad recounts the United States’ role in the evolution of Somalian terrorist group al-Shabab. I wrote briefly about this group six weeks ago in an article on the recent film Eye in the Sky.
Like the other decentralized MENA terrorist group that need not be named, al-Shabab is a 30-year product of the US’ and UK’s Cold War proxy politics. The Cold War is now over (someone inform both Moscow and Washington), and a nation like Somalia shouldn’t have its people trapped between brutal authoritarianism on the one hand and drought-fueled famine on the other. But because it’s caught in the interests of much more powerful countries, al-Shabab emerged.
The same countries that criticize al-Shabab, Muhammad argues, created the conditions in which it thrives. And then he offers an icy analogy inspired by the writings of Peter Singer, the moral philosopher:
I should not push a child into a pond in which he will struggle to stay afloat, help to come up for air when I walk by once in a while, and act as if I am doing him a favor. I should, instead, stop pushing children into ponds. Likewise, those who benefit from the exploitation of others have a duty, first and foremost, to stop the ongoing exploitation. Simultaneously playing the roles of oppressor and savior is unbecoming.” —Umair Muhammad
It’s surreal to read about this this week. Today was Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day when we remember immense tragedy. Today was also a day when the US government abruptly voided historical immigration policies and made permanent residents, students, and others from seven countries newly vulnerable.
Bloomberg has a hunch about why those seven countries have been singled out, and ProPublica has solid analysis of today’s executive order. But it’s The Intercept that came up with the baldest assessment of the administration’s logic: “If we bombed you, we ban you.” That’s not quite “playing the roles of oppressor and savior.” There’ll be no saving from this administration.
What about from the rest of us? We haven’t funded, armed, or inspired militant groups around the planet, not directly, not consciously. But we’ve repeatedly elected politicians who have, and we’ve just sworn in another.