It’s been the week from hell for Donald Trump. Everything seems to be going wrong for him. The worst was the foolish and painful fight he picked with the grieving Khan family.
What happened was clearly a very clever ambush devised by the Clinton camp. A Muslim-American attorney, Khizr Khan, whose army officer son had been blown up in Iraq, was put on show at the Democratic Convention to attack Donald Trump’s ignorant and stupid anti-Muslim policies – and to embarrass him.
It worked brilliantly. Trump, like an enraged mastodon, fell right into the trap. After being sternly rebuked by Mr. Khan, Trump foolishly attacked Mrs. Khan, inferring that she was an oppressed Muslim woman and thus unworthy of our attention. The Khan’s dignified responseto Trump’s boorish behavior shamed him and upset many voters.
Instead of attacking Mrs. Khan, Trump should have reminded them that Senator Hillary Clinton voted for the Iraq invasion, now seen by many as a major crime. The Khan’s son would likely be alive today – along with 4,491 US soldiers and a million or so Iraqis – if the Bush administration, with almost total Democratic support, had not fabricated and waged this ugly war.
Let’s not forget the targeted US bombing campaign – supported by Sen. Clinton – that destroyed Iraq’s water purification system and sewage treatment plants. This was, according to some UN and European critics, a major war crime that caused the death of some 550,000 Iraqi children (figures from the UN) from water-born diseases.
Recall former US neoconservative secretary of state Madeleine Albright’s notorious claim that these deaths were a ‘necessary price to pay’ for ‘liberating’ Iraq. At the same time, the US was barring the import by Iraq of school pencils under the preposterous claim that their lead would be used in Iraq’s non-existent nuclear weapons program. The vile Albright had the nerve to accuse Trump this week of being unfit for office.
Donald Trump clearly does not understand the Mideast. He is trying to assess its complexities like an accountant. In fact, he is totally lost.
I spoke with Trump last February and suggested very strongly that he need urgent help in finding his way through the Mideast’s pitfalls and minefields. He has, it seems, relied on his own imperfect knowledge and instincts, and too often heeded Washington neocons and their media yes-men at the Wall Street Journal and Fox TV
Trump simply does not understand that there are all sorts of Muslims. There is no common Muslim identity or common interest, any more than there is a Christian, Hindu or Buddhist one. What has a Muslim in Indonesia have in common with a Moroccan Muslim? Nothing, save a vague attachment to the Muslim faith. In the Mideast, Muslim Sunni are almost at war with Shia Muslims. In South Asia, there is fierce enmity between different schools of Islam. Wahabis from Arabia are at scimitars drawn with easier-going Sufis from Asia.
In short, one cannot generalize about Muslims. The reason that America’s three million Muslims have no political clout is because they are so fragmented in faith, history, and culture. Disunity, tribalism, and localism are the curses of the Muslim world.
This is Understanding the Outside World 101. Alas, Trump and most Americans do not. Their views on Islam are shaped by highly biased Hollywood films and shows, the neocon media, far right religious zealots, and shadowy neocon groups who spend millions annually promoting hatred and fear of Islam.
Even most American journalists have no idea that a group with ties to Israeli intelligence translates and disseminates most communications from militant Islamic groups like ISIS, Hezbollah, and Taliban.
One can’t deal with horribly complex issues like this with bumper-sticker solutions, as Trump advocates. By contrast, he’s doing the right thing by trying to break up the corrupt, war-loving, self-serving Republican Party. More power to him. But for god’s sake, please consult some real, unbiased Mideast experts whose first loyalty is to the United States.
And stop trying to wage a multi-front war against Muslims, Mexicans, angry women, the entire Israel lobby, Protestant fundamentalists and now a lot of vets. One battle at a time.
Finally, Trump’s accusation that the Obama administration bribed Iran to release four American citizens it held in prison is patent nonsense. The money had been illegally seized (‘frozen’) from Iran and was being paid back as part of the nuclear freeze deal with Washington.
Such a big lie, as Trump would say.
Eric Margolis [send him mail] is the author of War at the Top of the World and the new book,American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World. See his website.