Refugees: Gateway to Terror? What’s the Answer?


Dan, I think all reasonable people understand that the vast majority of refugees who have risked their lives to travel from Syria to the Greek islands, with Western Europe their ultimate destination, and among whom many thousands are slotted to be accepted by the United States, are good, decent people just wanting to survive.

Most of them wouldn’t hurt a fly, let alone blow up a building or chop someone’s head off.

Yet is also undeniable that camouflaged among the thousands, soon-to-be-millions, there are terrorists waiting to unleash the type of horror the world has experienced over the past couple of decades, most recently in Paris. It is for that reason that I am concerned not just for Greece but for all of Europe, and most concerned about the United States.

Donald Trump has warned that the refugees may be a “Trojan horse.” Though he speaks more colorfully, brashly, and offensively than most, who can say with confidence that he is wrong about this? Remember, a lone terrorist among thousands of good Middle Easterners is not as benign as a funky-tasting peanut among thousands of good-tasting ones. In that case, all you need to do is eat another good one and the taste of the bad one disappears almost immediately. Not so with the one lone terrorist whose plot succeeds.

I propose that the United States help and protect itself, the refugees, and Greece in the process, as follows:

  1. Collaborate with the EU to provide security and a safe haven for all refugees who enter Greece.
  2. Work with the EU and the Greek government specifically to vet, extremely thoroughly, every single refugee.
  3. Those refugees who pass the rigorous vetting and who have special skills can be matched up with any country willing to employ them, with Greece, where all this will be taking place, having the right of first refusal.
  4. Those refugees who do not pass the vetting process will be detained – but the EU will oversee those specifics, as it will be in its best interest not to release such individuals into the general European population.
  5. The United States, and other countries, will compensate Greece for its role as the host nation of this vetting process – and money is something that Greece desperately needs.

Weeks ago, our colleague Amb. Patrick Theros wrote how there is an opportunity for Greece to prosper by encouraging a lot of these refugees to stay. If this process is done properly, such an idea can actually become a reality.

Most importantly of all, for lack of a better term, the “good” refugees will have a better life, the “bad” ones will be locked up, and the United States will neither add to its already-swelled population, nor will it risk bringing in any potential terrorists.

What do you think?

You offer a series of reasonable actions, but I don’t believe there is the will or means to carry them out effectively. This crisis also should spur us to rethink our foreign policy priorities that are often the basis of this and related disasters.

A major element in your proposal is vetting. This is virtually impossible as there is no data base from Syria to drawn on. All vetting could do is identify persons already on the list of possibly dangerous individuals. It is almost a certainty that numerous ISIS “moles” would pass any scrutiny.

Neither the U.S. nor the EU has shown willingness to provide the necessary funds to aid beleaguered Greece handle refugees. Detention of the refugees in Greece, which already has a 26% unemployment rate with 50%+ unemployment for youth, is absolute folly if there is not a massive influx of funds, including debt relief.

America’s repeated attempts at “regime change” has destabilized many regions. In the Middle East, Bush II’s scheme for regime change in Iraq triggered the present crisis. In Latin America, the American-engineered regime change in Guatemala in 1956 has created an ongoing refugee problem. Just this past year, thousands of Guatemalans, mostly younger people, created a crisis at our southern borders. Another unintended consequence of the “successful” regime change in Guatemala was that it motivated a guy named Che Guevara then working as a doctor in Guatemala to give up on American policies and join a Cuban rebel group led by a fellow named Fidel Castro.

Bush’s folly in Iraq was obvious. I was among hundreds of thousands of Americans who demonstrated against that war before it began. We understood the arguments presented were misleading at best and possibly duplicitous. Bernie Sanders voted against the Iraq invasion, Hillary Clinton voted for it. She has since said it was a mistake, but leadership is about foresight, not apologies.

None of the presidential hopefuls has noted that Turkey prevented the use of its American-financed bases as the axis of a critical third front in the invasion of Iraq. More generally, the U.S. and Europe have not put serious pressure on Turkey to contain the flow of refugees from its shores. Nor has there been massive aid to Lebanon and Jordan from whose inadequate camps many of the refugees are fleeing.

Obama compounded the Iraq disaster by insisting on regime change in Syria, a goal he pursues far more vigorously than attacking ISIS. The Republican opposition mainly criticizes Obama for not doing even more to oust the Assad government. Clinton, the poll watcher, was in favor of a no-fly zone as were many Republicans. Bush III, the “moderate,” has surrounded himself with the same advisors that counseled his brother. Trump has been the only contender to accept Russian intervention as positive, an arrangement that may now become policy due to the ISIS atrocity in Paris.

Assad needs to fight ISIS to regain control over all of Syria. The effect of supporting the anti-Assad rebels forced him to concentrate on survival tactics that have created refugees. Criticism of the tyrannical Assad seems overblown when we accept cozy relations with the Saudis who bankroll the form of Islam from which ISIS was spawned.

America’s presidential hopefuls, with the exception of Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders, keep speaking of American world power in militaristic terms. The others differ only on how to foster regime change. As long as we retain that mindset, we can expect perpetual wars. Guatemalan refugees at our borders and Syrian refugees at Europe’s will not be the last humanitarian catastrophe.