Radical Islam and The Age of Terror
In a speech at Youngstown State University in Ohio, Republican candidate Donald Trump outlined a policy on how his administration would combat global terrorism. While it was very light on details, when he did give specifics Trump described a mixed bag of nativism, vulnerable ideological tests, likening the fight against terrorism to the Cold War, violations of international laws, limit due process and equal protections guaranteed by the Constitution, and would re-introduce previously tried-and-failed George W. Bush policies.
- If we called it “radical Islamic terrorism” then, and only then, can we begin to defeat ISIS and other terrorist organizations… despite the current strategy working.
- According to Trump, President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are responsible for ISIS and all the problems in the Middle-East.
- We’ll abandon the nation building and regime-change policy that President Obama already abandoned in 2011.
- Except when it comes to other country’s oil fields, then we will use our troops to take the fields and steal their oil. That totally doesn’t violate the Geneva Convention.
- Restrict internet access to other countries, which is technically impossible.
- Dust off and reuse failed George W. Bush policies on who we ally ourselves with in the war on terror.
- Implement ideological screening tests for immigrats. By the way, are you a terrorist? No!? Then congratulations, you passed Trump’s proposed ideological test!
- Scrutinize all American citizens who follow the Islamic religion, ignoring due process and equal protection guaranteed by the Constitution.
As in virtually all of his speeches, Trump took the opportunity to bring up old debunked conservative tropes and flat-out falsehoods. So some fact-checking is first required in order to dispel some of the myths that support his positions.
There are far too many to list here so we’ll highlight the claims that are most relevant to this immigration policy. There are other, more complete fact-checks here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Obama and “Radical Islamic Terrorism”
Anyone who cannot name our enemy, is not fit to lead this country.
Trump continues to make the absurd observation Obama refuses to speak the words “radical Islamic terrorism,” and until he does we’ll be vulnerable to terrorists… because of magic or something.
However there is a very good reason why President Obama, and before him George W. Bush, will not speak the words “radical Islamic terrorism” when referring to terrorist groups like ISIS. They may sound like small words to Republican critics like Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz, but they have big meaning.
Think about when George W. Bush used the word “crusade” when describing the war on terror and the negative reaction that it caused.
The members of ISIS and other terrorist groups are desperate for legitimacy. In Islam, legitimacy and the rightful succession of the Prophet Muhammad is extremely important, and is the key component in the Shia-Sunni divide. Being the next legitimate state of Islam (or “caliphate“) is why ISIS calls themselves the “Islamic State.” They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam, and they propagate the notion that America, and the West, is at war with Islam.
For a President of the United States to infer that we are at war with the Islamic religion, it would have immediate consequences from our Muslim allies in the middle-east as well as give terrorist groups the legitimacy they exactly want.
The rise of ISIS is the direct result of policy decisions made by President Obama and Secretary Clinton.
Donald Trump listed off a before and after snapshot of the middle-east (pgs. 4-6) in an attempt to pin the series of political revolutions and civil wars directly on President Obama and his administration.
In his speech, Trump conveniently neglected to inform the people in attendance that at the time he supported most of the interventions which he now criticizes.
- On Libya in 2011, “Now we should go in, we should stop this guy, which would be very easy and very quick.“
- On Iraq in 2002, as we explain below, he was for intervention.
To be fair, it is valid to debate the Obama administration’s slow support to anti-Assad rebels in Syria (while Clinton was an early supporter of training and arming the rebels) and its decision to intervene in Libya and the effects of those policies contributing to the power of ISIS, however this is not Trump’s argument.
What Trump is essentially trying to do is blame Obama and Clinton for ISIS as well as all the recent unrest in the middle-east, which is just ridiculous. The Middle-East does not revolve around the White House or whoever the occupant of the White House happens to be. The cause and history of the Arab Spring and the subsequent “Arab Winter” is well documented to be primarily decades of political autocracy, human rights violations, corruption, and economic failure.
