Trump Visa Denials target same countries Bush vowed to Overthrow

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Trump’s shameful halt to the admission of refugees for 6 months and his 3-month pause in allowing entry to the US from seven countries is being advertised as driven by security concerns.

The countries targeted are Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Libya, Sudan, and Yemen.

What is remarkable to me is how much this list resembles the one drawn up by the Bush administration, only in that case Bush intended to overthrow their governments and risk plunging them into instability. Six of the countries are the same, with Bush having planned an overthrow of the Lebanese government, whereas Trump substituted Yemen. It was former NATO commander Gen. Wesley Clark who revealed that Bush had these plans to subject other states to the same tender mercies that left Iraq a basket case.

The similarity in the hit list suggests a fatal inertia across administrations in policy-making. The world situation has changed since 2002. So Iraq is an ally and the US had been admitting nearly 16,000 Iraqi refugees a year with no incident. Obama showed that Iran could be dealt with through negotiations. Trump wants to ally with Putin in Syria, which is a de facto alliance with Syria. Libya is a mess but Gaddafi is gone. The rationale for targeting these countries, militarily or visa wise would be hard to defend now.

Although Bush got bogged down in Iraq and could not pursue these other overthrows, over time the US military has targeted several in turn. The US overthrew the Iraqi government and plunged it into chaos. The US is probably acting against Iran covertly. It has subjected Somalia and Yemen to drone strikes.

Bush’s plans for regime-change, egged on by the Neoconservatives, faltered during his own presidency. But then in 2011 when the Arab Spring broke out, the Obama administration called for the presidents of Yemen and Syria to step down. Both are still in power, though Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh did step down in 2012; he came back in a coup backed by the Zaydi Shiite Houthi movement. The US has been helping the Saudi government to choose targets for bombing in Sanaa, and has given strategic and logistical help to Saudi Arabia for this war effort. In Syria, President Obama called on Bashar al-Assad to step down, and the US Central Intelligence Agency ultimately used the Saudis as a pass-through agency to send money and arms to some of the revolutionary militias that grew up (some of which went rogue or sold their weapons to Daesh [ISIS, ISIL].

I don’t personally think Obama’s actions in Libya resembled those planned by the Bush administration. The former was faced with a genuine national uprising and there is a question about whether the carnage would have been even worse if Moammar Gaddafi had been allowed to try to stay in power.

So it seems that the actual situation is the opposite from the one advertised by Trump. These are not countries that pose a danger to the US. They are countries to which the US poses the risk, of instability and millions of displaced, when the US comes knocking.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

The Star Online: ” Trump signs order limiting refugees

34 Responses

  1. How many of these countries has the USA bombed via drones or air strikes in the past year? Five out of seven (link to The USA has become an international threat; this democracy has been downgraded to one that is flawed.

  2. Behind current events in the Middle East lie deep roots from which new shoots forever sprout. In the period since the British and French dismembered the Ottoman Caliphate US/Western actions have tended to keep the shoots well pruned but they are getting out of hand and even a large band of assistants is proving unable to keep them from flourishing. The core reality is the Muslim community (Ummah) which the infamous Sykes-Picot agreement between the UK and France secretly divided. The new countries they created were without regard for the wishes of the people, lthe western boundary of the KSA was clearly drawn on a map with a ruler. Aside from the vast wealth they acquired, they sought to emasculate forever what for centuries had been a serious threat to Christian Europe, once even reaching the gates of Vienna.

    …For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
    They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
    They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
    And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
    and called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross…

    Lepanto – G K Chesterton link to

    The structure they imposed was the familiar despotic rule by hereditary puppet monarchs whose survival they supported in return for plundering their resources. But time, swift or slow depending on your perspective, is fracturing that construct. Maybe Obama realised that which is why his interventions were so reluctant and distant. Trump appears not to consider the whole thing of much interest and he may unwittingly facilitate the reconnection of what Sykes-Picot so deliberately took apart. If he does it could be another gift to Russia. A current article in France 24 introduces Putin’s relationship with Khalifa Haftar, who they write controls East Libya with ex-Gaddafi troops largely trained in Russia, and promises Russia ‘mirifiques’ contracts and a naval base near Benghazi. link to

  3. ” Libya is a mess but Gaddafi is gone.”

