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Mark Steyn On the Brothers Tsarnaev, And What It Says About Immigration Policy

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HH: History has its jokes on us, and some of them are bad. One of those happened today, because it’s the day the George W. Bush Presidential Library opened, with appropriate celebration of a fine and good man. But on the same day, the New York Times has as its headline, U.S. Says It Suspects Assad Used Chemical Weapons. Joining me to talk about that juxtaposition is Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. You can read all of Mark’s columns at How about that, Mark, that President Obama joined in celebrating President Bush on a day that Syria is confirmed by our government to be using WMD?

MS: Yeah, I had a conversation with President Bush a few years ago at a time when Syrian insurgents were crossing into Iraq, into the Sunni Triangle, and were a big part of the IED’s and all the trouble that was going on in Fallujah and Ramadi and those particular towns at that time. And I said to the President, somewhat frustratedly, you’ve got the biggest military in the world. Why don’t you, instead of him crossing over your border, why don’t you cross over his border and give that guy a green zone of his own? And the President said to me, and he goes, “Now you’re thinking, boy.” And alas, the president of the United States declined to take my advice. But there’s no doubt that we had more pressure to apply on Assad then, and he slept a lot more uneasily in the spring of 2003 than he did over most of the next decade. I don’t think the United States is really a player in what’s happening in Syria, so I think all this line in the sand talk is basically a lot of ridiculous huffing and a-puffing by the Washington grandees.

HH: If the Bush doctrine were still in place, it would oblige, would it not, the United States to take direct action against Syria?

MS: Yes, I think that’s true. And I think there is a lot that could be done. I don’t think anyone should be under any illusions here. The history of the modern Middle East really falls into three phases. It was invented by the British and French colonial offices over an agreeable lunch in 1922. And as British and French power waned after the Second World War, essentially secular kleptocrats like the Assad family took over. They represent nothing very much except their Swiss bank accounts. But they have a huge incentive to stay on until the bitter end, especially when you look at what’s happened to Mubarak. Mubarak was an American ally, and he’s sitting in a jail cell. And Assad doesn’t see the point of that. Why not use chemical weapons? Why not kill as many people, if you’re going to die, take as many people as you want to, especially if the alternative, if you can, especially if the alternative is winding up like Mubarak sitting in that jail cell.

HH: The second terrible juxtaposition to the day that the Bush Library opens, and Obama speaks of the resolve and courage of George W. Bush after 9/11, is it’s ten days after an Islamist attack on the United States, Mark Steyn, and that is bitter. It does feel like that which was put in place to protect the United States, however flawed it was, or good it was in the first eight years of the war is being dismantled.

MS: Well, the Tsarnaev brothers’ mother said, I think it was yesterday, said that, she’s now back in Russia, she said she bitterly regrets that the family immigrated to the United States. Well, she doesn’t regret it as much as the people of Boston regret it. She doesn’t regret it as much as that poor eight year old boy’s family regrets it. He’s dead, the sister’s lost a leg, the mother has had brain surgery. That family will be bearing the scars of the Tsarnaev’s being admitted to the United States for a long time. And I think it is, it calls into question not necessarily just the terrorism policies but the immigration policies of the United States. These guys essentially gamed the refugee system. And the guy, they come over here because it’s dangerous for them to remain within the Russian federation, yet the older brother is taking six month vacations in the Russian federation. That’s how dangerous it is. And Homeland Security, which is supposed to notice, and believe me, I know this from experience, when green card holders spend significant amounts of time on foreign soil, did not notice that he had spent six months out of the country. This is a nice counterpoint to all those promised enforcement innovations that is supposedly, are supposedly coming in the comprehensive immigration package.

HH: Mark, I’ve got some of the tape of the mother of the boy bombing band talking, actually. Cut number one of mom:

ZT: They’re going to kill him? They’re going to kill him. I don’t care. My oldest one is killed, so I don’t care. I don’t care if my youngest one is going to be killed today.

HH: And then cut number two:

ZT: So I want the world to hear this. If, I don’t care if I am going to get killed, too, okay?

HH: Cut number three:

ZT: And I will say Allah-u-akhbar.

HH: So Mark, basically it’s sort of a nightmare Islamist Ordinary People that we’ve got going here.

MS: Yes, and I think this is where the commentary actually, where people go oh, he seems such an all-American boy, he was on the boxing team, he wore a tuxedo to the prom and all the other nonsense that’s been talked in the last few years, misses the point, that we talk a lot about multiculturalism, and yet we don’t actually respect other cultures sufficiently to think that they might look on things entirely differently from the way we do. And the fact you wear a tux to the prom means nothing. The fact that you box on a New England boxing team means nothing. The fact that you happen to like a particular kind of lousy pop music means nothing, and that we have a system, it’s a bit like the overlaid area codes that they have now in big cities, where you have the original code, and then they introduce a new one that is sort of overlaid on the same area. We have, what we mean by multiculturalism, I think, is that we have overlaid cultures. We walk around on the same streets, we go to the same fast food restaurants, we drive the same cars, but we think about things profoundly differently. And for all their years in America, and for the fact that the younger brother stood up on September 11th, 2012, in a superb jest on posterity, and the suicide wish of Western civilization, he stood up on September 11th and took the oath of citizenship to become an American citizen. He was never, whatever his passport says, he was never American in any way that mattered.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, I hope after the break to be talking with Senator Marco Rubio about the immigration bill. Frank Luntz was eavesdropped on in an off-the-record conversation and taped, saying that talk radio is killing Senator Rubio on this bill. And I actually want immigration reform to pass if it improves border security, and if it improves our ability to do background checks on those criminal elements who are here. But do you think it’s true that talk radio is driving the issue, as Frank Luntz said, and killing Marco Rubio?

MS: No, I think that’s an easy out for it. I think what you said a day or two back is actually true, Hugh, that most people, when Senator Rubio, who seems a perfectly nice, pleasant fellow, and he’s a smart guy, and he’s going places, but when he stands there and he talks about this big super, powerful commission of border governors, and he talks about how Homeland Security is going to do this and going to do that, and we’re putting in these mechanisms and these policies, most of the American people know at heart that none of this will ever be, none of these so-called mechanisms will ever be enforced any more than the existing mechanisms were enforced with the Tsarnaev brothers. People get that. And so when some guy on the radio actually articulates that, he’s only actually giving expression to what at a certain level millions and millions of people already understand. That’s the problem for Senator Rubio.

HH: And I think the solution is to actually build things that cannot be subject to bureaucratic convolution, and to the ambiguity of technical terms that allows a conceited bureaucracy not to do what’s expected of them. I think build the fence, for God’s sake, and then they can’t really take it down, Mark Steyn.

MS: No, you say that. I mean, there are a lot of people who come here on visas and then overstay, or there are a lot of people, for example, in the case of these brothers, who come here as refugees. In Minnesota, for example, there are tons of Somalis who are supposedly fleeing the life-threatening situation in Somalia, and then go on vacations back there to wage jihad. And if they accidentally prematurely self-detonate, the United States government pays for the 2,000 pieces they’re lying in to be shipped back for a funeral in Minneapolis. There are ways, I wish it were as simple as a fence. But there is also a policy in the heart of the bureaucracy not to enforce key immigration laws. And unless Senator Rubio has an answer for that, he’s going to have problems on this issue.

HH: Mark Steyn, always a pleasure to talk to you,, America.

End of interview.


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