Chris Hedges: It’s Our Bombs, Not Trump’s Comments, that Fuel Hatred Towards the United States
Veteran journalist Chris Hedges says though Clinton’s rhetoric on Muslims is more palatable, she has been an enthusiastic supporter of ‘bombing our way to peace’ in the Middle East
SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.
One of the questions during Sunday’s second presidential debate had to do with how the US deals with Islamic countries in the Middle East and islamophobia, right here in this country.
Joining us now to talk about this and much more is Chris Hedges. Chris is Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, a columnist at Truth Dig and Alternate. He was the Middle East Bureau Chief for the New York Times, and has reported extensively from the Middle East. Chris so good to have you with us.
CHRIS HEDGES: Thank you.
PERIES: So Chris before we get into this, let’s have a look at what the different responses were to the question of how the candidates would deal with Islamic countries and islamophobia right here in the US.
DONALD TRUMP: Muslims have to report the problems when they see them. And, you know there’s always a reason for everything. And if they don’t do that it’s a very difficult situation for our country. Because you look at Orlando and you look at San Bernardino and you look at the World Trade Center. Go outside, you look at Paris, look at that horrible — these are radical Islamic terrorists and she won’t even mention the word, and nor will President Obama, he won’t use the term radical Islamic terrorism. Now to solve a problem you have to be able to state what the problems is or at least say the name.
HILLARY CLINTON: This is a gift to ISIS and the terrorists, violent jihadist terrorists. We are not at war with Islam, and it is a mistake and it plays into the hands of the terrorists to act as though we are. So I want a country where citizens like you and your family are just as welcome as anyone else.
PERIES: Alright Chris, let me get your initial take on what Donald Trump said about how he would plan on dealing with islamophobia and what the Islamic community should be doing here.
HEDGES: Well he argues that the Islamic community should essentially act as the eyes and ears of the security and surveillance state and to illustrate that point he refers to this story that is not true that many people saw bombs all over the apartment of the couple who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California last year. So once again it’s an attempt to demonize an entire community as somehow not loyal or not sufficiently loyal and it is about enacting a ban on immigrants and of course is the two main groups that Trump has gone after much to the delight of his white working class or lower working class base has been Mexicans and Muslims. But I have to fault the wider society, especially in terms of islamophobia since 9/11 for carrying out all sorts of activities and caricatures I think feed that in the name of the war on terror and the state has been quite complicate in ratcheting up fear to justify internal security and expansion of home security. The war on terror has essentially replaced the war on drugs. So Trump isn’t the only problem.
PERIES: What about Clinton’s response? She argues that Trump’s call for naming “radical Islamic terrorism” is a gift to ISIS, implying that his approach encourages terrorism and islamophobia right here. Your thoughts on that?
HEDGES: Well what feeds the hatred toward the west has nothing to do with Donald Trump. It has to do with the one-thousand-pound iron fragmentation bombs and cruise missiles and 155 artillery shells that are being dropped all over areas that ISIS controls. That is a far more potent engine of rage than anything Trump says and I think sometimes we forget what we’re doing and the state terror that is delivered day in and day out on Muslims in areas that have been opened up by these failed states because of our military adventurism in countries like Libya and Iraq.
PERIES: So connect those two for us. Give us some examples of how the war on terror in the Middle East, Syria in particular, is causing this kind of islamophobia here and our hesitancy about doing humanitarian work by accepting refugees that are fleeing these wars and how it manifests itself in the form of islamophobia here.
HEDGES: Well, islamophobia here is a doctrine that plays quite conveniently into the goals of the corporate state in the same way that anti-communism once played into the goals of our capitalist democracy. So the caricature of threats from the Muslim world independent of the actual possibility of those threats has especially since 9/11, one of the corner stones of the argument that has been used by the security and surveillance state to strip us of basic civil liberties, including for instance, under the Obama administration, misinterpreting the 2001 authorization to use military force act as giving the executive branch to right to assassinate American citizens. Of course I’m talking about Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son.
