Trump is Our Enemies’ Best Recruitment Tool

Oh, lookee here, a draft executive order! The New York Times helpfully explains that this order would do all kinds of unsavory things that prove that there’s a wee bit of difference between Trump and Obama, as well as between Trump and Clinton and Republicans and Democrats.

For example, the executive order would make it possible to begin filling up Gitmo with more detainees after Obama spent his entire eight-year presidency trying to empty it. It would open the door to more black sites like the ones we ran under Bush in Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Thailand, and Afghanistan. Of course, to do that, the order would allow Trump to deny the Red Cross access to our prisoners. The order would also open the door to allowing torture again. To get around a new congressional law that insists our interrogators abide by the Army Field Manual, they may just amend the Field Manual to allow torture.

So, what we have here is basically a roadmap for bringing back all the most notorious and shameful elements of Bush’s War on Terror.

When Trump went to the CIA last week, he revisited a belief he has held for a while:

“We don’t win anymore. The old expression, “to the victor belong the spoils” — you remember. I always used to say, keep the oil. I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you, when we were in, we got out wrong. And I always said, in addition to that, keep the oil. Now, I said it for economic reasons. But if you think about it, Mike, if we kept the oil you probably wouldn’t have ISIS because that’s where they made their money in the first place. So we should have kept the oil. But okay. (Laughter.) Maybe you’ll have another chance. But the fact is, should have kept the oil.”

I can’t avoid mentioning that the only record we have of Trump voicing an opinion about invading Iraq shows him demonstrating tepid support, not opposition. If we don’t continue to push back on Trump’s lie that he didn’t want to go into Iraq, he’ll get away with rewriting history.

More importantly, though, his threat that “the CIA” may get a second chance to steal Iraq’s oil did not go over well in Iraq, including among the folks who are working with us against ISIS in Mosul and elsewhere. They won’t like the sound of Trump’s new policies on Gitmo or black sites or torture, either. The Muslim travel ban won’t impress them.

So, it appears that Trump’s strategy for defeating ISIS is to give them a huge recruitment tool and to turn our Muslim allies against us.

Obviously, I have moral problems with every aspect of what Trump is doing here, but it’s also a strategy that makes no sense unless your goal is to escalate this into an all-out religious war. That Trump is doing nothing while Israel announced another huge expansion of settler housing in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is another warning sign that he’d rather incite people into becoming our enemies than make America great again.

There actually was a big distinction and difference between the candidates and parties last November. Doubters will now learn this the hard way.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at