While there has indeed been a growing anti-American resentment, it cannot be pinned to a single administration or policy. Aaron David Miller, a Middle East scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center argued that “anger has been building up over the course of 40 years, under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Profound anger rooted in what is perceived to be our blind support for Israel, profound anger as a consequence of our military deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, profound anger against our counter-terrorism policy and use of predator drones.”
Trump has oversimplified America’s influence, covered up his own support for intervention policies, and used a misplaced and inappropriate characterization of events in order to make his flawed point.
Trump’s support of the 2003 Iraq invasion
I was an opponent of the Iraq war from the beginning.
No he wasn’t. In a September 2002 interview with radio talk show host Howard Stern, Donald Trump said he supported the Iraq invasion. Have a listen here.
Instead Trump cites an Esquire magazine interview from August 2004, a full year after the invasion and two years after he publicly stated he was for the war to make his false claim he was opposed from the beginning.
American troop withdrawal from Iraq
After we had made those hard fought sacrifices and gains we should never have made such a sudden withdrawal on a timetable advertised to our enemies. Al Qaeda in Iraq had been decimated, and Obama and Clinton gave it new life and allowed it to spread across the world.
The troop withdrawal was neither sudden nor was it the decision of this administration.
President Obama inherited an agreement between Iraq and the United States for a timeline to withdraw troops by the end of 2011, signed on December 14, 2008 by President George W. Bush. You might remember the press conference to announce the strategic agreement more for Bush adeptly dodging a shoe thrown at him than the actual details of the timeline.
Remember that the country was considered relatively stable in 2011; ISIS elements existed prior to that, but largely formed into the force it is today after American troops left, and mostly in Syria at first.
About the Plan
The details of Trump’s plan include:
- Abandon the nation building policy in the Middle-East.
- Take oil fields belonging to other countries and keep them using the military.
- Close access to the internet.
- Ideological screening tests for immigrants.
- Establish a Commission on Radical Islam
Let’s review each of the points in more detail.
Abandon the nation building policy in the Middle-East.
If I become President, the era of nation-building will be ended.
That’s not a bad idea, probably because President Barack Obama already fully abandoned America’s nation building policy back in 2011.
Trump seems to be confusing Obama and Clinton’s limited interventions, and sometimes non-interventions, with President George W. Bush’s post-9/11 regime-change efforts.
Take oil fields belonging to other countries and keep it
I have long said that we should have kept the oil in Iraq – another area where my judgement has been proven correct. According to CNN, ISIS made as much $500 million in oil sales in 2014 alone, fueling and funding its reign of terror. If we had controlled the oil, we could have prevented the rise of ISIS in Iraq – both by cutting off a major source of funding, and through the presence of U.S. forces necessary to safeguard the oil and other vital infrastructure. I was saying this constantly and to whoever would listen: keep the oil, keep the oil, keep the oil, I said – don’t let someone else get it.
If they had listened to me then, we would have had the economic benefits of the oil, which I wanted to use to help take care of the wounded soldiers and families of those who died – and thousands of lives would have been saved.
This proposal, by its very nature, would have left soldiers in place to guard our assets. In the old days, when we won a war, to the victor belonged the spoils.
There is no other way to say this, Trump’s proposal to hold oil fields in other countries using military force and steal the oil for our own economic benefits is a clear violation of international law and an act of war.
It’s not clear how Trump’s policy would differ from existing U.S. strategy, which managed to reduce ISIS’ ability to produce oil from 400,000 barrels a day in 2010 to about 40,000 in 2015.
The fall in oil revenue is primarily due to coalition and Russian air strikes and the resulting disorganization in terms of oil sales and transportation. Now ISIS relies on other forms for revenue.
Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.
Our new approach, which must be shared by both parties in America, by our
allies overseas, and by our friends in the Middle East, must be to halt
the spread of Radical Islam. All actions should be oriented around this goal, and any country which shares this goal will be our ally. We cannot always choose our friends, but we can never fail to recognize our enemies.