So the rise of islamophobia has been largely independent of anything Muslims have done other than perhaps initially the attacks of 9/11. The continued over 15 years of indiscriminate violence, industrial violence, delivered on whole swaps of the Muslim world has stirred up the kind of hornet’s nest that we’re seeing enraged not only among Muslims in the Muslim world but Muslims in Europe and many other parts of the globe who despite Clinton’s rhetoric see this as a war against Muslims. I think that although she speaks in kind of a softer and more tolerate tone, Clinton has been one of the main architects of the attacks for instance in Libya that have given or empowered or given rise to groups like ISIS. While Clinton’s rhetoric is certainly more palatable, she has been an enthusiastic supporter that we are going to bomb our way into peace in the Muslim world.
PERIES: Chris give us a sense of the climate created by what both candidates eluded to that Muslims in this country has to help us in terms of identifying potential terrorists and any kind of activities in the community that might feed terrorists attacks here. What does this do to a society?
HEDGES: Well it turns us into a society of informers. I think we have to acknowledge how pervasive the harassment is of Muslim Americans when they go through the airport, intrusive invasions of their privacy by Homeland Security, the FBI, and others. We have to acknowledge that almost all of the homegrown terrorist attacks that the FBI have broken have been orchestrated by the FBI usually with people of marginal means and sometimes marginal intelligence being prodded and often provided supposed equipment to carry out terrorist attacks. The racial profiling that has gone on coupled with the rhetoric and this is very dangerous because if you take already an alienated youth and subject it to this kind of unrelenting harassment, then you provide a recipe for homegrown radicalism.
So yes it’s once again an effort in this case on part of the Trump rhetoric to blame the Muslims for not only their own victimhood but for terrorist attacks that are being driven by jihadist whom the vast majority, 99 plus percent of the Muslim world has no contact with and probably very little empathy for, I mean there’s 4 to 5 million Muslims, I think I have that right, in the United States. Most of them have integrated quite successfully into American. Unlike in Britain because Muslim immigrants in the United States whereas in Europe, France, they came over as laborers, we largely absorbed Muslim professional classes, doctors, engineers, and others and the Muslim community in the United States is pretty solidly middle class and professional.
PERIES: Now one thing that Trump did in his call for naming radical Islamic terrorism, he said that President Obama nor Hillary Clinton would actually name what’s going on right now which is the ISIS and the radical Islamic terrorist. What did he mean by that and is he implying that this sort of a approach is helpful in terms of dealing with terrorism?
HEDGES: Well it’s race baiting. I mean seeks to demonize Islam, he seeks to demonize Muslims in the same way that he’s demonized Latino immigrants. That’s just part of his modus operandi, he cites his base which is largely white disenfranchised white lower working class or poor base and that is rhetoric which is not palatable to the base of the democratic party. But again I think we have to realize that under Trump or under Clinton, none of these wars are going to cease. None of these disastrous, none of these disastrous policies of attempting to bomb our way or use violence as a way to quell the unrest that we created are going to work. The arms companies that are making money hand over fist by perpetuating these failed wars will continue to perpetuate these wars and this will only stoke and increase the numbers of domestic terrorist attacks both within the United States and Europe which will feed the right wing as it does in Europe and as it has here.
PERIES: Chris the recently released WikiLeaks indicate that Hillary Clinton is involved in conspiring in maintaining Israel’s nuclear dominance in the region and containing Iran’s nuclear development program. Your comments on those WikiLeaks.
HEDGES: Yea, I mean she’s quite upfront. I have to give her credit on that in terms of her militantly pro-Israel stance. She of course has courted quite successfully wealthy pro-Israeli donors attacking the Boycott Divestment Sanctions Movement. And she has and will continue what are considered Israeli interests in the region which are not our interest. Israel pushed very heavily for an invasion of Iraq as a way to destroy a powerful state within the region. That did not serve our interests at all. In fact, it elevated to the dominant position within the region, Iran and out of these vacuums gave birth to these jihadist groups and got us embroiled in wars that we can never win.
So one of the dangers of Clinton and she’s called for a no fly zone over Syria. Well, people forget that when you institute a no fly zone, that is patrolled and that requires very heavy presence of US forces. Not just air forces but ground stations, radar stations, anti-aircraft missile batteries. She’s quite openly calling for a further escalation for American involvement in the Syrian quagmire which of course again we did so much to create by along with our allies, the Saudi’s and Qataris and others pumping so many arms in them. I think we gave a billion dollars’ worth of arms to “Syrian rebels” as if you can control where those arms go, just in the last year.
PERIES: Alright Chris, much more to talk about but we’re out of time. I hope you join us again real soon.
HEDGES: Great. Thank you very much.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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