Trump Forcing GOP To Do What Arabs Failed To Do

By Ray Hanania

February 25, 2016 6 min read

Donald Trump is being criticized by Muslims for embracing extreme rhetoric urging that the immigration of Muslims into the United States be halted until the country can better understand the threat from Islamic extremists.

But Arabs and people in the Middle East should be grateful to him for forcing the Republican Party and the American people to finally, after nearly 13 years, admit that the invasion of Iraq was more than just a mistake.

The charge that the Iraq war was illegal is more than just rhetoric.

Trump is the first presidential candidate to substantially argue that the Iraq war so destabilized the Middle East, it facilitated the spread of extremist groups like al-Qaida and gave rise to newer and more threatening terrorist groups like ISIS.

Trump has won two of the most important early Republican election primaries in New Hampshire and in South Carolina, and his popularity continues to increase among conservative American voters who traditionally have given the proponents of the illegal Iraq war their support.

Immediately after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the American public became aggressively conservative under then President George W. Bush and embraced harsh restrictions that stripped fundamental constitutional rights from many Americans suspected of involvement with terrorism.

Oftentimes, the "involvement" did not actually involve material evidence of support of terrorism or the planning of terrorism, but rather only sharing political views that were critical of the Bush administration.

The public's anger was so high and emotional that even Democrats hesitated to challenge the false premises Bush used to send hundreds of thousands of American soldiers to Iraq — that Saddam Hussein was building and stockpiling nuclear and chemical weapons of mass destruction.

The war on Iraq has cost Americans more than $2 trillion dollars and undermined worldwide confidence in their leadership. The war spending has ravaged the American economy and siphoned funds from important social programs to help the needy, improve education and create jobs.

Trump has made criticism of the Iraq war a cornerstone of his Republican candidacy and used it to force Jeb Bush, the former president's brother, to suspend his candidacy from a dramatic lack of support.

When Jeb Bush defended his brother during a recent GOP debate, he argued that George W. Bush had "protected" this country. But Trump quickly pointed out that the worst act of terrorism against America occurred "under his watch."

The debate itself is amazing. It is one Arabs and Muslims have been trying to engage in since March 19, 2003, the occupation of Iraq.

Iraq today is a disaster. Yet, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Iraq war was President Bush's vice president, Dick Cheney. His company, Halliburton, and several subsidiaries that were spun off from Halliburton including KBR, profited enormously from the spending.

It is estimated that Halliburton and its subsidiaries may have profited by more than $250 billion.

Worse still, since the Iraq war, terrorism has spread through Iraq and into surrounding Middle East countries, de-stabilizing the region. It has allowed the former Soviet Union to send massive troops into neighboring Syria where another dictator, Bashar al-Assad, continues to murder thousands of civilians.

The creation of the Islamic State has resulted in the displacement of nearly 10 million Syrian civilians, and it is Congress that has opposed giving Syrian refugees sanctuary.

Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and New York senator, voted in support of the Iraq War Resolution in October 2002 that authorized the bombing, the invasion and the occupation of Iraq.

Her cowardice in standing up to Bush was driven by political fears in the wake of the anger that swept Americans after Sept. 11, 2001. It weakened her chances to become the Democratic nominee, and she is now neck-and-neck with Democratic challenger and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

At least Bernie Sanders voted against the Iraq War Resolution. But he waffled and supported 4 of 10 measures to fund the war during the Bush administration.

I understand how Arabs and Muslims live on an emotional roller-coaster, being targeted by racists and bigots because of their religion and culture. But the Trump rhetoric that has ignited their anger has blinded their reasoning and clouded their ability to understand American politics.

Trump has never held public office. He was never in a political position to impact national policies towards Iraq, Syrian refugees, the Middle East or Muslims.

The real threat to Arabs and Muslims, and to the people of the Middle East, is the extremist positions that most of the elected American political officials have taken and continue to take.

Despite his rhetoric, Trump could easily change his views. His call to block the immigration of Muslims into the United States could be just that, political rhetoric to win votes in a country where anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hysteria is at its highest.

But the rest of the elected officials can't change. They are on record and they missed their chance to do the right thing.

Only because of Trump has the truth about the Iraq war finally become the focus of a national debate. And that is the first step towards recognizing the true threat of terrorism, the real role Arabs and Muslims play in this country and finding a way to defeat ISIS and establish peace.

Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist, managing editor of The Arab Daily News at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, and writer at Al Jazeera English. Follow him on Twitter @RayHanania. To find out more about Ray Hanania and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

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