President Barack Obama (center) with Afghan President Karzai and Pakistan President Zardari during a US-Afghan-PakistanTrilateral meeting in Cabinet Room May 6, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Obama Didn’t Found Daesh, But US Foreign Policy Helped Raise It

The worlds’s most popular bigot — and somehow 2016 Republican Presidential Candidate – Donald Trump is at it again with his completely outrageous and openly inaccurate rhetoric. In the latest chapter of this ongoing and nauseating saga is Trump’s rally in in Sunrise, Fla. — where the candidate declared that “ISIS is honoring President Obama.” As if that weren’t enough by itself, he continued by pontificating, “He [President Obama] is the founder of ISIS. He founded ISIS. And, I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton.”

Excuse me, but…what? Calling President Obama and Hillary Clinton the co-founders of Daesh not only exhibits (again) an unprecedented (and likely un-president-ed, if the latest polls continue to hold, come November) lack of decorum in a presidential campaign. But it’s also even more ridiculous when you recall that one of the Obama Administration’s main goals in its second term has been to actively fight Daesh.

That said, Trump’s blind shots in the dark may have for once barely grazed at a crumb of the truth. No, President Obama and Hillary Clinton didn’t found Daesh. And yes, there are a number of traceable causes of the rise of Daesh that don’t involve the Obama administration or the United States in general, directly.

But that doesn’t mean American foreign policy didn’t have lot to do with the terrorist group’s dramatic rise.

Take one of the most oft-cited causes of the rise of Daesh, the Iraq War. American involvement in the war and the political chaos that followed not only contributed to the radicalization of those who were already wary of the Western world when the country began holding a number of suspected insurgents in inhumane conditions in detention centers — but also by causing the total collapse of the already extremely beleaguered Iraqi government, which has yet to regain the foothold it once had in the region.

This is due in large part to the ever-growing divide between Shia and Sunni Muslims in the region, one that was only aided and abetted by a U.S.-led restructuring of the post-war government that lacked any real or nuanced understanding of the religious politics of Iraq. It was like some freak domino effect: Following years of being horrifically oppressed themselves by the Iraq’s Sunni population, new Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and his Shia government, for example, are notorious for having abused the country’s counterterrorism laws in the post-war era to imprison Sunnis who opposed the government, arrest even peaceful Sunni protestors, and prohibit officials from former ruler Saddam Hussein’s administration from holding office again, keeping Sunnis effectively out of power in any major form.

This, naturally, gave rise to anger on the part of the Sunni population of the region — an anger Daesh quickly exploited.

In short: We entered, made a mess of Iraq, created all kinds of instability and power vacuums, and then washed our hands of the situation and left it to Daesh.

And our maverick-like attitudes are still contributing, too. Take the story of Michael Muhammad Knight. For many foreign fighters (and would-be foreign fighters), like Knight, the attraction to violent movements like Daesh almost counterintuitively stem from a love of peace and a desire to aid the oppressed, as well as a sense of patriotism and Americanism:

“Whenever I hear of an American who flies across the globe to throw himself into freedom struggles that are not his own,” he says, “I think, ‘what a very, very American thing to do.’”

It wasn’t until multiple clerics reminded him of the Hadith from the Prophet Muhammad (“the ink of scholars is more valuable than the blood of martyrs”) that Knight realized he did not want to enter the battlefield.

So, yes, Donald Trump may have very, very, very tangentially had a point about your problematic fave country – but it’s also necessary to note that even this result from a fact-check on one of his statements is more unusual than a cooperative Congress.

The rest of Trump’s track record has had him calling for the deportation and banning of Muslims, describing Mexicans as rapists, insulting both Purple Heart awardees and Gold Star families, claiming a judge couldn’t properly do his job because of his Hispanic ethnicity, mocking people with disabilities, and implicitly calling for the assassination of his fellow candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Make no mistake — American foreign policy is dangerously flawed and in need of drastic improvement.

President Obama’s drone policy is far from angelic. Interventions by the Obama Administration in Libya and the Middle East as a whole have left the region in total disarray.

President Obama has also continued to push for funding for Israel, despite its ongoing and ever-more brutal Occupation of Palestine.

Insightful, not inciteful, rhetoric is what this country needs at a bare minimum — Donald Trump and his lack of nuance fall entirely short of that.