Sunday, March 5, 2017


By Dominique Paul Noth

Rachel Maddow with leaked DHS analysis that exposes
the folly of Trump's attitude toward terrorists.
If there is an uptick in deadly terrorist violence in the next few years the main culprit will likely be  Donald Trump and his wrong-headed policies. 

That is not an extreme statement born of ideological opposition, though there I plead guilty.  It is the logical conclusion of growing evidence, much of it from Trump’s own government. 

This is the horrifying  error in any version of his travel ban – it won’t protect the public the way Trump believes.  A view long held in social science has now been validated by a leaked Department of Homeland Security analysis. It  states bluntly: "Most foreign-born U.S.-based violent extremists likely radicalized several years after their entry into the United States.” That conclusion, the report goes on, limits “the ability of screening and vetting officials to prevent their entry because of national security concerns."

Two points need to be immediately added. There is incredibly detailed screening of refugee applicants right now, some of it taking two years, which throws even more shade on Trump’s press for “extreme vetting,” which is already happening.

And most deadly terrorist acts committed in this country have not involved the “foreign-born,” which is what the Department of Homeland Security document was concentrating on in its volumes of interviews and analysis. The native-born variety dominates the statistics. That doesn’t mean the US can  let down its guard against Isis and other groups, though so far international intelligence and data gathering have proven quite successful. It means the terrorists’  main success since 9/11 has come in manipulating the folks already here.

The steps needed to address lone wolf terrorists or acts inspired by groups like Isis are now being diminished by this White House in its haste to run down the wrong road. 

Temple University scholar Peter Spiro
is among the legions of academics
criticizing Trump's approach.
Given his stubbornness about changing his mind in the face of evidence, given what Trump  promised the voters – without they or him thinking things through --  no one is likely to convince him he is undermining the very “public safety” that has fueled his rhetoric. Until they realize his policies  made no difference and actually make  America less safe. It will, sadly, take  more horrible incidents to underline his errors.  

The  new travel ban is designed only to escape court scrutiny as an unconstitutional religious ban. But the legal rulings are little concerned with logic. The only hurdle Trump has to overcome, given the powers of the presidency, is legality.  The courts can’t stop a totally erroneous policy that rejects the government’s own research.

The easily reached conclusion from the DHS analysis is  that America is doing a pretty damaging job on its own to the psyches of the adolescents, the disenfranchised, the "other" however you define other and those who feel unaccepted by our society.   It’s not just mental health but the failure to identify and respond to troubled personalities or those whose thinking mechanism is not sophisticated enough to cope.

Foreigners who come here are usually the exact opposite -- eager to accept US values, until they live among us for a few years. 

So vetting refugees as they arrive is a feel-good panacea. It helps making them  a  scapegoat. An inevitable conclusion from the DHS report is we are not looking hard enough at ourselves and our policies. Rather than instilling more fear or more authority, our society should be working at addressing how residents are becoming alienated. 

Obviously this includes not just refugees and citizen children of undocumented immigrants, it includes the range of people intrigued by white supremacy, militia groups, the sovereign citizen movement and a range of cult-like thinking that for decades has attracted unsettled minds --  adolescents,  folks imprisoned too young or immature or too drug infested, people who feel alienated at work, home or school. Such movements are reverberated and  accelerated in this age of the Internet.

The point is, nothing Trump has done or is doing addresses this --  and several of his policies and cabinet appointments are making it worse.

When leaking this report, MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow added: “You know what I think? I think the Muslim ban is dead.”  Morally she is right, but I don’t believe either Trump or his most fervent followers will accept that.

Tashfeen Malik, the exception
that proves the rule.
His blind sense of “keep them out” is already being echoed in alt-right media. They’re making  a big deal about the one outlier to the DNS study --  an anomaly to justify Trump’s travel ban. It is Tashfeen Malik, the foreign-born wife in the San Bernardino attacks, probably radicalized in Saudi Arabia. She is also an outlier in being a woman, rare in terrorist cases and perhaps another reason for media fascination.  But the detailed analysis, which included interviews with many who knew the terrorists both living and dead, deeply suggests otherwise.

For instance,  she was married to a US born (in Chicago) citizen , high school graduate and veteran county employee, Rizwan Farook, who continued his Mideast ties apparently despite his parents’ advice.  When and how he was radicalized we do not know. We do know he was American educated,  employed and nonviolent for years before the explosion. The trigger is still hidden, as are the triggers in most people.

A quick survey through the highest profile terrorist cases suggest the common link is age – youth, from teens up through the 20s. It ties in along with such issues as  mental state, sense of romantic or social isolation or entrenched world views.
Think back --  and we are not even reaching back to the militia background of the Oklahoma City bomber or the fixations behind the  Columbine massacre.  Focus on recent events  --  the white supremacist shooter in Charleston, the long-term US residents in the Boston Marathon bombing,  the US born Orlando killer consumed by sexual identity issues.

The Muslim aspects play a role, but it is a side  role in attitude toward civilization or deeply buried tribalism (like the KKK of old). Mainly what the DNS reports is something America has been slow to address -- the sense of being isolated or betrayed by the larger society.

It can land without color, though emphasized among groups that are far easier targets for adolescent hatred, people seeking attention and people misled on political realities.  It is no coincidence that Muslims and Jews are far easier targets – and even easier today now that they have been  falsely identified as villains.

The need to better identify people who might explode into anti-society violence, the concern with making newcomers to white Christian dominated America feel these are our values to cherish, not end up hating – what are we doing about that? How far removed from this reality is stopping people at airports?

Psychological research, outraged clergy and now the government’s own research are pointing out the needed targets of government and community intervention.  Instead we have a president whose policies seem bound and determined to make things worse – seeking to cut money for any programs of social justice, social education or the solidarity of acceptance, seeking instead to inflame feelings of xenophobia and isolation, willing to tear vulnerable children from their parents as the adolescent children (many already US citizens) look on with dismay and anger.

We can never totally get our hands around the lone wolf problem – that is ingrained in the definition of lone wolf. The problems of the unformed adolescent brain living in a mature and threatening adult body have been with us since the dawn of time and may never be fully resolved, though attention, examples of maturity and active engagement have proven rewarding. 

But Trump seems determined to ignore the facts and make the situation worse – at full tweeter volume. Maybe because the thinking of an adolescent is not far  away from his brain pattern.

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as one of the editors for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He became the newspaper’s senior feature editor, then was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as at his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for 

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