The Right Wants to Disempower Ilhan Omar—and Democrats Are Helping

This latest controversy has a clear endgame: taking the Minnesota Congresswoman off the House Foreign Affairs Committee

The right is trying, once again, to strip Rep. Ilhan Omar of her seat of the House Foreign Affairs Committee—with the help of members of her own caucus.

“The far right, the centrists, the establishment, neoconservatives, neoliberals—they all hate her because she tells the truth,” Omar’s Deputy Press Secretary Isaiah Baehr-Breen tweeted Thursday night. “And they want her off of the Foreign Affairs Committee so she'll stop asking inconvenient questions.”

It’s long been a dream of Omar’s opponents to remove the Somali-American Muslim congresswoman from the powerful committee.

On Monday, Omar asked Secretary of State Anthony Blinken about victims’ rights before the International Criminal Court. Her subsequent tweet about the exchange provided the latest pretext for her enemies to go on the attack.

“We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban,” said Omar.

On Wednesday night, a dozen House Democrats sent an open letter to Omar expressing their outrage, calling the comment “as offensive as it is misguided” that “at worst reflects deep-seated prejudice.”

As Luke O’Neil writes in HellWorld today, Omar’s comments weren’t anywhere close to what she’s being accused of:

What she actually said on Monday during a hearing in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs when speaking to Secretary of State Antony Blinken was basically this: If the United States does not recognize the International Criminal Court — which we do not by the way unlike 120 other countries that have ratified the treaty giving it jurisdiction over war crimes — then where do victims of those crimes in conflicts between for example Israel and Palestine and in Afghanistan go for justice?

The GOP has tried repeatedly to use Omar as a bargaining chip whenever members of the Republican caucus come under fire for racist and/or conspiratorial comments or actions. They didn’t miss the chance this time to turn the conversation to stripping Omar of her power, as Politico reported:

The GOP’s campaign arm also said in a statement Thursday that Democrats should strip Omar of her committees — as Democrats did this year to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene after a series of incendiary comments and actions by the controversial Georgia Republican, including endorsing the assassination of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

For Republicans, the reason for going after Omar like this—other than the obvious racist and Islamophobic ones—is to take a measure of revenge for having to discipline extremist members Steve King and Marjorie Taylor Greene in recent years. Having Democrats strip Omar of her committees is fair in their mind because they see the Minnesota congresswoman’s factual comments as analogous to the deranged, racist conspiracy theories spewed by the likes of King and Greene.

For Democrats, Omar presents a more complicated problem. She’s generally popular with the party faithful while powerful donors don’t like her and want her, as well as her progressive allies, out of power. So while Republicans want Omar deplatformed, Democrats prefer she get in line.

These power plays don’t just involve political pressure. Attacks on Omar inevitably lead to racist threats of violence against the congresswoman.

Omar shared a voicemail she received this week as her colleagues helped the right attack her. The voicemail—in which the caller says “Muslims are terrorists” as well as aiming slurs and invective at Omar and her staff—is, sadly, part of a pattern. Whenever Omar is targeted by her political opponents for going off script on US and Israeli foreign policy, the bad faith attacks result in more threats and hate.

This is not new. Omar has been consistently targeted, more so than any of her colleagues—with the possible exception of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—and the hate and threats that come her way are understood by her critics as part of the attack.

Deploying attacks that frame Omar’s comments as anti-American or antisemitic is a conscious choice from her opponents, who are happy to threaten the personal safety and survival of the congresswoman to silence her.


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