From the moment Trump descended the escalator in the foyer of the garish, gold-themed lobby of Trump Tower to announce his candidacy on 16 June 2015 – to the moment he was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, he has taken almost every position on both sides of every issue.
This is a politician like no other before him. Trump is anchored to no ideology, theology, philosophy or policy.
Trump is shaping himself to be a less thinking, more incoherent, more reckless version of Bush
He is a boat without a rudder, a human being without a moral compass - unless, of course, he sees a great, big pile of cash waiting for him at the end of the tunnel.
Thus trying to predict the foreign-policy direction of a guy who on one hand says he wants to “bomb the shit” out of the Middle East, and then on the other, says he wants America to retreat from the world – putting “America first” – has befuddled national security experts about what it is we are dealing with here and inside the Oval Office.
Making Israel great - again
We are now at the end of the first week of his presidency, and we now finally have a view to the kind of president Trump is going to be, and it’s a presidency those in the Middle East are all too familiar with - Trump is George W Bush redux.
Nay – Trump is shaping himself to be a less thinking, more incoherent, more reckless version of Bush.
In fact, his first handful of executive orders suggests Trump will be Bush on steroids - a nastier, more brutish and imbecilic version of the guy who set the Middle East on fire and crashed the entire financial universe.
On the day of Trump’s inauguration, apartheid Israel, seemingly embolden by the end of the Obama presidency, announced plans to build another 500 illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem – openly flouting last month’s UN resolution to bring Israel into compliance with international law, norms, and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Two days later Trump and Netanyahu spoke over the phone. While we don’t know the details of that call, other than discussions regarding Netanyahu’s coming visit to the White House, we can assume apartheid Israel was given the green light to annex the West Bank.
On Monday, Israel announced it would now go ahead and build a further 2,500 illegal settlements in the occupied territories.
While apartheid Israel’s settlement enterprise didn’t halt during the Obama years, the settler population grew more slowly under Obama (25 percent growth) than it did under Bush (35 percent growth).
Demonstrators outside the US embassy in Tel Aviv on 21 January 2017 (AFP)
A Trump-Netanyahu détente promises a return to the Bush boom days for the settler movement, especially given that Trump’s choice for US ambassador to Israel supports Israel’s illegal annexation of the West Bank.
Moreover, Trump promises to go further to Israel’s right than Bush ever dreamed of. Trump has restated his promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem, a move every US president, until now, has refused to make.
No other country has placed its embassy in Jerusalem for the fact it legitimises Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and violations of international law.
Trump also intends to overturn Obama’s “War on Terror” reforms, and restore Bush’s flagrant violations of human rights and international law.
Trump’s foreign policy and counterterrorism strategies, which mimic and exceed those of Bush, serve no other purpose than to sate his racist, white nationalist and Christian Zionist base
According to a three-page draft order obtained by The New York Times, titled “Detention and Interrogation of Enemy Combatants,” Trump intends to bring back extraordinary rendition, reopening overseas CIA “black site” prisons, in an effort to circumvent US law prohibiting torture.
According to the document, Trump also intends to revoke Obama’s directive to the International Red Cross that gives the humanitarian aid group access to detainees held in US custody.
Clearly, Trump is returning to the Bush era contraventions of the Geneva Convention – and norms and rules that govern the lawful way in which states should prosecute war.
Not only have Bush-era counterterrorism policies – specifically rendition and torture – been repudiated by numerous US military leaders, who have described these programmes as “illegal, immoral, and damaging to nationals security,” they’ve also been used as a major propaganda narrative, helping drive thousands of recruits into the waiting and welcoming arms of the Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda, and various other militant elements.
It was experiencing torture in Egypt’s prisons that drove both Sayeed Qutb, the founder of modern jihadism, and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the co-founder of al-Qaeda. It was suffering torture at the hands of the US military at Camp Buca and Abu Ghraib that drove al-Baghdadi and his IS co-founders, too.
In Trump we trust
The Trump administration has also announced it intends to place a “temporary ban” on all visa applications from citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries – including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.
A ban on Muslim immigration is a cornerstone of Trump’s counterterrorism policy, but the fact Saudi Arabia is conspicuously absent from Trump’s list of Muslim countries demonstrates how the policy is rooted only in racism – an appeal to his most anti-Muslim supporters.
People attend an evening rally at Washington Square Park in support of Muslims, immigrants and against the building of a wall along the Mexican border on 25 January, 2017 (AFP)
The most catastrophic terrorist attack ever carried out on US soil – the 9/11 attacks - were carried out by 15 Saudi citizens, thus underscoring the practical futility, and race-laden sentiment of such a policy.
Ultimately, Trump’s foreign policy and counterterrorism strategies, which mimic and exceed those of Bush, serve no other purpose than to sate his racist, white nationalist and Christian Zionist base.
It’s red meat for xenophobes and arsenic for the rest of us.
- CJ Werleman is the author of Crucifying America, God Hates You. Hate Him Back, Koran Curious, and is the host of Foreign Object. Follow him on twitter: @cjwerleman
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
Photo: US President Donald Trump takes the cap off a pen to sign an executive order to start the Mexico border wall project at the Department of Homeland Security facility in Washington DC on 25 January 2017 (AFP)
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.