Notorious conservative extremist Mike Huckabee demonstrated his callous, heartless bigotry by questioning whether Syrian refugees are really fleeing war, poverty, and tyranny, or just want in on our cable TV. As increasing numbers of refugees from the Syrian Civil War stream towards Europe or wash up dead on the Continent’s shores, the worst refugee crisis since World War II has been dramatically thrust into the world’s consciousness in recent weeks. And that has, of course, necessitated the usual bland, hackneyed, and far-too-late comments from the phalanx of 2016 Presidential hopefuls.
While Democratic also-ran Martin O’Malley distinguished himself with a bold and compassionate – if still too weak – call for the United States to accept up to 65,000 refugees by the end of next year, the Republican also-ran Huckabee has distinguished himself with his extreme brand of the right’s usual insensitive xenophobia. At the conservative Eagle Forum conference in Saint Louis yesterday, Huckabee said in regards to the more than four million refugees from one of the most brutal conflicts in recent memory, “Are they really escaping tyranny, are they escaping poverty, or are they really just coming because we’ve got cable TV? I don’t mean to be trite.” No, of course not; a callous, ignorant blowhard would be a better description.
The Syrian Civil War, now in its fifth year, has killed as many as 350,000 people, half of them civilians. What started as a peaceful uprising against a ruthless dictatorship quickly devolved into a brutal war in which the ruling Assad regime has carried out numerous atrocities against its own civilian population, including the use of barrel bombs, chemical weapons, and other violations of the Geneva Convention. And yet, tragically, no one has come to the Syrians’ aid and the United States has now begun to tacitly support Assad’s butchery out of fear of ISIS, which looks like a Swiss peacekeeping force in comparison to the Syrian regime.
So yes, Mr. Huckabee, the millions of Syrian refugees flooding out of their country – the enormous majority of them to other Muslim nations in the Middle East – are indeed fleeing not just poverty and tyranny but death itself. They tried peacefully rebelling against poverty and tyranny but their pleas fell on deaf ears in Washington and London, apparently only interested in being the world’s policemen when there is no cause to fight for. So, as Assad has set out to murder entire populations, they are fleeing Syria – which, incidentally, is already graced with the miracle of cable television – not out of desire but out of necessity. Are we, who have left them to die at the hands of the Syrian regime, to add insult to injury by denying these poor and desperate people a measure of security in our country because their skin color doesn’t sit well with politicians’ bigotries? Apparently we are, and it is a despicable shame and an insult to humanity itself.
For good measure Huckabee added that European countries that are timidly accepting what he called “alleged-Syrian” refugees are “forgetting the lessons of 9/11,” those apparently being not that America’s sanctioning of death regimes in the Middle East leads to enormous backlash, but that bigotry is the best solution. There is no better way to improve America’s understandably abysmal reputation in the Middle East than opening our doors to the region’s neediest in their pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.