In explaining his decision to order an airstrike against Syria, President Trump mentioned that previous attempts to change Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's behavior had all failed, and, as a result, Trump said, the Syrian refugee crisis has only gotten worse. It was a comment that struck many as, well, a bit hypocritical, seeing as Trump has proven time and time again that he will do anything in his power to prevent refugees from getting the help they need.
"The refugee crisis continues to deepen, and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the U.S. and its allies," Trump said not long after news broke that the United States military had launched dozens of Tomahawk missiles at an air base in Syria in response to the deadly chemical attack that killed more than 70 and injured hundreds more. The U.S. government believes that Assad's regime was behind the attack, and sent the missiles in retaliation. CNN's Jim Acosta reported that he was told, "Trump was affected by images of dead children among casualties and felt compelled to act."
Of course, as many people have pointed out, there were scores of images of dead and injured Syrian children well before this chemical attack — like the photo of young Aylan Kurdi laying face down on a beach and Omran Daqneesh, covered in dust and blood after being pulled from the rubble of an airstrike — but instead of being compelled to act in their favor then, Trump took measures to ban them from coming to the United States in search of safety.
"Let's be clear: If Trump cared about Syrian children, he wouldn't ban Syrian refugees," writer Kara Calavera said on Twitter. "Not sure how Trump continues to call for a ban on Syrian refugees in the wake of an airstrike against the man who is making them refugees," CBS correspondent Alex Wagner said. Even actor Wil Wheaton spoke out against the hypocrisy, stating, "If Trump truly cared about the suffering in Syria, he wouldn't have a racist anti-refugee policy. But, hey, bombs distract from scandal!"
The crisis in Syria was caused by the rift between citizens who support President Assad and those who oppose him. Ultimately, as the New York Times reported, several other crises occurred — like the creation of ISIS — but the ultimate conflict is over Assad. The Syrian president violently silenced those who spoke against him at the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011, and the ensuing instability created millions of refugees fleeing the country as they watched their loved ones die.
Between 2011 and 2016, at least 470,000 — more than 11 percent of Syria's entire population — were wounded or killed, PBS Frontline reported.
Instead of opening the United States to Syrian refugees, Trump signed an executive order in January declaring that it would not issue new visas to travelers from certain countries for 90 days, but it also placed an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria. The new executive order that rescinded the original one after it was blocked by a court declared Syrian refugees could enter the United States after 120 days.
Now that there's been a chemical gas attack and Trump felt compelled to act, will his policy change? "Ok [sic] Trump. Put your policy where your mouth is. Reverse your refugee ban. Open our borders to Syrian refugees. Do it now," Claude Taylor, a former Clinton staffer, wrote in a tweet.
As one Twitter user pointed out, it would be hard to imagine how Syrians themselves feel about Trump's strike against Assad. While those who have been victimized by Assad — like the father who lost his twin children and his wife in the chemical attack — might want all the help they can get, surely they might wish help came a little differently, and a little sooner.