John R. Hawkins III

Protecting the people of the United States from and defeating an organization such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL, is only made more difficult and dangerous for those charged with accomplishing the mission, when rhetoric such as that calling for the “…total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” are pronounced by the likes of Donald Trump. This type of rhetoric not only seems to be ill-thought but serves only to fan the flames of the propaganda by ISIL that the “western culture seeks to eradicate those of the Muslim faith.

How can the United States of America portend to be the leading nation of justice and freedom for all if in fact it supported rhetoric singling out an entire group of people based upon their religion and prevented members of that religion from coming to the U.S.?

Immigration as essential to our very existence. Stopping a single group of people identified by their religion form coming to the US seems too simplistic and sophomoric to be an answer to an issue as complicated as terrorism.

While serving in Pakistan and Afghanistan, part of my mission was to ensure the people of those countries understood that the military actions of the U.S. and our coalition were due to our need to put down terrorism; not to prosecute a new “Crusade and most importantly, to protect all of the people of the US and member states of the coalition from terrorists sponsored mayhem, including those of the Muslim faith.

American and coalition Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guard personnel of the Muslim faith fought faithfully, tirelessly, valiantly and without regard for self, and continue to do so today.

Trump’s initial statements were made on December 7. The next day President Obama marked the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery and the ratification of the 13th Amendment to our constitution on December 6, 1865. It states in part “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

The President drew a nexus between the legislative intent of the 13th amendment and the need for the recognition of the equality that must be recognized among people of different races, colors and religions. His words were not only more in keeping with “The American Way”, but also help in our messaging in support of the principles Americans hold dear that are the target of ISIL.

It is not lost on me that those most likely to be recruited by ISIL are those who are convinced that they have no place in the current mainstream of America or other western societies. Leadership can best serve the cause of countering the ISIL recruitment and their prosecution of terrorism by ensuring the inclusion of all people equally without exclusion because of religion or socio-economic position. To single out all people of a given religion saying that they are not worthy to come to the US, only helps the cause of ISIL; and thereby makes the service of those protecting us more difficult and hazardous.

While it is clear that as a Nation we must be ever vigilant of terrorism from any perpetrators; it is equally clear that no short cut method or bigotry based method of protecting our people will work – much less be the proper approach. As in any protracted conflict, the goal is to determine the cause of the conflict and then eradicate it. The cause of our terrorist issues is not the Muslim faith, but rather the hopelessness and lack of inclusion of the disenfranchised that allows criminals a fertile field in which to sow their deadly seeds.

Trump’s words are grounded in sensationalism and feeding on people’s fears and prejudices while President Obama’s words are based on the principles of justice and equality. From my foxhole, it seems that including all societies is mission essential.

Maj Gen US Army (ret) John R. Hawkins III, JD, MPA is President and CEO of Hawkins Solutions Intl., a government relations and lobby company. His last military assignment as a “two star” was Dir., Human Resources Directorate for the Army world-wide and prior to that Deputy Chief Public Affairs for the Army, world-wide.