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Why Afghanistan's collapse is an opportunity for far-right racists

Far-right talking heads are using the Afghanistan crisis as an opportunity to peddle replacement theory.
Image: Charlie Kirk
Conservative radio show host Charlie Kirk.Phillip Faraone / Getty Images; MSNBC

Conservative radio show host Charlie Kirk warned on Monday that President Joe Biden is deliberately “let[ting] it all fall apart” in Afghanistan as an excuse to import a “couple hundred thousand more Ilhan Omars to come into America to change the body politic permanently.”

The notion that a war withdrawal is being dictated by immigration needs, is, of course, absurd.

Wow! Kirk’s comments are so laden with factual errors, conspiratorial fear-mongering, and racist tropes that it’s hard to know where to begin with unpacking them. But the bottom line is clear — he’s advancing white supremacist replacement theory: the idea that immigration threatens to unravel the “true” fabric of American society.

Here are a few key passages from Kirk’s comments:

I do not want to hear from conservative pundits that this [withdrawal] was incompetence, this was weakness. It's much more sinister than that. All roads lead to political transformation. ...

[Do] you know there's 5 million displaced people in Afghanistan now? This was all intentional. Joe Biden let it all fall apart to now say, ‘Oh, I'm so sorry.’ …

Joe Biden is stepping up and he's allowing a flow of people from the Middle East into America. … What's going on here is Joe Biden wants a couple hundred thousand more Ilhan Omars to come into America to change the body politic permanently. We're playing checkers, and they're playing chess.

There’s a lot going on here. The notion that a war withdrawal is being dictated by immigration needs, is, of course, absurd — there are already tens of millions of refugees around the world, many of whom would love to come to the U.S.; the notion that a foreign policy blunder is needed to generate refugees is not a serious one.

But it’s worth noting that Kirk’s concern about this withdrawal being a sly ploy to ship in tons of Afghans would make slightly more sense if Biden’s refugee policy were not the opposite of what Kirk is portraying it as.

As I’ve written before, one of the biggest points of criticism the president has faced in the past week is precisely that he has taken such little care to ensure the safety of vulnerable Afghans. As policy experts have noted, U.S. refugee guidelines are completely out of reach for many Afghans because of their logistical requirements.

U.S. refugee guidelines are completely out of reach for many Afghans because of their logistical requirements.

Even Afghan interpreters who helped the U.S., a relatively small population who had advocates in Congress, were left behind en masse after the administration failed to streamline visa processes. Adding insult to injury, it appears the U.S. has allowed devices with detailed biometric data on Afghans who helped the U.S. to fall into the hands of the Taliban.

Far from an opportunity for mass immigration, the U.S. withdrawal has signaled a clear disregard for the fate of many Afghans, even those who we knew could be targeted particularly aggressively by the Taliban. In fact, some reporting indicates that Biden may have declined to streamline and strengthen refugee policy out of concerns of backlash from the right.

But there’s a bigger concern here than Kirk’s disinterest in facts: He’s striving to promote an increasingly popular idea on the right that immigrants pose an existential threat to American society by changing its fundamental character. He and other right-wing populists like Fox’s Tucker Carlson argue that the U.S. will lose its true character if enough non-white people enter the country — and that the right must rally to ensure that it doesn’t happen.

This championing of replacement theory is dangerous, and has inspired real violence around the world. It goes beyond myths that immigrants steal jobs and bring crime to the U.S., instead arguing that the very existence of immigrants could destroy the country.

In other words, Kirk’s absurd policy talk is less worrisome than his vision for the future — an America in which immigrants and those related to them are demonized, and locked out of the country altogether.