According to a recent FBI analysis, there has been an uptick in the number of hate crimes and racist and bigoted behavior in the United States, particularly towards people of Muslim backgrounds. This surge in hate crimes has been so prominent it forced Donald Trump to respond personally to these attacks in an interview with 60 Minutes, in which he urged these criminals to “stop it.”
Fears regarding the effect of Trump’s election on racial and religious divisions in the United States have been adopted by a number of celebrities, such as director Joss Whedon. The mainstream media has also voiced these concerns. Take, for example, an article published by the Guardian last week titled, “Claims of hate crimes possibly linked to Trump’s election reported across the U.S.”
As distasteful and disturbing as the president-elect’s rhetoric may be, claiming Donald Trump is responsible for America’s underlying racism and bigotry is giving Trump more credit than he deserves. One could potentially argue that racism has always been alive and well in the United States, and that Trump gave a voice to those who were too scared to say what they were feeling. In that sense, people would argue Trump is still ultimately to blame.
But one should take note of the groups of people Trump has been so keen on demonizing, particularly Muslims. It is not as if Trump decided Americans should ban all proponents of the Jainism religion. There is a reason his call to deport and ban a certain class of people resonated with a large number of Americans. The American people know the status quo has not been working to their benefit — even under the Obama administration. At the same time, Muslims have largely been demonized as responsible for the United States’ lapses in national security.
Americans have seen ISIS-inspired terrorist attack after ISIS-inspired terrorist attack on the news, and Trump provided them with a useful solution on the campaign trail: ban all Muslims (his team has since backtracked but the spirit of the proposed policy remains).
The underlying problem, therefore, is not that Americans inherently hate Muslims. The problem is that Americans desire security from terror threats, something the current administration failed to provide and clearly not something Americans could have looked forward to under Hillary Clinton.
There’s no point in beating around the bush on this issue. Obama’s policies in the Middle East – and to a large extent, Clinton’s policies – have made the world less safe.
The Obama administration bombed seven Muslim countries in a six-year period, a figure that could make Bush Jr. seem Muslim-friendly. According to Salon, Obama dropped 23,144 bombs on six countries in 2015, alone.
As Salon notes:
“As Salon stressed in a piece about the escalation toward the new war in Libya, the disastrous 2011 NATO bombing of Libya plunged the country into chaos. Today, in the aftermath, there is no functioning federal government, and large swaths of the country are now controlled by rivaled factions and extremist groups.
“There are presently estimated to be 5,000 to 6,500 ISIS fighters in Libya. There were zero before the U.S.-backed war.” (emphasis added)
Last year, four former U.S. air force service members wrote a letter to Barack Obama warning him that the single most effective recruitment tool for groups like ISIS was the United States’ use of drone warfare across the Muslim world, courtesy of the president himself. In fact, three former U.S. air force drone operators have even backed a lawsuit against the president and other government officials. It was brought by a Yemeni man who lost members of his family in a drone strike in 2012.
This relationship between bombing a country and radicalizing its people has been documented across the Middle East. According to Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s “Untold History of the United States”:
“When the U.S. began its Yemeni drone campaign in 2009, Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula had fewer than 300 militants in Yemen. By mid-2012, that number had jumped to over 1,000.” (emphasis added)
Further, Obama’s policies within the Middle East, which have directly and indirectly fuelled radicalism, have also further threatened the stability of mainland Europe. Recently, the E.U.’s security commissioner warned that the recent U.S.-backed Iraqi offensive to retake the city of Mosul posed a “serious threat” to European security as violent extremists now fleeing Iraq will try to come back to Europe.
Yet it was Obama’s policies that put ISIS in Mosul in the first place. It was Obama’s policies that put ISIS in Libya. It was Obama’s policies that put ISIS in Syria. And now, his policies will help transport these extremist fighters back to Europe.
In that context, it should be no surprise that under Obama’s rule, hate crimes against Muslims were skyrocketing well before Trump was elected. Trump’s rhetoric surely does not make the situation any safer, but the fact remains that Trump is preying on the fears of the American people, which have manifested in response to policies that have nothing to do with Trump.
The recent Brexit move across the ditch in the United Kingdom should tell the establishment one thing: people care about immigration. When they feel unhappy, whether it’s due to financial insecurity or national insecurity, they need a scapegoat. Donald Trump spoke to people who are fed up with the status quo, especially when he talked about focusing less on wars abroad and more on making America “great again.”
Conveniently for the establishment, the problem became the Muslim people as opposed to the policies that created detestable radical behavior. Trump’s rise to power has empowered racism and inspired hate crimes throughout the country, even if these trends began long before the new president began his political career.
The strikingly hypocritical aspect of this debate is that many on the left have made it abundantly clear where their human rights loyalties lie, and as a result, they cannot claim moral superiority over this issue. Their silence throughout the Obama administration reveals they believe it is okay to attack seven Muslim countries, support radical groups to overthrow unfriendly regimes, support regimes that spread radical Islamist ideology, and bomb a starving country to death – but you must never insult them as Trump has.
Despite Trump’s rhetoric, he has also admitted that the world would have been safer if Iraq and Libya had not been destabilized. This should be common sense even to the most diehard patriotic American given that ISIS arose first out of the occupation of Iraq before they moved into Libya to fight Muammar Gaddafi.
To that end, Trump has become a convenient scapegoat for the problems Obama and Clinton exacerbated while in office. Realistically, Trump is a manifestation of the problem, but not the root of the problem itself.
Saying we will combat Trump’s racism and the racist behavior of his supporters while these failed policies continue unabated is like saying we will defeat ISIS while bombing and funding terror groups throughout the Middle East.
It just won’t happen.
Not until we deal with the root of the problem, which is that the American people are disenfranchised in a political system that seems more concerned with overthrowing governments and supporting Islamist militants overseas than providing them with homes, jobs, financial security and safety from terror threats.
Yes, Trump empowers racists and gives them the ability to feel as if their prejudices and hate crimes are justified. But this discriminatory sentiment might not exist if the current administration — and George W. Bush’s before — had not pursued policies that have only further radicalized Muslims, marginalized them, and ultimately killed them and their families.