Thoughts on Refugees and Terror

I’m barely qualified to speak on something as enormous and grotesque as the interlinked ISIS terror attacks and Syrian refugee crisis, but that’s never stopped me from shooting off my mouth before.

First, so that you know where I stand: We should let the refugees in.

With that out of the way, let me say a little more…

To me, winning an argument is great, but I truly believe that the way you win an argument is just as important as winning it in the first place. If you win by appealing to people’s baser instincts — like fear — or by lying, then it’s not much of a victory. It’s hollow, like the cheap kind of chocolate Easter bunnies, and it’ll crumble as easily. Not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday. Such a victory will inevitably fall away because it isn’t grounded in anything real. It’s built on smoke and whispers.

I mention this not to excoriate the right — which is currently running the fear offensive at top speed — but also to caution the left. The left isn’t above using fear, even in the case of the Syrian refugees. President Obama and others have warned that turning away the refugees is playing into ISIS’s hands: “I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for [the Islamic State] than some of the rhetoric thats [sic] been coming out of here during the course of this debate.”

This sounds nicer and it’s not as blatant as those on the right (and it’s not racist or xenophobic, which is a mark in its favor), but it’s still a fear play. Be afraid, America! If you don’t accept the refugees, you’re letting the terrorists win! And when the terrorists win, someday the bad, swarthy men will come for you!

In short: Don’t think about this. Just be afraid of the outcome I tell you is likely.

But the refugee crisis isn’t about winning or losing. It’s not about fear. It’s about human lives and human decency.

And it’s about facts, not suppositions and speculations and abstractions.

The reality is this: The United States has resettled 784,000 refugees since September 11, 2001. In those 14 years, exactly three resettled refugees have been arrested for planning terrorist activities—and it is worth noting two were not planning an attack in the United States and the plans of the third were barely credible.

That’s the Migration Policy Institute. I don’t know jack about this stuff, but they do — it’s right there in their name.

Facts. Not fears. Three out of three-quarters of a million.

We are in no danger from the refugees. There are systems in place to vet each individual who settles in this country. And for the past decade and a half, those systems have worked very well.

Don’t be afraid. Don’t act out of fear or panic or worry.

Act out of compassion and reason.

People need help. They are not going to hurt you.

Two facts. Forget everything else.

What do you do next?


  1. Bill Reilly says:

    Barry, thanks for your thoughtful contribution to this discussion. “Let them in.”

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