Obama’s Summit on “Violent Extremism” Ignored the Biggest Threat

Five generations of American extremists. Image Credit: White House

Five generations of American extremists. Image Credit: White House

WASHINGTON, D.C. (TFC) – Last week, President Obama hosted a 60-nation summit focused on combating “violent extremism.” Though he took heat from critics for inviting representatives of autocratic regimes, the true failure of the summit is the refusal of the White House and the media to examine America’s own violent extremism.

Detractors were quick to scold the President for inviting Salam Al-Marayati, founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. He has been scorned as “anti-Israel” and a 9/11 truther. Obama was also lambasted for inviting Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, who represents a government that has squelched dissent in the midst of revolution.

The media’s discontent was evident. One headline read “EXTREMISTS ATTENDING OBAMA’S ‘COUNTER-EXTREMISM SUMMIT,'” but no one acknowledged that Obama was one of them.

Though the president said we must collectively “put an end to the cycle of hate” through peaceful dialogue, human rights and civil society, he failed to acknowledge his lack of regard for any of these values domestically or abroad.

If an honest “summit on violent extremism” had been held, it would have discussed the problem of Islamic extremism. But it also would have acknowledged all governments and entities that commit violence-not just those whose misdeeds feed into the war-mongering narrative of the mainstream media and the government.

Extremists are defined by the federal government as

“individuals who support or commit ideologically-motivated violence to further political goals”

This unfortunately and accurately describes members of the American government who wage war. It is extreme to kill thousands of people by drone strike based on the manipulated ideology of “freedom,” “security,” and American exceptionalism. So extreme, in fact, that Obama’s drone attacks have been investigated as war crimes.

It’s also extreme, for example, to support Israel in spite of its flagrant assaults on human rights and dignity. Though the president and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, are currently estranged, funding still flows and the vast majority of Congress supports the rogue “democracy” in the Middle East.

It is extreme to support, fund, and keep open torturous prisons that degrade human rights (Abu Ghraib was closed last year not by Obama, but the Iraqi government while Guantanamo remains open). It is extreme to ally with Saudi Arabia, which inflicts beheading as a common punishment when such a punishment is emphasized as glaring evidence of the inhumanity of ISIS.

It is no surprise that these forms of violent extremism were not discussed at the summit. Rather, Obama attempted to portray his tolerance of Islam (to the indignation of the Right) while simultaneously disregarding the crimes of the American government (to the thankless ignorance of that same Right).

This is unusual, however, because one of the goals of the summit, as detailed by a White House fact sheet, was

“Building awareness—including briefings on the drivers and indicators of radicalization and recruitment to violence.”

The Boston Bombers first became radicalized during Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which Obama continued. One of the brothers in the Charlie Hebdo shooting embraced extremism when he learned of the torture and degradation at Abu Ghraib. Drone bombs create terrorists and terrorist sympathizers. 17,000 Palestinian youths have become militants as a direct consequence of their anger toward the Israeli slaughter of Gaza last summer.

According to the White House’s own Fact Sheet, the president failed in his mission last week. He may not commit all of the acts that serve to radicalize extremists, but he failed to discuss these “drivers and indicators of radicalization” at his summit.

That same fact sheet also claimed the summit aimed to

[Counter] extremist narratives—[by] directly addressing and countering violent extremist recruitment narratives, such as encouraging civil society-led counter narratives online…”

By “online,” was the White House referencing the internet that is heavily policed by multiple federal government agencies? In yet another hypocritical move, the president called for ideals he has himself failed to uphold. It is an insult to reference “civil society” when the one he rules over is plagued with an abundance of incivility and violations of rights. Especially when the “narratives online” are “led” by government trolls.

It is hardly civil to enable and perpetuate a militarized police force (yet another form of violent extremism underpinned by an ideological lust for authority and political goals of cowering citizens into submission). A “civil” society is not one run by oligarchs who exploit the labor and trust of the people who fund it. A society that deems advocates for peace and love “extreme” is not civil. That same government calls those who oppose its authoritarian policies “extremists,” as well. Protesters are considered radical while war mongers killing thousands of innocent civilians are deemed the guardians of “civil society” and the heroes of the war on “terror.”

It is a tragic shame that in the midst of a White House summit intended to counter extremism, the drone bombing president is criticized not for his own violations of the peace he claims to promote, but for attempting-in a small way-to counter the great amount of hate in global society. He is shamed for refusing to demonize an entire religion (“We are not at war with Islam”) but given a free pass for his own crimes against humanity. These crimes constitute the biggest threat of violent extremism because they not only cause death and suffering, but entice victims and others to retaliate with further extremism.

A final goal in the White House Fact sheet on the event prioritized

Emphasizing Community Led Intervention—empowering community efforts to disrupt the radicalization process before an individual engages in criminal activity.”

Of all of the White House goals regarding extremism, this is the most agreeable. It is vital to empower communities to disrupt the radical federal government from engaging in criminal activity. From incinerating children, traumatizing innocent civilians, and policing the world with an iron fist, Obama and his regime’s violent extremism must be disrupted.