Donald Trump appears to be arguing for the kind of terrorism-centric foreign policy that President George W. Bush adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
You might remember when Bush famously declared, “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”
But over time, that approach ran into complications. The Bush administration eventually discovered that a one-dimensional approach, measuring countries almost exclusively on their commitment to fighting Islamic terrorists, left it little leverage when their partners in counter-terrorism took other steps opposed to American interests — from the Chinese claiming portions of the South China Sea to increasing Russian threats against former Soviet states.
Close access to the internet
We cannot allow the internet to be used as a recruiting tool, and for other purposes, by our enemy. We must shut down their access to this form of communication, and we must do so immediately.
It is not entirely clear if he is talking about restricting internet access here in America or in other countries, which would be an impossible sell to convince another country to shut down their internet infrastructure, costing the country billions per day in commerce, and throwing themselves back into the communication dark ages.
It’s also probably technically not possible. The internet is nothing more than a collection of inter-connected computers with a redundant network run by many different companies, government agencies and others. While a government could withdrawal the thousands of Border Gateway Protocols, anyone with minimal technical knowledge could still get online.
Either way what Donald Trump is suggesting, to “close the internet,” parallels the censorship policies of authoritarian nations, such as North Korea, China, and Iran.
The right to Internet access is closely linked to the right of freedom of speech which can be seen to encompass freedom of expression as well. Two key facets of the Internet are the Internet’s content and the Internet’s infrastructure. The infrastructure is necessary in order to deliver the service to the masses but requires extensive positive action. The content loaded onto the Internet however is seen as something that should be available to all, with few or no restrictions; limits on content have been viewed as the key breach of human rights, namely the right to freedom of speech.
The Internet’s power is said to lie in its removal of a government’s control of information. Online on the Internet, any individuals can publish anything, which allows citizens to circumvent the government’s official information sources. This has threatened governing regimes and lead to many censoring or cutting Internet service in times of crisis.
Finally, the internet is used by both terrorists and intelligence communities. It would be counter-productive to shut off traffic to the sites that counter-terrorism agencies monitor for information to use in intelligence gathering and preventing the next terror attack.
Ideological screening tests for immigrants.
In the Cold War, we had an ideological screening test. The time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today. In addition to screening out all members or sympathizers of terrorist groups, we must also screen out any who have hostile attitudes towards our country or its principles – or who believe that Sharia law should supplant American law.
Those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into the country.
Only those who we expect to flourish in our country –and to embrace a tolerant American society – should be issued immigrant visas.
To put these new procedures in place, we will have to temporarily suspend immigration from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorists.
What Trump is proposing would not be completely unconstitutional, but it would find itself on shaky legal ground, have drastic ethical ramifications, and is easily defeated.
The United States has had immigration and naturalization laws going back to the presidency of John Adams. And it is important to note that no ideological naturalization restriction signed into law has ever been overturned by the Supreme Court.
While the Supreme Court has concluded that Congress “possesses the power to exclude aliens on whatever ground [it] deems fit,” they have also ruled that the United States cannot prohibit someone from entering immigrating to America solely on the basis that their desire to improve the constitution does not conform to current popular thought.
Currently the Immigration Act of 1990 limits the exclusion of aliens to those whose “entry or proposed activities within the United States would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences.” However, aliens cannot be excluded on the basis of their beliefs and activities that would be lawful in the US unless such activity “would compromise a compelling” foreign policy interest.
For example, if you were an immigrant who believed the United States should be more Communist where we engaged in common ownership, incorporated Sharia laws, or hold Dominionist views, but desired to improve the Constitution using the existing legal and political framework even though your beliefs different from the majority of Americans, then you could not be denied entry based on your beliefs.
So if a law were passed by Congress and signed into law by a President Trump, because of the Supreme Court’s earlier rulings there is a possibility it may not survive a legal challenge.
But aside from the legality issue is the argument on how effective and practical an ideological test would first need to be addressed. Someone who enters the legal immigration process already goes through an extensive background check and interview process, and someone who applies through the refugee program already is subject to the single most difficult avenue to enter the United States.
