James Madison became our country’s first wartime president during The War of 1812, setting a precedent where no incumbent president has ever lost re-election during a time of war. I doubt Madison had any notion of using that circumstance to his advantage.
Other presidents in our history, though, have. Ronald Reagan did it back in 1983 with an invasion of the tiny island of Granada. His successor George H.W. Bush did it with his “100-hour war” with Iraq, known as “Desert Storm” in 1991. Then in 1999, then Texas Governor George W. Bush reported to journalist Mickey Herskowitz, “One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief…My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it…If I have a chance to invade…if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”
Then came September 11, 2001, after Bush ignored repeated intelligence warnings Osama bin Laden was intent on attacking the United States. “Suddenly, he’s at 91 percent in the polls, and he’d barely crawled out of the bunker,” Herskowitz said. Two years later the United States invaded Iraq, a country that had no hand in the fateful attacks, and posed no existential threat to our nation’s sovereignty. After being re-elected in 2004, Bush stood before the American people talking about earning some “political capital” he intended to use. That “political capital” was privatization of Social Security and other Republican agenda items.
Due to blow-back, Bush never did privatize Social Security, but the point is he used the Iraq war as a device to achieve preconceived political ambitions, not because Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction” Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and others insisted would be used to undermine American safety. It was a ruse.
Now that ruse is fomenting again. Donald Trump is fanning anti-Islamic flames with the Muslim ban dropped in the country’s lap over the weekend. The Trump administration insists the policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months. “The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror,” Trump said.
According to Vox, “Obama’s Iraqi visa policy in 2011 did not ban Iraqis from entering the country. Obama’s immigration policy did not treat people with passports from the seven countries as unusually dangerous terrorism threats. And Obama’s policies never approached anything like the breadth, cynicism, and incompetence of Trump’s executive order.”
So, Trump is simply taking a harder stance to protect us from terrorism, right?
Not a single one of the seven Muslim-majority countries reflected in the ban–Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and Libya–ever attacked this country. No European–or Christian–countries are on the list. You who else isn’t on it? Saudi Arabia, a country proven to be a state sponsor of terror and home of fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers. Neither is Pakistan, a noted haven for jihadist activity. No countries where Trump has business ties are included in the ban.
But the most insidious part: by banning and targeting Muslims with “extreme vetting”, Trump is feeding right into the jihadist propaganda that the West, specifically the United States, is at war with Islam. Immediately following the executive order on the ban, jihadist groups celebrated. A pro-Islamic State social media account even admitted the U.S. president is “the best caller to Islam”. Others predicted Trump would soon launch a new war in the Middle East.
This is the Trump administration’s objective, even if Trump if unaware of it: by reinforcing jihadist dogma, we are setting ourselves up for an attack so Trump can swoop in and retaliate, thereby boosting his abysmal poll numbers and perpetuating an American tradition of rallying behind our leader and the country in times of crisis, positioning himself for re-election in 2020. He already submitted re-election paperwork the day he was inaugurated.
On December 27, I published a piece titled, “A Coming (Twitter) War With China?” in which I theorize we will come to some sort of blows with China during Trump’s tenure. Now factor in this manufactured Middle Eastern crisis. Just the other day Trump threatened Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto with a U.S. invasion if the Mexican military does not do more to control “bad hombres down there”. Trump also hung up on Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over an agreement that asks the U.S. to accept 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center. Moreover, Trump agreed to lift economic sanctions on Russia as tensions between Russia and the Ukraine are beginning to flare again, and we put Iran “on notice”, whatever that means. These are dangerous situations be in, and it only took us two weeks to get here.
I’m optimistic the sky isn’t actually falling, but we are poking too many bees’ nests and I fear something is going to inevitably sting us.