Recently my friend Senator Cory Booker tried to turn the anti-Trump “this is not normal” slogan on its head. In a speech to the New Democracy Forum, Cory expressed displeasure at the forum’s program, which decried the political situation in the United States as exactly that: “not normal.”
“To say that the election of Donald Trump marked the beginning of an abnormal time is what gets me upset,” explained the senator.
What isn’t normal, Cory argued, is America’s lack of proper gun control, and excessive mass incarceration – both of which have been an issue long before the rise of Trump.
“There’s shootings on blocks in America every single day. There are people being murdered in our city – in our country – every single day. And we have normalized it.”
Cory called, quite soundly, for background checks on weapons sales, saying something had to be done to stop the violence in American cities. The “carnage,” he claimed, had reached a level that “belongs in war zones.”
Cory went on to explain how youth of color are being too easily incarcerated on minor drug charges, thereby sequestering their right to vote in crucial swing states such as Florida, Virginia and Iowa – all of which ban those convicted of a felony from voting.
White people were using the same drugs, something Cory said he witnessed in Stanford, but with far fewer consequences. Hence, America’s minority communities were being largely disenfranchised.
These are all important issues. On a domestic level, gun violence, incarceration and disenfranchisement are serious issues that need to be addressed.
But Cory seems to ignore these issues the moment he’s not dealing with Americans.
When it comes to foreign policy, Cory has to reverse his position of supporting regimes that commit most horrific acts of violence, that imprison and execute their citizens without trial and lack even the slightest trace of democracy.
In 2015, Cory voted for a deal that has given Iran $150 billion and full legitimacy in the international economy, a move that will net it hundreds of billions more.
Far worse, though, is the fact that when you give sums like that to a nation like Iran, you’re effectively funding the quasi-terrorist states that exist almost entirely on the Iranian rial – horrific regimes like Assad’s Syria, Hamas-ruled Gaza, Houthi-torn Yemen and Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon.
Iran is now aiding and abetting a genocide of Sunni Muslims in Syria via its support of the Assad regime. Those who voted to fund Iran must be aware of these serious consequences.
Cory is absolutely right about the need to end the violence in Newark, Detroit and Chicago.
But what about Homs, Aleppo, Damascus and Sana’a? The money given to Iran by president Barack Obama’s deal, which Cory voted for and supported, has given the Iranians the ability to make the violence in those cities go on forever.
According to some estimates, Iran is providing the Assad regime in Syria with up to $20b. a year. How can you oppose violence at home and then give that much money to a country so committed to supporting the most violent man on earth? And, tragically, Assad is a whole lot more dangerous than even America’s fiercest gangs. Roughly half a million people have been killed so far in the Syrian civil war. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, 94% of the dead were murdered by the Iran-Assad alliance – an alliance which might not exist if weren’t for the immense American cash flows provided in part by the Iran nuclear agreement which our senator supported.
Iran, by the way, isn’t using this money just on firearms. They’re footing the bill for Assad to buy heavy artillery, develop chemical weapons, and fuel the planes being used to drop barrel bombs on civilians throughout Syria.
And since Cory is concerned with incarceration, Assad has imprisoned over 117,000 civilians since the start of the conflict six years ago. And his prisons are worse than the one Cory mentioned on Rikers Island.
Torture, starvation and summary execution are regular causes of death in Syrian prisons.
And if you’ve been looking at the news, we now know that Assad has furnished at least one of his prisons with a fully-functional crematorium, which he uses to burn the bodies of his victims.
As for being disenfranchised, no one lacks democracy more than a nation whose leader goes to war with them to avoid stepping down.
Within Iran itself, things aren’t much better.
Democracy is a fallacy in a country where everything is subordinate to Ayatollah Khameini, who rules for life while repeatedly calling for the wholesale extermination of six million Jews living in Israel. Violence exists in Iran as well, though it’s not gangs the citizens fear but their own police and government officers.
Also, as Cory must surely know, in Iran people aren’t incarcerated on minor drug charges. They’re imprisoned for being critical of the regime, for being members of the Bahai faith or even for being gay. Often, they’ll be murdered in prison, and even hung from cranes to intimidate the public.
Perhaps, Senator Booker, before giving this regime hundreds of billions of dollars and international legitimacy American elected officials should have given them a “background check.”
I’m not here to take issue with any of Cory’s critical points about the need for a moral domestic policy that is fair, democratic and promotes peace. And gun violence is a scourge in America that must be addressed by both parties. What I am saying is that these values Cory preaches need to be reflected in his foreign policy as well, if he is to be consistent.
Because American money ending up supporting a regime that is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism just isn’t – to put it lightly – normal.
The author, “America’s rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the international bestselling author of 30 books including his most recent, The Israel Warrior. Follow him on Twitter @ RabbiShmuley.