After a weekend marked by a series of apparent, small-scale terror attacks, Donald Trump called on law enforcement to racially profile Muslim immigrant communities, which he referred to as a “cancer from within.”
On Monday, Hillary Clinton suggested that this might not be the ideal approach to counterterrorism. Asked at a press conference whether she thought terrorists might be trying to throw the election to Donald Trump, whom they see as a more convenient adversary (a rather loaded question), Clinton refused to speculate. But she did argue that we already “know” Trump’s rhetoric has benefited ISIS.
“We know that a lot of the rhetoric that we’ve heard from Donald Trump has been seized on by terrorists, in particular ISIS,” Clinton said “They are looking to make this into a war against Islam, rather than a war against jihadists, violent terrorists — people who number in the, maybe, tens of thousands, not the tens of millions. They want to use that to recruit more fighters to their cause, by turning it into a religious conflict.”
Clinton went on to note that Trump’s comments have been used for the recruitment of terrorists online, according to former CIA director Michael Hayden.
“We also know from the former head of our counter-terrorism center Matt Olsen that the kinds of rhetoric and language Mr. Trump has used is giving aid and comfort to our adversaries,” Clinton continued.
In an article for Time earlier this month, Olsen quoted ISIS supporters writing, “I ask Allah to deliver America to Trump,” and, “The ‘facilitation’ of Trump’s arrival in the White House must be a priority for jihadists at any cost!!!”
Clinton criticized Trump’s focus on the threat posed by Syrian refugees. While the Democratic nominee emphasized that she supports rigorous vetting, she argued that such vetting must be applied to visa applicants as well, saying, “Let’s remember what happened on 9/11 — these were not refugees who got into airplanes and attacked our city and our country.”
In terms of combating the threat posed by “lone wolf” terrorists, Clinton reiterated her commitment to increasing the reach of U.S. intelligence and working with Silicon Valley to “take down terrorist propaganda.” (This raises some obvious free-speech concerns.)
The Trump campaign, for its part, finds it outrageous for Clinton and the Obama administration to suggest that defeating ISIS will require discrediting their narrative.
“When it comes to ISIL (ISIS), we are in a fight — a narrative fight with them. A narrative battle,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told MSNBC Monday.
“When the White House says we are in a ‘narrative fight’ against ISIS just days after a series of apparent terror attacks on U.S. soil we should all be very concerned,” the Trump campaign replied in a statement. “For the U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria who are on the front lines against ISIS, it’s a real fight where we’ve lost real lives.”
Last month, Donald Trump argued that defeating ISIS will require discrediting jihadists’ narrative, just as winning the Cold War required taking on the claims of communists.
“Just as we won the Cold War, in part by exposing the evils of communism and the virtues of free markets,” Trump read off a teleprompter in Ohio, “so, too, must we take on the ideology of radical Islam.”