In the time between Donald Trump won the election and was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, many well-intentioned people predicted that Trump would govern differently than he campaigned. Well, they were partly right. Trump is actually worse as president than he was as a candidate because now he has the power to turn his hateful rhetoric into policy.
And while Trump supporters may cheer him for this, the president’s actions with regard to Muslims are making our nation less safe. And I’m not just talking Trump’s twice-stopped Muslim ban. Rather I’m talking something far worse. Under Trump we have seen a stunning uptick in the number of civilians killed by U.S.-led coalitions in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.
Here are the some of the recent incidents where Muslim civilians have been killed by forces supported or led by the United States. On March 17 in Mosul, Iraq, U.S.-led coalition forces bombed a target that left approximately 200 Muslim civilians dead. Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend admitted to reporters just last week that there’s “a fair chance that our strike had some role in it.”
Just two weeks before in Syria, two other U.S.-led air strikes under Trump left at least 30 civilians dead. And in January, over dinner with some advisers, Trump greenlit a covert mission in Yemen. Our media did cover the death of brave U.S. Navy Seal killed in that operation, but what received little coverage were the approximately 30 Muslim civilians killed, including an 8-year-old girl who was a U.S. citizen.
But this shouldn’t really shock anyone. After all, Trump made clear while campaigning last year his lack of concern for Muslim lives with his vow to kill the families of people he regarded as terrorists. Think about for that a moment: The man now in the White House pledged to kill people who were simply related to a terrorist. And now it appears Trump has expanded that edict to apply to people who happened to be in the area of a possible terrorist.
True, under President Obama innocent Muslims were killed as well. But as frequent Obama critic Glenn Greenwald noted, the deaths of civilians under Trump in March “skyrocketed.”
This is backed up by the British organization Airwars, which has been monitoring civilian deaths by U.S.-led forces for years. As a powerful Airwars graph shows, the number of civilians killed in March alone by our coalition climbed to over 1200 people, far eclipsing the number going back to 2014.
Why is this happening? It’s unclear, but Amnesty International officials argue that the increase in civilian casualties at least suggests the Trump-led military coalition is not taking adequate precautions to protect lives of civilians. In fact the number of actual airstrikes under Trump decreased in March so it’s certainly plausible that under Trump the military rules of engagement have changed. U.S. military officials deny that is the case but they have offered no other explanation for the recent spike in civilian deaths.
At least when Muslim civilians were killed under President Obama, he personally and publicly offered his regrets. That sent a message to the Muslim world that the deaths were a mistake and it was not the policy of the United States government to indiscriminately slaughter Muslims. That helped undermine the ISIS-desired narrative that the United States is waging a modern-day crusade on Islam. But from Trump we hear silence.
And we may see even more Muslim civilian deaths in near future after Trump’s comment Wednesday at the press conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah. Trump first did the right thing by denouncing in strongest terms the chemical weapons attack launched by Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad on his own people Tuesday. But when asked about what his reaction will be, Trump coyly stated: “You’ll see.”
So will Trump respond responsibly to Assad in way that is effective? Or will he try to show he’s tough by way of a bombing campaign that results in killing hundreds of the very Syrian civilians Trump tells us he cares about? His record so far tells us it’s more likely the latter.
The bottom line is that this spike in deaths of innocent Muslims by our military forces makes us less safe in the United States. You don’t need to be a national security expert to understand that this will be used by groups like al Qaeda and ISIS to recruit. They can show actual images of Muslim women and children who have been killed by U.S.-led airstrikes when trying to recruit new followers. And we don’t even have our president offering an attempt at a counternarrative due to his silence over these Muslim deaths.
Need proof this makes us less safe? Just look at some of the high-profile cases where American Muslims have been radicalized. They have expressly cited our military’s killing of innocent Muslims as the reason for their despicable attacks.
For example, the Orlando terrorist, who brutally murdered 49 people, called the police in the middle of the attack and gave this reason for his actions: “You have to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq. They are killing a lot of innocent people. What am I to do here when my people are getting killed over there.”
Same was true for Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He scribbled a note while the police surrounded him in a small boat. In that moment where he probably assumed he was writing his last words did he cite verses from the Quran as the reason for the attack? No, instead he wrote (in part) this: “The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians but most of you already know that. As a Muslim I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished.”
Both of those happened of course while Obama was president, but the threat of radicalization will likely increase the numbers of innocent Muslims women and children we see killed by U.S.-led forces. And I know many people (especially on the right) are uncomfortable with broaching the subject of whether our nation’s actions actually caused some of the terrorism we see. But if we are going to ignore the actual causes of radicalization, then we will neither truly understand it nor be able to develop an effective strategy to counter it.
I don’t think Trump cares much about Muslim lives. In fact I don’t think he cares much about the lives of too many who don’t have the last name Trump or can make him money. But Trump’s policies that have led to a spike in deaths of innocent Muslims in the Middle East are not just morally wrong, they are making things less safe here at home. That last part might actually be of concern to even Trump supporters.