And think about how hard could it possibly be to pass an ideological test? All we have to do is apply Zeddemore’s Law and Trump’s brilliant idea for an ideological test can be easily defeated.
“When presented with a question of two or more possible answers, choose the most obvious response that will that result in the least negative outcome.”
Or to put it in simpler terms:
Now we don’t know what a Trump ideological test may actually contain, but we could imagine what questions on the test may look like from the tone of his speech:
|If someone handed you a bomb, would you:|
A. Alert the authorities, such as your local police, the FBI, or Homeland Security, so they may safely dispose of the device and arrest the individuals responsible.
B. Shout, “Death to America” and detonate the bomb in a densely populated area?
Unless a complete idiot takes this test, it is safe to assume that 100% of the applicants will select option “A” to alert the authorities. What would the purpose of spending taxpayer money and government hours at a test that is so
Finally, it is important to note that Trump’s phrasing of treating terrorism as the new cold war comes directly from the racist right-wing sites like Breitbart.com. It may worry some that his ideas are originating so far from the fringe where facts are ignored, racism and xenophobia is the norm, and conspiracy theory rules.
Terrorism warnings signs were ignored because “political correctness.”
That is why one of my first acts as President will be to establish a Commission on Radical Islam – which will include reformist voices in the Muslim community who will hopefully work with us. We want to build bridges and erase divisions. The goal of the commission will be to identify and explain to the American public the core convictions and beliefs of Radical Islam, to identify the warning signs of radicalization, and to expose the networks in our society that support radicalization.
This commission will be used to develop new protocols for local police officers, federal investigators, and immigration screeners.
The “political correctness” argument Donald Trump uses as a foundation for his policy to create a radical Islam commission is based on complete and total bunk.
Trump has declared that one of the San Bernardino shooters’ neighbors “saw suspicious behavior—bombs on the floor and other things—but didn’t want to warn authorities because they said they didn’t want to be accused of racial profiling.” Trump’s been making the same claim for a few months now, despite the fact that it is unsupported by the available evidence. Fact checkers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center looked into the assertion shortly after Trump made it during an appearance on Fox and Friends in mid-June and concluded:
There is also no evidence for Trump’s repeated claim that “many people” including neighbors of the San Bernardino shooters saw “bombs all over the floor” of the apartment, but did not report it to authorities because of politically correct concerns about racial profiling.
Politifact came to a similar conclusion way back in January when Chris Christie made a similar claim during a GOP debate:
We looked for any reports of the neighbors saying they had an inkling of any plans for an attack. We didn’t find any. We did find second-hand reports that weren’t well sourced, and these were repeated primarily on right-leaning news websites. … We rate this statement False.
Donald Trump said establishing a “Commission on Radical Islam” would be one of his first acts as president, and that he would bring in “reformist voices in the Muslim community who will hopefully work with us.” And to lead this historic commission is none other than the famous Muslim leader… former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani???
Trump’s proposal of “radical Islam commission” is just another example of his unfamiliarity with the nation’s primary national-security threats. According to data collected by New America, a non-partisan think-tank, no such commission is necessary or useful.
Since 2001, right-wing extremists have engaged in 19 terror attacks, almost twice the number of deadly terror attacks incidents than jihadists, currently at 10 incidents in 15 years.
If Trump was honest that he was concerned with national security, perhaps instead of echoing right-wing extremist rhetoric during his speeches he should be addressing the greater “radical right-wing extremist” security threat instead.
Ultimately what Trump is proposing is a greater microscope to target a specific all members of a religious group, which has clear constitutional violations. It is the exact reason for the discovery and founding of our nation and therefor is the single most un-American position to hold.
While we will continue to review the policy for the economic impact, which has yet to be determined, it is pretty clear little benefit to be gained in area of national security.
The Orlando nightclub shooter, one of the San Bernadino shooters, the Charleston church shooter, the 2014 Washington killer, the Fort Hood shooter, the 2009 Little Rock recruitment office shooter, the Seattle Jewish Federation shooter, were all born and raised in the United States, negating any effects from Trump’s proposed immigration policy.