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Op-Ed: A veteran's take on Trump's refugee banUS Army veteran J. David Thompson explains why he does not support US President Donald Trump’s immigration ban. “President Trump’s policy to ban these refugees because of their religion and supposed links to terror is inaccurate and morally unacceptable,” he explains. “If we claim to be a nation of values, the values that President Trump manifest are in direct opposition to the ones I promoted as a soldier.”
I served with the US Army in Afghanistan and Jordan. I’m with the refugees.
President Donald Trump’s recent action to ban refugees--particularly Muslim refugees--is against everything I stand for as a veteran. Like every American, I want a safe and secure country, which is one of the major reasons I put on the uniform. President Trump’s discriminatory ban on refugees makes us less safe and goes against our moral principles.
Through two deployments in Afghanistan, I relied heavily on my interpreters to help convey sensitive, tactical information with Afghan Security Forces. My interpreters went above and beyond by explaining cultural nuances, social norms and historical context. I got to know them and their families. We shared pictures of our homes, ate meals together, laughed at each other’s jokes and occasionally cried together. We got to know each other on a personal level and we trusted each other with our lives.
On one particular mission in Afghanistan during my first deployment, another soldier handed one of my interpreters, Ahmed (not his real name), a night letter. The letter was from the Taliban. Ahmed read the letter to discover that it was specifically addressed to him--threatening him and the life of his family if he continued to work with us. We told him to go home and be with his family. Ahmed declined and told us to continue the mission. Ahmed believed in what we were doing and he believed that he was best serving Afghanistan by helping us bring peace and democracy.
In Jordan, I helped provide assistance to host communities and Syrian refugee camps. I can’t begin to describe their living conditions and the trauma they suffered. Despite their challenges and what little they had, they invited me to sit and drink tea with them. I observed young girls learning to read and write so that they can be contributable members to their societies. I observed young men learning new skills to help rebuild Syria. These refugees suffered harm and conditions that most people can’t imagine, but they stayed positive and appreciative.
President Trump’s policy to ban these refugees because of their religion and supposed links to terror is inaccurate and morally unacceptable. His ban continues to further undermine American arguments to be morally just. If we claim to be a nation of values, the values that President Trump manifest are in direct opposition to the ones I promoted as a soldier.
Donald Trump’s plan makes America less safe. One of the best ways to prevent radicalization is through greater outreach and understanding, but Trump’s plan directly counters steps to increase outreach. How much easier will it be for terrorists to radicalize a susceptible person now that Trump turned his back on them?
As a law student studying international human rights and an Army veteran, I see how human rights and counterterrorism should complement one another; however, many people today see them as mutually exclusive. Donald Trump’s discriminatory policies to ban refugees is a moral outrage and it lessens America’s national security.
J. David Thompson is a Juris Doctor candidate at Washington & Lee University School of Law focusing on International Human Rights Law with a BS in Economics and MBA-Leadership from Liberty University. He is a Veterans in Global Leadership Fellow and a political correspondent for Lima Charlie News. He brings experience on human rights, international relations, strengthening civil society, refugee issues, interagency collaboration and countering violent extremism.
Prior to Washington & Lee, he served in the US Army as a Military Police officer and Special Operations Civil Affairs with multiple deployments to Afghanistan and one to Jordan—receiving a Bronze Star amongst other decorations.
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