Donald Trump’s exploitation of Orlando benefits ISIS

Six days following the 9-11 attacks, former US President George W. Bush headed to the DC Islamic Center to console a bereaved nation, and emphasize that "the face of terror is not the true faith of Islam”. “Islam is peace”, he said.

Almost 15 years to the day, the face of the Republican Party has tremendously changed with the presumptive nomination of the right wing populist candidate Donald Trump.

Trump had from the very early moments of the Orlando attack – the worst mass shooting in the United States and most deadly terror act since 9-11 – has flipped every national theme of coming together. He went on a divisive attack mode, aiming to exploit the tragedy by blaming Muslims, and driving an anti-immigration rhetoric.

Trump’s ultimate goal is to turn the fear mongering and flirtations with the US gun lobby into votes, and inch closer to the Presidency in November.

As the world tries to fathom the savagery in Orlando, Donald Trump’s extraordinarily reckless and Islamophobic statements following the attack are alarming to global security and a welcome narrative for ISIS

Joyce Karam

Divide and demonize

When tragedy falls, and in almost every civilized democracy, politicians set aside their differences and come together in promoting a message of unity and togetherness. We have seen it in the United States after 9-11, in France after the Paris attacks, and in India after the Mumbai terror. Donald Trump has chosen to break this rule, and sow fear and discord in the American society only hours after the horror in Orlando on Sunday.

It is hard to tell whether Trump’s post-Orlando tactics are due his drop in the polls, or simply an episode of the candidate just being himself, unable to exercise self-control even in times of crisis. In the last 24 hours, Trump’s tweets and TV statements have ranged from his awkward thanks to supporters for congratulating him on being right about “radical Islamic terrorism”, to floating conspiracies on US President Barack Obama, calling on him to step down and then blaming the Muslim Community for not reporting on the perpetrator.

To Trump, Obama has a secret agenda and doesn’t want to do anything about terrorism, while the Muslim community is to be blamed and demonized for not reporting on the attacks. “Believe me, the community knows the people that have the potential to blow up”, Trump told CNN.

In what fits his despotic style, Trump went after the media, revoking the Washington Post’s credentials for reporting this story on his erratic comments. While the goal for Trump is to maximize his media coverage, this disruptive behavior after Orlando should beg more questions about his readiness to serve as Commander-in-Chief.

A blessing for ISIS

For all his macho and muscular talk, Trump has nothing close to a strategy when it comes to fighting ISIS. His anti-Muslim, anti-refugee, anti-immigration talk is a blessing in disguise for ISIS who will use it as an evidence that Islam is at war with the West, and to further oppress those hoping to leave the so-called caliphate to “the land of apostates”.

In many ways, ISIS is getting a free ride with the Orlando attack. Investigations show that shooter had no ties to a terror network and was mostly inspired by ISIS propaganda. Now, aided by Trump’s muddled message and allegations, the notorious terrorist group can take a victory lap for attacking the United States.

Trump’s plan to ban Muslims and any immigration from countries with proven history of terrorism is seen as unconstitutional, and it does little to address the problem.

The attackers in Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino, and Orlando are mostly home grown terrorists with Western passports. They are citizens of Belgium, France, and the United States, who don’t fit in Trump’s new ban or anti-refugee policy.

As far as homegrown terrorism is concerned, Trump wants to work with no other group than National Rifle Association to “find tips to prevent terrorism”. He proposed on CNN that citizens strap guns to their waists and ankles when going to a nightclub.

By advocating a massive armament of the American public, Trump is not only endangering the security of the United States, he is ignoring the elephant in the room on how a terrorist in Orlando was able to acquire sophisticated assault weapon and kill 49 Americans.

When it comes to the actual plans for defeating ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Trump has none, and his proposals range from incoherent to hollow. He has both supported and opposed the Iraq war, offered both a GCC-funded safe zone and ISIS-free zone in Syria.

As the world tries to fathom the savagery in Orlando, Donald Trump’s extraordinarily reckless and Islamophobic statements following the attack are alarming to global security and a welcome narrative for ISIS. Even if Trump loses in November, the challenge of overcoming this rhetoric will be the most tedious task for the Republican Party and the next US President.
Joyce Karam is the Washington Bureau Chief for Al-Hayat Newspaper, an International Arabic Daily based in London. She has covered American politics extensively since 2004 with focus on U.S. policy towards the Middle East. Prior to that, she worked as a Journalist in Lebanon, covering the Post-war situation. Joyce holds a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution. Twitter: @Joyce_Karam

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48
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