On Wednesday, Islamic State claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks against Iran’s parliament and the tomb of its former supreme leader that killed 12 people and wounded 42 others. The blood of the victims still hadn’t dried before President Donald Trump issued a press release offering backhanded, disingenuous condolences. “We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times,” Trump said, adding that “we underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.”
Hold it right there. First, there would be no Islamic State without the 2003 US-led invasion and subsequent eight-year occupation of Iraq. The overthrow of longtime dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime may have removed a brutal dictator from power, but it also upended decades of internal stability. The destruction of the secular Baath party opened the door for opportunistic politicians to stoke sectarian strife. Dissolving Saddam’s military left legions of battle-hardened officers and their troops out of work and seething. The US decision to favor Shiites, the country’s majority sect, and marginalize Sunnis further inflamed tensions. Meanwhile, the US-led war was claiming hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians’ lives, and the country’s once-thriving economy was devastated by years of war atop decades of deadly, crushing sanctions. Islamic State emerged from this cauldron of catastrophe, filling a vacuum created by Bush’s short-sighted policies and actions. While barbaric and even genocidal, IS was viewed by millions of beaten-down Muslims as their best hope for salvation.
I digress. My second point is that it is supremely hypocritical for Trump to suggest that Iran brought Wednesday’s terror attacks upon itself. Yes, the Iranian regime backs a handful of terror groups, mostly those fighting to liberate Palestinians from illegal Israeli occupation and colonization. But by its own legal definition, the United States is the world’s leading terrorist state, and one of the world’s leading state sponsors of terrorism. While Iran hasn’t started an offensive war since the 1700s, the US has militarily attacked or occupied dozens of countries in 236 of its 240 years of existence, including every single year of this century.
While most Americans have been conditioned to not consider such actions “terrorism,” the law defines terrorism as “violent acts… intended to influence policy [or] to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction.” That, in a nutshell, describes nearly every US war in modern times. To the countless Afghan, Yemeni, Pakistani, Iraqi, Somali, Libyan, Syrian men, women and children who live and have lived in terror of US bombs and bullets, it doesn’t matter what we call it; they — and our own laws — call it terrorism. Said the brother of a Pakistani killed in a US drone strike:
“Since the drone attacks have started, everybody is very scared and everybody is terrorized… People are out of business, people are out of schools, because people are being killed by these drone attacks… It’s brutality that we are undergoing and that needs to be stopped.”
If it kills like terrorism, maims like terrorism, disrupts like terrorism — if it terrorizes like terrorism, then call it terrorism. Since the nuclear terrorist attacks against Japanese civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States military has killed more innocent foreign men, women and children than any other armed force on the planet. It intentionally strafed refugees during the Korean war. It murdered, tortured and raped its way through Vietnam. It dropped more bombs on tiny, impoverished and non-combatant Laos than all the bombs dropped in World War II combined. It has killed hundreds of thousands in seven countries during its never-ending war against Islamist terrorism. As I write this US bombs are killing children throughout Syria and Iraq. America is fighting terror with even deadlier terror.
The US also prolifically supports the terror of others, and has for many decades. It absolutely boggles the imagination that Trump scolds America’s longtime NATO allies for not contributing enough to the fight against terror while lavishing praise — and weapons — upon Saudi Arabia, a brutal and tyrannical monarchy with one of the world’s worst human rights records and an ongoing history of supporting Islamist terror while visiting the terrors of the Earth upon the Yemeni civilians it is bombing with great ferocity. The US has also long supported anti-Iranian terrorists, including the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), which has killed more than 15,000 people and is known for assassinations. MEK terrorists have been trained by US Special Forces in Nevada and have been embraced, mostly by Republicans, despite a history of murdering Americans. The US, along with Israel, has also been waging a covert war against Iran, especially its nuclear program, consisting mainly of terrorist bombings, sabotage, cyber attacks and the assassination of civilian scientists.
“Heartless” and “hypocritical” are words often used to describe Trump, but nowhere do they ring truer than in reference to his comments on Wednesday’s terror attacks. Yet perhaps Trump is right — but that would require acknowledging the US role in creating and supporting some of the same terrorist groups that later turn on it, as well as admitting that decades of aggressive, oppressive US policies and actions are a direct cause of anti-American terrorism — including the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001. These are truths which the overwhelming majority of Americans remain utterly unable, or unwilling, to accept.