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Why ISIS, Al-Qaida and Iran’s Mullahs all love Trump

Have Americans really become a nation of gullible cowards? Sometimes it looks that way. Take President Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven Middle Eastern and North African countries. If you think it has anything whatsoever to do with protecting against terrorist attacks, then you haven’t been paying attention.

The administration’s policies are designed not to deal with real problems in the visible world, but to rile up partisan ignoranuses (sic) here in the U.S.A. Also to stimulate nativism and fear of dark-skinned foreigners, and to make Democrats appear to be defending Muslims instead of the Constitution.

Poorly thought out and incompetently drafted, to the extent that Trump’s order has anything to do with ISIS or al-Qaida terrorists, it will help them. The reasons are quite simple, and pretty much undeniable.

New York Times reporter David Zucchino spoke with Iraqi soldiers barricaded inside the city of Mosul, where they are fighting a brutal house-to-house battle against ISIS fighters for control of the country’s second-biggest city. Its outcome is crucial to breaking the terrorist insurrection for good.

“If America doesn’t want Iraqis because we are all terrorists, then America should send its sons back to Iraq to fight the terrorists themselves,” Capt. Ahmed Adnan al-Musawe said. Officers and enlisted men interviewed in Mosul unanimously described Trump’s order as a grave insult to their honor, and that of their fallen comrades.

The Iraqi commanding officer in Mosul said, “This decision by Trump blows up our liberation efforts of cooperation and coordination with American forces.” English-speaking Brig. Gen. Mizhir Khalid al-Mashhadani described himself as astounded by the president’s order. He added that American officers in Iraq helping to train Iraqi forces thought it hasty and badly considered.

It’s not for nothing that former Secretaries of State John Kerry and Madeleine Albright described Trump’s order in a court filing as “ill-conceived, poorly implemented and ill-explained” — and an obvious impediment to persuading Muslims to resist Islamic extremism. Meanwhile, ISIS propagandists couldn’t have been happier. They crowed that exactly as they’d alleged all along, America had now declared war on Islam.

Even Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khameni — a resolute foe of Sunni Arab extremism — found something to like in Trump’s bungling. “We actually thank this new president! We thank him, because he made it easier for us to reveal the real face of the United States,” he said. “Now, with everything he is doing — handcuffing a child as young as 5 at an airport — he is showing the reality of American human rights.”

Never mind that the handcuffing thing falls under the heading of Fake News. Didn’t happen. Even so, Trump handed the Iranian leader a big propaganda gift even as he tried to close the door on Persian refugees from the Ayatollah’s oppressive regime. Should it matter that Iran has never been implicated in a terrorist act in the United States?

Of course it should, but to Trump’s henchmen — the president evidently never read the fool thing — it didn’t. Here in Arkansas, one of the state’s most beloved citizens, former Gov. and Sen. David Pryor, is probably alive today due to the emergency intervention of two brilliant Iranian neurosurgeons — immigrant brothers — at a Fayetteville hospital. For my money, the U.S. can’t admit enough Persian immigrants, heirs to one of the world’s oldest civilizations.

And for pretty much the same reasons all eight of my Irish great-grandparents were welcomed to America more than a century ago: poverty and oppression. A lot of people were suspicious of their religion, too.

But that was back when, whatever their shortcomings, Americans tended to be a brave, self-confident people. Today, millions of timid ignoranuses cower behind TV screens listening to a preposterous blowhard vow to protect them from a scary threat few can even define.

So should it matter that there have been zero U.S. fatalities at the hands of terrorists from any of the seven countries Trump named? Well, you’d think so. Of course, if the travel ban had anything to do with an actual threat, it would center upon countries like Saudi Arabia, where the majority of the 9/11 terrorists originated. However, the Saudis have three things nobody in Yemen, Sudan or Somalia can boast: oil, money, and Trump Organization investments.

So that’s out of the question. Anyway, vetting of immigrants from Middle Eastern countries is already strong, and has been ever since 9/11. The process can take years. That’s part of the reason why more Americans by far (22) were killed by cows in 2016 than by foreign terrorists (0).

But then, as I say, this entire exercise in folly has nothing to do with resisting ISIS, a stateless band of murdering psychopaths that nevertheless poses no existential threat to Americans. Instead, it’s about atavistic fears, racial contempt and misplaced zeal for our preposterous comic-opera president.

So: Delusional or a pathological liar?

We report, you decide.

Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President” (St. Martin’s Press, 2000). You can email Lyons at

Gene Lyons

Gene Lyons

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