Reality TV star-turned-president Donald J. Trump never made a secret of his feelings about the Middle East during the campaign. Now that he’s in the White House, Trump is pushing an anti-Muslim agenda with total disregard for the consequences.
For all his faults, President George W. Bush went out of his way to keep a lid on CIA ‘black sites,’ torture, and right wing calls for an open clash of civilizations.
Trump, on the other hand, has publicly vowed to restore the secret prisons and waterboarding while inviting that clash of civilizations — a move that plays right into the hands of jihadi recruiters and damages America’s alliances in the region.
His Saturday comments at CIA headquarters about “taking the oil” from Iraq have put that country’s prime minister, Haydar al-Abadi, in a terrible position. While Iraq desperately needs American aid and support to fight the Islamic State, Abadi must simultaneously defend his people’s ownership of their own natural resources.
“We can’t understand what he means,” Abadi told a news conference yesterday. “Does he mean that the US should have occupied Iraqi oil in 2003 so that Daesh [ISIS, ISIL] could not gain control over that oil?”
Further complicating matters, Trump’s order to bar Iraqi refugees from emigrating to the United States has Iraqi soldiers angry. “Why would you ban us?” a soldier asks CBS News as his unit fights the Islamic State for Mosul alongside thousands of US troops. “We are the victims. In fact, American ISIS fighters have come here.”
His commanding general goes even further. “If America bans Muslims, it’s not the right thing to do. America is a multi-ethnic and -religious nation, a country of freedom.” (Video below)
It’s hard to overstate the damage that Trump is eager to do.
Last night, he confidently told ABC’s David Muir that waterboarding “works” and vowed to “fight fire with fire” — then expressed complete contempt for the potential backlash. “The world is a mess. The world is as angry as it gets. What? You think this is gonna cause a little more anger?”
Jonathan Chait responds:
If it were correct that Muslim anger with the United States has reached its maximal threshold, then there would be no danger in further antagonism. But that is not remotely true. About three-quarters of Muslims worldwide, and four-fifths of Muslims in the United States, believe suicide bombing in defense of their religion is never justified. Trump will make Muslims across the world believe that the United States discriminates against them, is torturing people, and (if they take Trump’s own comments seriously, which they might) could already be stealing its oil.
Similarly, Trump has made a great deal of noise about stepping up the pace of airstrikes against ISIS. That ‘get tough’ talk may have sounded good on the campaign trail, but if executed in office he will only ensure a higher civilian death toll and more fodder for anti-American propaganda.
“You can certainly drop more munitions,” departed Obama Air Force secretary Deborah James tells US News, “but to what end?”
The answer is that Donald Trump knows nothing about the Middle East except his hatred and fear of Islam — the very character traits that jihadi recruiters have projected on both his predecessors. His end is greater violence for its own sake.
This will all have long-term effects that warp and harm us in manifold ways.
For example, because Congress has limited American agencies to what’s allowed by the Army field manual on interrogations, his administration is considering changes to the manual that would authorize war crimes on the battlefield, guaranteeing that Americans captured in future conflicts are tortured, too.
Trump’s “emergency” ban on Muslim immigration from seven countries is sure to be extended with the very next mass shooting or stabbing attack at a mall. Such actions will further the goals of Islamic State recruiters to shrink the ‘gray zone‘ of Islamic assimilation and moderation in the West. Even if ISIS is destroyed, it will have succeeded in deranging western values.
They could not have picked a better president to promote their agenda.
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