One of the things that most frustrates me about the conservative world is the persistence in many circles that President Obama is secretly a Muslim. There are many levels of belief, from the mundane suspicion that he likes Islamic folks more than Americans all the way down to the rabid conspiracies that he’s an elaborately planted terrorist deliberately plotting the imminent destruction of the republic. Or something like that.
Maybe it’s the conservative version of the oft-libertarian truther movement. I find the notion that Obama is secretly a Muslim just as ridiculous as the notion that the government was behind 9/11. I’ve already explained why I’m not a truther; now I guess it’s time to explain why I’m not a… Muslimer?
The Press Doesn’t Count
Obama says he is a Christian, and the press loves to point this out whenever the topic comes up, as if that completely settles the matter. For example, “17 percent of registered voters still believe that he is a Muslim despite the fact that he is a Christian.” Oh, OK. Case closed.
But, of course, most conservatives don’t trust the media on this, and not just because of the apparently unthinkable possibility that saying you’re a Christian might not be the same thing as acting like a Christian. A lot of journalists still display an infuriating tendency to accept Obama’s words as truth, even when his actions have repeatedly and indisputably revealed them as lies. (For a recent example of this, see Tim Carney’s beautiful takedown of a Politico piece that fretted about lobbyists coming back to the White House under a President Romney; despite Obama’s pretty words, they never really left.)
But What Does Count?
But just because Obama lies about lobbyists and lots of other things, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s lying about his religion. Still, I’ve never really quite understood the reasons behind this conservative fascination.
I think they say Obama’s father was a Muslim and he went to a Muslim school in Indonesia or something. As every evangelical Christian parent knows, children never abandon their parent’s religion, right?
Then there was that whole Jeremiah Wright thing. As everyone knows, secret Muslims like to spend twenty years sitting in Christian churches, right? But I guess because the church had traces of black liberation theology, which seems to be anti-American, and scary Muslims are also anti-American, it all works somehow.
Throw in some cherry-picked quotes and out-of-context events, mix in an “apology tour,” sprinkle on some “bowing,” all while endlessly repeating his middle name – Hussein! Come on, man, his middle name is actually Hussein! – and, voila, you have an airtight case that Barack is a closet fan of Allah! Or, at the very least, you have enough shadowy evidence to make disbelief impossible if you really don’t want to stop believing.
Well, How About The Body Count?
Quite frankly, I’m not very interested in parsing the supposed evidence of Obama’s history. I’m not interested in speculating on how these pieces may have contributed to his worldview or how this worldview reveals itself in his various activities. Like the truthers, I don’t care about the details because I think there’s a gaping flaw that renders the entire thing ridiculous.
The reason I don’t think Obama secretly loves Muslims more than the rest of us is because he’s killing lots of Muslims!
Obama was directly involved in the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. “OK,” the Muslimer may say, “but he pretty much had to do that. When the Seals say they have our number one enemy, he couldn’t just say No. He had to.”
OK, let’s continue. Obama’s foreign policy has not just killed bin Laden. We’ve killed lots of al-Qaeda under his leadership, from multiple versions of “number two” all the way down to the low-level militants. If Obama is a secret Muslim, he definitely doesn’t seem like the pro-terrorist type.
But it gets even
better worse. The drone strikes that are targeting terrorists across the globe are also taking out hundreds of civilians, who also usually happen to be Muslims. And this is not simply something that is happening to occur under Obama’s watch; the New York Times has detailed just how personally Obama is involved in this, from directly monitoring the “kill list” to embracing a method for counting “all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants” to keep the civilian death toll down. A Stanford/NYU report has documented just how terribly these drone strikes are disrupting the lives of Muslim communities in Pakistan.
So we have a man who treats the gruesome killing of Muslim civilians as acceptable collateral damage in the fight to kill Muslim terrorists. In what possible universe is this man a Muslim??!!
The Fabric of Disbelief
Yet I think I understand why conservatives are reluctant to reconcile these facts with their existing beliefs: it contradicts the narratives that Obama is weak on defense and ineffective on foreign policy. When Obama does terrible things by messing with the economy, it fits the notion that Obama is an incompetent, corrupt fool who is overstepping the bounds of the presidency.
But when Obama does terrible things by killing Muslims halfway across the world, well, it doesn’t quite work. To accuse Obama of overstepping the bounds of the presidency by authorizing the assassination of unnamed individuals without any oversight, conservatives would first have to admit that he’s actually trying to kill radical Muslims, and that just doesn’t fit the narrative.
In a way, it’s a shame that we haven’t been able to make more progress on this. Bush put many conservatives to sleep on both government spending and government erosion of civil liberties. Conservatives were so pre-disposed to be appalled by anything Obama did that they woke up to the dangers of excessive deficits and pushed the Tea Party into a powerful influence. But if Obama woke them up to one danger, you’d think he might also wake them up to the other.
Maybe libertarians and other voices haven’t tried hard enough to illuminate these issues, or maybe it’s a lot more complicated than my armchair diagnosis. Whatever the reason, I’d still like to believe that Obama’s record on drone strikes has the ability to pierce through the veil of his middle name and awaken those small-government hearts to the dangers of an overactive executive branch, not only on domestic policy, but on foreign policy as well.
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