Sarah Kendzior is a St. Louis-based commentator who writes about politics, the economy and media.
On Monday, Donald Trump prepared to give a much-vaunted foreign policy speech as a foreign crisis surrounded his campaign. The night before, Mr. Trump's adviser, Paul Manafort, was accused of taking millions of dollars from Russian backers in Ukraine. Mr. Trump's former campaign manager and loyal supporter, Corey Lewandowski, tweeted The New York Times article about Mr. Manafort's malfeasance, sending the Trump camp into internal disarray. Meanwhile, daughter Ivanka Trump was spotted on vacation with Wendy Deng, rumoured to be the girlfriend of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It was another night of the Trump Train going off the rails, which appear, these days, to lead through Siberia. As Mr. Trump took to the stage in Ohio, many wondered whether he would touch on Russia and the allegations of foreign interference surrounding his campaign, but no such inquiry was addressed.
He had no intention of making an actual foreign policy speech. Instead, he made a domestic policy speech aimed at recasting innocent U.S. citizens as dangerous foreign infiltrators. There is no true foreign policy in his universe – only the singular threat of radical Islam, a concept without a country, easy to manipulate in order to smear perceived adversaries.
According to Mr. Trump's speech, the great enemy of the U.S. is "immigrants or the children of immigrants," whom he claims are "the common thread linking the major Islamic terrorist attacks that have recently occurred on our soil."
This is a remarkable claim for a candidate who is both the son, husband and ex-husband of immigrants. It is an inflammatory claim in a country in which 13.3 per cent of citizens are immigrants, and which has long prided itself on a being refuge for foreigners. It is an irresponsible claim in a country where the majority of mass murders are carried out not by Muslims, but by white nationalists or random angry men – two key components of the Trump constituency. And it is a suspicious claim to make as he and his backers fall under scrutiny for their connection to an authoritarian government, Russia, which shares the xenophobic, anti-Muslim outlook.
In the U.S., one is far more likely to be killed in a shooting by a lone white male than in a terrorist attack by an organized Muslim group. Even recent attacks by Muslim Americans – the Orlando shooter or the Boston marathon bombers, for example – were very loosely connected, if at all, to terrorist cells. Between September 11, 2001 and 2013, 33 Americans were killed in terror attacks by Muslims, while 180,000 Americans were murdered during that same period. In 2012, 66 were killed in mass shootings alone: twice the number killed by Muslim terrorists since 9/11.
No American can forget the horror of 9/11 – except possibly Rudy Giuliani, mayor of New York in 2001, who bizarrely proclaimed that there were no attacks on U.S. soil before President Barack Obama took office. His remarks are in line with the tenor of Mr. Trump's speech, which ignored the Bush administration – who actually led the U.S. into Iraq and Afghanistan – and instead blamed Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton for the disastrous wars.
Mr. Trump's fallacy both exaggerates the threat of Islamic terrorism to U.S. citizens and fails to recognize who actually helped create the destabilizing conditions that prompted a rise in militancy in the Middle East. This is dangerous historical revisionism aimed at tarring any enemy of Mr. Trump – be it U.S. immigrants or Mr. Obama, whom he has accused of "founding ISIS" – as an enemy of the state.
He has no true vision for public safety, only pretexts for persecution, like his proposed "Commission on Radical Islam", which would monitor Muslim U.S. citizens. His prescriptions exploit the lingering fear and anger over 9/11 while proposing no substantive policies to prevent future tragedies, as the past 15 years have shown Americans are far more likely to be killed by non-Muslim citizens than by Muslim terrorist groups.
Mr. Trump presents the U.S. as a nation under attack far more from within than from the outside. This is true, but not in the way he intended. A lying, bigoted zealot with executive power poses a far greater threat to U.S. stability than any Muslim who comes to the U.S. in search of a better life.