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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

 
Isis's useful idiots

by digby

















This NY Times op-ed by Michael Wahid Hanna of N.Y.U.’s School of Law and Daniel Benaim, a former Middle East adviser in the Obama administration is a worthwhile read. The US is becoming more like the Middle East in one important respect: conspiracy theorizing.
Enter Donald J. Trump. Last week, Mr. Trump repeatedly claimed that President Obama is “the founder of ISIS.” Even when a sympathetic conservative radio host offered Mr. Trump a chance to backtrack from his ridiculous claim and instead blame the Obama administration’s policies for the Islamic State’s rise, the Republican candidate doubled down: “No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do.” (The next day, Mr. Trump belatedly took to Twitter to plead sarcasm.)
[...]
When this homegrown American conspiracy theorizing intersects with its Middle Eastern cousin, the results can be damaging and dangerous to America’s standing and interests. In 2012, for instance, former Representative Michele Bachmann, a Republican from Minnesota, told an interviewer, “it appears that there has been a deep penetration in the halls of our United States government by the Muslim Brotherhood.” Without offering any credible evidence, Mrs. Bachmann and other House colleagues called for the Justice Department to investigate.

This unfounded allegation found a second life in Egypt, where the government and much of the population came to resent the United States’ response to the overthrow of a Muslim Brotherhood president. Egyptian news outlets showed clips of Representative Louie Gohmert, a Republican from Texas, on the House floor alleging United States support for the Muslim Brotherhood to malign the United States as the sinister hidden hand behind Egypt’s turmoil. To this day, such accusations damage United States-Egypt relations, providing fuel for the prosecution of Egyptians who have worked with the United States and complicating cooperation on counterterrorism and counter-radicalization.

Of course, no region has a monopoly on conspiracy theories. But their ubiquity in the Middle East is undeniable. Americans who travel frequently to the region know well the dread when confronted by otherwise worldly individuals who question whether the Central Intelligence Agency created Al Qaeda or perpetrated the Sept. 11 attacks.
[...]
Just this weekend, Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, publicly endorsed Mr. Trump’s remarks: “This is an American presidential candidate. This was spoken on behalf of the Republican Party. He has data and documents.” (Apparently, the “sarcasm” was lost on Mr. Nasrallah, whose group backs the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.)

Everything the United States does in the Middle East — from diplomatic negotiations to humanitarian aid to military and intelligence cooperation — is made more difficult when would-be partners and their publics suspect the worst.
[...]
Not long ago, when America’s overseas enemies and critics wanted to mislead their publics to believe that the American government was in cahoots with terrorists like the Islamic State or Al Qaeda, they had to look to the United States’ political fringe for confirmation of their own conspiracy theories. Now, thanks to Mr. Trump, America’s enemies can simply run the videotape of a major party’s nominee for president.
The article does not overlook America's actions in the region contributing to these conspiracy theories. Sometimes there really are conspiracies. But that doesn't change the fact that playing into this propensity for believing conspiracies is not a dangerous game or one which helps anyone, including the people of the middle east. These Republican bozos need to keep their mouths shut.

And Americans need to keep a lid on this nonsense at home too.


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