Trump's War on Terror Has Quickly Become as Barbaric and Savage as He Promised
by Glenn Greenwald - March 26 2017
From the start of his presidency, Donald Trump's "war on terror" has entailed the seemingly indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people in the name of killing terrorists. In other words, Trump has escalated the 16-year-old core premise of America's foreign policy - that it has the right to bomb any country in the world where people it regards as terrorists are found - and in doing so, has fulfilled the warped campaign pledges he repeatedly expressed.
The most recent atrocity was the killing of as many as 200 Iraqi civilians from U.S. airstrikes this week in Mosul. That was preceded a few days earlier by the killing of dozens of Syrian civilians in Raqqa province when the U.S. targeted a school where people had taken refuge, which itself was preceded a week earlier by the U.S. destruction of a mosque near Aleppo that also killed dozens. And one of Trump's first military actions was what can only be described as a massacre carried out by Navy SEALs, in which 30 Yemenis were killed; among the children killed was an 8-year-old American girl (whose 16-year-old American brother was killed by a drone under Obama).
In sum: Although precise numbers are difficult to obtain, there seems little question that the number of civilians being killed by the U.S. in Iraq and Syria - already quite high under Obama - has increased precipitously during the first two months of the Trump administration. Data compiled by the site Airwars tells the story: The number of civilians killed in Syria and Iraq began increasing in October under Obama but has now skyrocketed in March under Trump.
What's particularly notable is that the number of airstrikes actually decreased in March (with a week left), even as civilian deaths rose - strongly suggesting that the U.S. military has become even more reckless about civilian deaths under Trump than it was under Obama:
This escalation of bombing and civilian deaths, combined with the deployment by Trump of 500 ground troops into Syria beyond the troops Obama already deployed there, has received remarkably little media attention. This is in part due to the standard indifference in U.S. discourse to U.S. killing of civilians compared to the language used when its enemies kill people (compare the very muted and euphemistic tones used to report on Trump's escalations in Iraq and Syria to the frequent invocation of genocide and war crimes to denounce Russian killing of Syrian civilians). And part of this lack of media attention is due to the Democrats' ongoing hunt for Russian infiltration of Washington, which leaves little room for other matters.
But what is becoming clear is that Trump is attempting to liberate the U.S. military from the minimal constraints it observed in order to avoid massive civilian casualties. And this should surprise nobody: Trump explicitly and repeatedly vowed to do exactly this during the campaign.
He constantly criticized Obama - who bombed seven predominantly Muslim countries - for being "weak" in battling ISIS and al Qaeda. Trump regularly boasted that he would free the U.S. military from rules of engagement that he regarded as unduly hobbling them. He vowed to bring back torture and even to murder the family members of suspected terrorists - prompting patriotic commentators to naïvely insist that the U.S. military would refuse to follow his orders. Trump's war frenzy reached its rhetorical peak of derangement in December 2015, when he roared at a campaign rally that he would "bomb the **** out of ISIS" and then let its oil fields be taken by Exxon, whose CEO is now his secretary of state.
Trump can be criticized for many things, but lack of clarity about his intended war on terror approach is not one of them. All along, Trump's "solution" to terrorism was as clear as it was simple; as I described it in September 2016:
Trump's reckless killing of civilians in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen is many things: barbaric, amoral, and criminal. It is also, ironically, likely to strengthen support for the very groups - ISIS and al Qaeda - that he claims he wants to defeat, given that nothing drives support for those groups like U.S. slaughter of civilians (perhaps the only competitor in helping these groups is another Trump specialty: driving a wedge between Muslims and the West).
But what Trump's actions are not is a departure from what he said he would do, nor are they inconsistent with the predictions of those who described his foreign policy approach as non-interventionist. To the contrary, the dark savagery guiding U.S. military conduct in that region is precisely what Trump expressly promised his supporters he would usher in.