In the media, Donald Trump has consistently referred to President Barack Obama as “the founder of ISIS.”** It is just another in a long line of false claims that does not square with recorded history; but serves to inflame his supporters. There are numerous, reputable books and periodicals on the subject that present a clear-eyed view on which US president is responsible for the rise of ISIS, employing chronological evidence, rather than demagogic self-serving motives.
Richard Engel, author of And Then All Hell Broke Loose and Chief Foreign Correspondent for NBC News, wrote that “President Bush had been aggressive and reckless in the Middle East, attacking Iraq for no reason and then claiming to be fighting terrorism while actually creating more terrorists.” (Engel, p. 156). These terrorists became ISIS. But I expect Richard Engel to hold liberal views denigrating the Bush White House. Engel lived in the Middle East prior to becoming a reporter. He has a strong affinity for the people and empathy for their suffering. What I did not expect was to hear Richard Engel’s arguments coming from Doug Bandow.
Doug Bandow is a former special assistant to Ronald Reagan. His writings include Beyond Good Intentions. A Biblical View of Politics. In spite of his conservative credentials, Bandow writes in terms that strongly condemn the son of Ronald Reagan’s Vice President. He does so in The National Interest, a bi-monthly publication of the Center for the National Interest created by Richard Nixon. In his article “The Collapse of Iraq and the Rise of ISIS: Made in America?” Bandow lays out his case:
“First, President Bush used a terrorist attack conducted by Saudi citizens trained in Afghanistan as an excuse to invade Iraq…Second, after ousting the Sunni dictator whose authoritarian rule held the nation together, the administration…disbanded the military, creating a large pool of angry and unemployed young men…[and Third] continued to support the Maliki government even as it ruthlessly targeted Sunnis.” (Bandow, p. 1).
The pool of angry, unemployed men became the soldiers of Al-Quaeda in Iraq (which did not exist before the Bush invasion). The unemployed Ba’athist generals of Saddam Hussein became their generals. The Sunni community, under attack by the Shiite Maliki government, looked to Al-Quaeda to save them. “Al-Quaeda in Iraq survived, mutating into the Islamic State.” (Bandow, p. 1). Bandow closes his article with “Although President Barack Obama shares the blame, George W. Bush made the most important decisions leading to the destruction of Iraq and rise of ISIL. No candidate unable or unwilling to learn from their disastrous mistakes is qualified to sit in the Oval Office.” (Bandow, p. 3). See the link below for the full article.##
Both Engel and Bandow lay the fault for the destruction of Iraq and the rise of ISIS directly at the feet of George W. Bush. They also agree that Obama shares the blame, but that his role was secondary. When individuals from opposite ends of the political spectrum agree on an interpretation, it has a greater likelihood of being true.
The media today, which includes our worldwide internet, has the capability of sharing vast quantities of information for the benefit of humankind. It is one of the instruments that can supply us with hope against the socio-political challenges we face. Unfortunately, those same media tools also have the capability of transmitting falsehood around the globe. When opportunists like Trump lie about history and current events to serve their own quests for power, it is up to world citizens to employ their incisive and reflective abilities. We must sift through that vast quantity of information and come to responsible conclusions which set the record straight.
Engel, Richard. And Then All Hell Broke Loose. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016.