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Trump's Riyadh speech and the roots of terrorism


Mary Anna Towler's Urban Journal is on break; it'll return next week.

While in Riyadh, President Trump delivered a speech in front of Arab and Muslim leaders, urging the Muslim world to take a stand against global terrorism and share the burden of eradicating extremism in the region.

The president stated: "Terrorism has spread all across the world, but the path to peace begins right here on this ancient soil in this sacred land. America is prepared to stand with you in pursuit of shared interests and common security, but the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their country, and frankly for their families, for their children. It's a choice between two futures, and it is a choice America cannot make for you."

Inevitably the mainstream American news establishment will praise Trump for sounding presidential. Likewise, his base will give him high marks for holding the Muslim world accountable for naming who they perceive to be the main culprit for global terrorism. However, this praise is unmerited in light of the United States' own culpability in spreading terrorism in the region.

From Afghanistan to Iraq to Yemen, the US funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos. For decades, the US has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.

Numerous examples can be cited. The American-led coalition invasion and occupation of Afghanistan (2001-2014) sparked the Taliban Insurgency and commenced an intractable war that is still being waged today.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq (2003-2013) led to the overthrow of the Ba'ath Party government and the execution of Saddam Hussein, but unleashed a hell fury of violence that has claimed millions of casualties. As a result, Iranian influence in Iraq has increased, and al-Qaeda in Iraq evolved into what we now know as ISIS.

The US led war in North-West Pakistan has continued unabated since 2004. This campaign of mainly secret bombings and drone strikes has produced immeasurable suffering on a mostly civilian population that has no real means of self-defense.

The Libyan Civil War of 2011 led to the overthrow of the Gaddafi government and the death of Muammar Gaddafi, but, like the Iraq fiasco before it, unleashed a Pandora's Box of post-civil war carnage. Today, Libya is teetering on the brink of total anarchy.

The War on ISIS (known as Operation Inherent Resolve) is part of the Iraqi Civil War, Syrian Civil War, Second Libyan Civil War, the Boko Haram insurgency, and America's "War on Terror." On a regular basis, airstrikes on ISIS and al-Qaeda positions in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Nigeria, and Afghanistan cause thousands to flee their homes, helping to perpetuate an international refugee crisis.

The latest act of aggression against the Muslim world occurred on April 13th, when the US dropped a GBU-43/B MOAB on an ISIS controlled tunnel system in Afghanistan, resulting in the deaths of 94 ISIS militants, including four commanders. To this day, we do not have data for how many innocent casualties there were. But clearly the use of this weapon set a horrible precedent that will not be fully realized for years to come.

Donald Trump's speech in Saudi Arabia was willfully ignorant about the role America has played in terrorizing Middle Eastern nations through invasions, occupations, sanctions, embargoes, drone strikes, and the use of nightmarish weapons such as the MOAB.

To talk about the role of "Islamic" terrorism in the region without mentioning the United States as a military and economic aggressor is not just historically misaligned; it is also morally disingenuous.

Payne is a SUNY adjunct professor of philosophy and domestic-violence case manager in Rochester. He is the founder of Gandhi Earth Keepers International and co-founder of The Lower Falls Foundation.