While in Riyadh, President Trump delivered a speech in front of Arab and Muslim leaders at the Arab Islamic American Summit, urging the Muslim world to take a stand against global terrorism and share the burden of eradicating extremism in the region.
“I stand before you as a representative of the American people to deliver a message of friendship and hope and love. That is why I chose to make my first foreign visit a trip to the heart of the Muslim world, to the nation that serves as custodian of the two holiest sites in the Islamic faith. In my inaugural address to the American people, I pledged to strengthen America’s oldest friendships and to build new partnerships in pursuit of peace. I also promised that America will not seek to impose our way of life on others, but to outstretch our hands in the spirit of cooperation and trust.”
The president added: “Terrorism has spread all across the world, but the path to peace begins right here on this ancient soil in this sacred land. America is prepared to stand with you in pursuit of shared interests and common security, but the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their country, and frankly for their families, for their children. It’s a choice between two futures, and it is a choice America cannot make for you.”
Inevitably the mainstream American news establishment will praise Trump for sounding presidential. Likewise, his base will give him high marks for holding the Muslim world accountable for naming who they perceive to be the main culprit for global terrorism.
Sadly, this praise is unmerited in light of the United States’ own culpability in spreading terrorism.
From Afghanistan to Iraq to Yemen, the US funds, arms and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the Middle East region. For decades, the US has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.
For starters, there is the American-led coalition invasion and occupation of Afghanistan (2001-2014), which sparked the Taliban Insurgency and commenced an intractable war that is still being waged today. (It is turning into America’s longest war in history. Vietnam technically lasted 25 years.)
Next, I can point to the invasion and occupation of Iraq (2003-2013), which led to the overthrow of the Ba’ath Party government and the execution of Saddam Hussein, but unleashed a hell fury of violence that has claimed millions of casualties. As a result, Iranian influence in Iraq has increased, and al-Qaeda in Iraq evolved into what we now know as ISIS.
This was followed by the US led War in North-West Pakistan, which has continued unabated since 2004. This campaign of mainly secret bombings and drone strikes has produced immeasurable suffering on a population that has no real means of self- defense.
Moreover, one can cite The Libyan Civil War of 2011, which led to the overthrow of the Gaddafi government and the death of Muammar Gaddafi, but, like the Iraq fiasco before it, unleashed a Pandora’s Box of post-civil war carnage. Today, Libya is teetering on the brink of total anarchy.
Today, there is the War on ISIS (known as Operation Inherent Resolve), which is part of the Iraqi Civil War, Syrian Civil War, Second Libyan Civil War, the Boko Haram insurgency, and America’s “War on Terror.” On a regular basis airstrikes on ISIS and al-Qaeda positions in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Nigeria, and Afghanistan, cause thousands to flee their homes instigating an international refugee crisis.
The latest act of aggression against the Muslim world occurred on April 13th, 2017, when the U.S. dropped a GBU-43/B MOAB on an ISIS controlled tunnel system in Afghanistan, resulting in the deaths of 94 ISIS militants, including 4 commanders. To this day we do not have data for how many innocent casualties there were. But clearly the use of this weapon set a horrible precedent that will not be fully realized for years to come.
As I see it, Donald Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia was willfully ignorant about the role America has played in terrorizing Middle Eastern nations through invasions, occupations, sanctions, embargoes, drone strikes, and the use of nightmarish weapons such as the MOAB.
To talk about the role of Islamic terrorism in the region without mentioning the United States as an aggressor is not just historically misaligned; it is also morally disingenuous.