WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump has indicated that both Pakistan and Afghanistan will be among the countries whose citizens will have to go through an “extreme vetting” process before entering the United States.
In an interview to ABC News, Mr Trump also said he was going to sign an order placing a ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the US on Wednesday but it was delayed, apparently because of a huge public backlash.
The interview, broadcast on Wednesday night, was his first to a television channel since he took oath as president on Jan 20 and covered a wide range of subjects, from Obamacare to immigration and war against terrorists.
Editorial: Trump vs America
Reports that the Trump administration would establish a registry for collecting data about Muslims living in the US brought thousands of protesters out in a New York park on Wednesday night and a former secretary of state said she too would register as a Muslim if Muslims were asked to do so.
Madeleine Albright, the first woman US secretary of state, tweeted: “I was raised Catholic, became Episcopalian and found out later my family was Jewish. I stand ready to register as Muslim in solidarity.”
US shouldn’t have invaded Iraq, admits president
Her message was re-tweeted by about 20,000 people and liked by almost 40,000.
In the ABC News interview, recorded on Wednesday morning, President Trump said he was going to sign an order banning at least some Muslims from entering the United States in two hours. Later he did sign two orders — authorising the construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border and deportation of illegal immigrants — but those did not include the proposed ban on Muslims.
Asked to name the countries whose citizens would not enter the US, the president said: “You’ll be hearing about it in two hours because I have a whole list. You’ll be very thrilled.”
He said he was focusing on the people who came “with evil intentions. I don’t want that. They’re ISIS [Islamic State militant group]. They’re coming under false pretence. I don’t want that.”
Later, he defended his plan in a tweet as well, saying “as your president, I have no higher duty than to protect the lives of the American people”.
When the interviewer, David Muir, asked why Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were not on the ban list, Mr Trump said: “We’re going to have extreme vetting in all cases. And I mean extreme. And we’re not letting people in if we think there’s even a little chance of some problem.”
Asked if this was the Muslim ban that he had talked about during the election campaign, he said: “It’s not the Muslim ban. But it’s countries that have tremendous terror.... And it’s countries that people are going to come in and cause us tremendous problems.”
He said: “It’s going to be very hard to come in. Right now it’s very easy to come in. It’s gonna be very, very hard.”
Mr Trump said he would also create safe zones in Syria for refugees to live in, as he would not allow them to enter the US.
He said his predecessor Barack Obama and secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and John Kerry had allowed tens of thousands of people to enter the country.
“The FBI is now investigating more people than ever before having to do with terror, and it’s from the group of people that came in,” he said, adding: “Our country has a lot of problems… they’re deep problems, they’re serious problems. We don’t need more.”
Referring to the involvement of a Muslim Pakistani couple in the 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, the president said: “I don’t want terror in this country. You look at what happened in San Bernardino.... You look at what happened in the World Trade Centre.”
Asked if he was concerned that these measures could cause more anger among Muslims, he said: “There’s plenty of anger right now. How can you have more? The world is as angry as it gets.”
Explaining why he thought there was so much anger in the world, Mr Trump said: “All of this has happened. We went into Iraq. We shouldn’t have gone into Iraq. We shouldn’t have gotten out the way we got out.”
He also defended the suggestion he made as a presidential candidate that the US should have “kept the oil” in Iraq. “We should’ve kept the oil when we got out… had we taken the oil, you wouldn’t have ISIS because they fuel themselves with the oil… when we left, we left Iraq, which wasn’t a government. It’s not a government now,” he explained.
“We should’ve taken the oil. And if we took the oil you wouldn’t have ISIS. And we would have had wealth. We have spent right now $6 trillion in the Middle East. And our country is falling apart.”
Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2017