The MAGA Movement’s a Bigger Threat to America Than the Taliban

·3 min read
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty/AP
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty/AP

Fox News has run an article about the “news” that last week I tweeted: “The Taliban, all of them together, plus every Al Qaeda fighter in the world, do not pose the threat to the United States that Trump or Trumpist extremists do.”

That was not the first time I have said that nor will be it the last time. Because it is true. They did ask me if I wanted to comment on what I’d already said publicly, and I emailed the following:

The Taliban and Al Qaeda are among the most vile, dangerous violent extremist organizations in the world. They pose a threat that must be taken very seriously and actively combatted. They do not, however, pose an existential threat to the United States or our way of life. Trump and his supporters have, with support of one of Americas most dangerous enemies, actively sought to undermine democracy in America. The coup attempt on January 6th and the propagation of the Big Lie are an example of this. Their efforts to suppress the vote are an example of this. Trumps active obstruction of justice is an example of this. Should they succeed, democracy in America will be gutted, our way of life ended, our values undermined and our standing in the world destroyed. They may yet succeed. As a consequence, the threat they pose is far greater to the United States as a whole.

Further, Trump through his own ignorance and self-serving spread of lies is responsible according to credible estimates for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans due to his mishandling of COVID. No terror group could ever hope to achieve such a level of damage.

Finally, Trump and Pompeo helped orchestrate the release of 5000 Taliban fighters and accelerated the hand-over of Afghanistan to the Taliban. Consequently, they have also aided and abetted that terror organization with their misguided, short-sighted policies.

I should add that by perpetuating lies that have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and by promoting lies that have undermined democracy, Fox is actively complicit in this.

Biden’s Right That It’s Time for Us to Leave Afghanistan

Their article did quote the first portion of my response but—due no doubt to space requirements online—it omitted what I said about how Fox News is culpable for the damage Trump and his supporters have done, as well as my reference to Trump’s role in shoring up the Taliban and thereby accelerating the fall of Afghanistan to the extremist group.

Something you don’t hear much about on Fox News is how U.S. law enforcement sees the domestic violent extremists who have supported and been encouraged by Trump. I could have pointed out domestic extremists pose a greater threat to the U.S. than do foreign violent extremists like the Taliban and al Qaeda, according to the Department of Homeland Security—a view they also held when Trump’s team was in place there. Trump-appointed FBI director Christopher Wray agrees, and has pointed to the special threat posed by white supremacists.

And that while the threat posed by foreign terrorists is real, it has been vastly overstated in the wake of 9/11. We should not have treated those terrorists as being analogous to prior international enemies of the modern era like the Nazis or the Soviets. They instead pose a more limited kind of risk than was presented, a risk that despite their rhetoric was not to our society or institutions broadly but was instead sporadic and opportunist. We are better off responding to them with specialized counter-terror measures, expanded intelligence capabilities, hardened assets and greater public-private coordination in the identification of, preparation for and reaction to threats.

If Jan. 6 Was ‘Domestic Terror,’ Who Was the Terrorist in Chief?

Although I was tempted to, I did not mention those points in my email because I doubted that the Fox article would have space in its article to cover all the evidence and sound analysis by experts that makes it absolutely clear that while the Taliban and al Qaeda are utterly repugnant and a threat that should not be minimized, the damage already done by Trump and many of his supporters and the imminent threat of further damage they pose is greater than foreign terror groups currently pose or seem likely to in the immediate future.

Speaking of imminent threats, the rising daily COVID tolls driven by a Trumpist, partisan rejection of science is certainly one. The fact that Trump and his supporters, including many high GOP officials, are defending the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, continuing to perpetuate their lies about the fairness of the last election, and actively working to try to rig future elections all drive home the point that the threat from the former president has not receded.

For these reasons, it is irrefutable that Trump and many of the people seeking to advance his agenda or claim it for themselves are poised to have a far greater negative impact on Americans and the country as a whole than foreign extremist groups.

However, I hasten to add that I was not and am not suggesting that all Trump supporters are as bad as members of the Taliban or al Qaeda.

Case in point: While many Trumpists still want to disenfranchise people of color, overturn elections, obstruct justice, egg on violent domestic extremists, canoodle with foreign enemies and abuse power and our Constitution, some of them have moved on from the errors of the past. Few of them, for example, believe any longer we should inject Clorox into our veins. Now many on the Trumpy right are instead promoting the benefits of ingesting a livestock de-wormer.

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