Last week, Adam Purinton – a 51-year-old white man – reportedly stepped into a bar in Kansas and shot at two Indian men, killing one. He then left the bar and went to a restaurant where he allegedly confided to a barmaid that he had just killed two “Iranians.” With that act, the anti-Muslim and anti-immigration rhetoric that rode Donald J. Trump to the White House has now spilled over into fear for the physical safety and security of Iranian Americans.
Yet Trump is not the sole author of this newfound dread. He was not present when the foundation for the climate of fear and hate that so suffocates our politics today was being laid. Instead, Trump built on and rode the wave of a project that has been years in the making. While there can be no mistaking Trump’s contribution to this project, Trump is nothing but the most outward symptom of an affliction that has long plagued our country. To chalk up the killing in Kansas to him and him alone – while ignoring the anti-Muslim and anti-Iran rhetoric that has long toxified our discourse – risks misdiagnosing a cause for its most prominent champion.
We believe that it is time to deal with the root causes. We can start by calling out those who have forged and dedicated themselves to a project aimed at treating the Muslim world writ large as an enemy of the United States and as a threat to the safety and security of “ordinary Americans.” We can start by calling out those who pushed war with Iraq – cratering a country and subjecting its people to a paroxysm of violence that has yet to dissipate more than a decade later – as well as those who remain intent on pushing war with Iran. It is these individuals and organizations that have utilized the most exaggerated rhetoric, up to and including the threat of nuclear holocaust and domestic terrorism, to build a climate of fear so that Americans unflinchingly support U.S. adventurism and aggression overseas. It is these individuals and organizations that have helped lay the groundwork for Trump and his Breitbart acolytes to take the reins of power and push repressive anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant policies.
For more than a decade, there has been an organized effort on the part of groups like the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), The Israel Project (TIP), Secure America Now, and United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) and propagandists like Michael Rubin, Eli Lake, Adam Kredo, and Josh Block to push war with Iran in the most hyperbolic terms, all the while defaming those – most particularly, those in the Iranian-American community – who urge a peaceful resolution to the historical tensions between the two countries. Many of these seek to do nothing more than reprise their role during the lead-up to the war in Iraq by exaggerating the threats from Iran. Nor is it a surprise that their mode of argumentation – their modus operandi – so closely resembles that of the most hardline and pro-war elements in Iran, who for decades have likewise worked diligently, but unsuccessfully, to make the Iranian public fear and hate America, while accusing voices for reconciliation of being U.S. spies and agents.