Donald Trump Isn't Re-Envisioning the Future - He's Re-Living the Past

The flag of the United States of America
The flag of the United States of America

The scariest part of Donald Trump's appalling, bigoted calls to ban Muslims from entering the United States "until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on," and the comparisons made to internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, is not the fairly significant support it seems to have attracted. The scariest part is the United States has already systematically detained, and tortured Muslims as part of a CIA secret detention program - and not a single victim has received justice.

The United States is not shy about admitting this either. A year ago, the Senate released a 525-page document, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report, on the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program. The report documents the intentional re-purposing of interrogation techniques used to torture American soldiers during the Korean War, against Muslim men. Not a single survivor of forced disappearance, waterboarding, rectal re-hydration, sexual torture and more, has been provided any form of remedy. Brown fathers, sons, brothers continue to wait for justice more than a decade after first being detained, their lives irrevocably changed.

Consider the story of the European citizen on holiday, who was inexplicably arrested as he crossed a border, and disappeared for many months. Or the recently married fisherman who was abducted two weeks after his wedding - never to see his new wife again. The father who missed the birth of his daughter, and was released with no money to travel back home and given no resources to cope with traumatizing torture. There are dozens of stories like these.

The detention of these men - presumably most of them Muslim - was illegal, and in many instances based on mistaken intelligence, but the program of abuse that they were subjected to was not. Under international human rights law, the United States is obligated to ensure accountability of the torturers and the provision of reparations for victims. The United States' failure to fulfill these duties leaves future decisions on counterterrorism strategies vulnerable to exploitation by Donald Trump the demagogue, and others like him. The Human Rights Committee has found that impunity for violations of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibitions against torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, summary and arbitrary killings and enforced disappearances in particular, "may well be an important contributing element in the recurrence of the violations". Despite the Obama Administration's' wishes, these abusive national security decisions will not be a thing of the past unless there are demonstrated, legal consequences in the present, which serve as deterrence.

The United States has not only outsourced this abuse, it discriminates against Muslims at home too. In fact, earlier this month, the Second Circuit reviewed a case alleging that Attorney General Ashcroft, "endorsed the restrictive detention of a number of men who were Arabs or Muslims or both - or those who appeared to fit those categories - that resulted from the fear and frenzy in greater New York following the 9/11 attacks in which suspicion was founded merely upon one's faith, one's appearance or one's native tongue." This was a policy of "assaults, daily strip searches, and numerous other degrading acts," enacted almost 15 years before Donald Trump campaigned for presidency.

When it comes to Trump, it is easy to vilify and jump on the backlash bandwagon, but it has been comparatively more difficult for Americans to vocalize their mortification for what has already happened. Trump's confidence that many people will agree with him is understandable. It is the consequence of Americans' previous silence and inaction when Muslims were detained and abused, especially after 9/11. Unlike the provision of reparations intended to commemorate and apologize for the illegal detention of Japanese-Americans, the United States has never officially apologized for the CIA's secret detention and torture of dozens of innocent Muslims in the wake of the 'War on Terror'. Mr. Trump's hateful rhetoric is not a pipe dream policy of discrimination and abuse targeting Muslims, but a reality of modern-day American history.