    Is the implication here that removal of Gaddafi justifies the intervention to depose of him and funnel munitions to rebels? This next comment supports that interpretation.

    “I don’t personally think Obama’s actions in Libya resembled those planned by the Bush administration. The former was faced with a genuine national uprising and there is a question about whether the carnage would have been even worse if Moammar Gaddafi had been allowed to try to stay in power.”

    Were some of the actions Europe and the US undertook to remove Gaddafi against international law? The UN security council resolution on Libya did not give Europe and US authority to funnel arms to extremist groups. Yet, that was conducted regardless, and is against international law. Had the Obama administration decided against any support of Saudi’s support of extremist rebels in Libya and Syria, our world would have been a much better place for it. Instead, in 2017, in a post about a visa ban that will cost residents here severely, we have odd comments that support interventions whose only effect is the obvious loss of civilian lives. IC decried the Iraq war on international law grounds, stating it was illegal. Our actions in Libya and Syria are likewise illegal. Our appeals to international law cannot be selective. The multiple illegalities of our actions in Libya and Syria mirror the multiple illegalities of our interventions in Iraq. If you decry the latter, you have to decry the former.

    • Would intervention in Rwanda to stop the massacre of 800,000 innocents have been illegal under international law? Yes, because that massacre was carried out by the sitting, legitimate government. And it was over before any international body could meet and rule on it. And yet a couple of battalions of Marines airlifted in probably could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. There are times when international law is not moral. Stepping in to stop or mitigate ethnic cleansing, genocide or wholesale massacre of civilians (which Gaddafi threatened) would be a morally justified violation of international law. Someone once wrote that sometimes the law is an ass. Read Plato’s The Republic.

      • The Rwandan genocide was catastrophic. Our government refused to categorize the carnage there as genocide precisely because international law would have compelled them and the United Nations to act to safeguard Rwandans, which was an action they never wished to undertake. So, your stated premise is actually completely bogus. International law compelled them to act, and they chose to willfully abrogate their duty to whole sections of the UN charter.

        • International law would not have required the United States to act. The Genocide Convention states that any signatory may go to the UN and request that body to take action to suppress genocider. Then it would be up to the UN to decide what action to take and by whom. The genocide began April 7, 1994 and, “On April 9, UN observers witnessed the massacre of children at a Polish church in Gikondo. The same day, 1,000 heavily armed and trained European troops arrived to escort European civilian personnel out of the country. The troops did not stay to assist UNAMIR. Media coverage picked up on the 9th, as the Washington Post reported the execution of Rwandan employees of relief agencies in front of their expatriate colleagues.” This is from Wikipedia. So, the UN knew very early on what was going on. Elsewhere in this article, “On 23 June, around 2,500 soldiers entered southwestern Rwanda as part of the French-led United Nations Operation Turquoise.[132] This was intended as a humanitarian mission, but the soldiers were not able to save significant numbers of lives.[133] The genocidal authorities were overtly welcoming of the French, displaying the French flag on their own vehicles, but slaughtering Tutsi who came out of hiding seeking protection.[133]” So, it was over two and one half months before any UN force, which was more of a farce, tried to do anything, and by then 99% of the killing was over. One of the leaders of the genocide gort a 20 year sentence. As I said originally, the genocide was over before the UN could act. The ethnic cleansing in Bosnia was stopped because of NATO action, not UN action. I think the victims and their families care little about the procedural niceties. Only ideologues thousands of miles away who are unaffected seem to.

        • @Gary Page

          It is not called disobeying procedural niceties when George W Bush decided to decimate Iraq and Afghanistan. It is called committing war crimes (something that is defined by international law), and wiping out whole sections of Iraq and Afghanistan. The same is argument largely true in Libya and Syria, where the USA supported Saudi Arabia and Turkey to funnel arms and heavy armaments to extremist groups that went on to commit pogroms and destabilize the entire region. Funneling arms and heavy armaments to non-state actors (extremist and terrorist groups) is against international law, and happens to have deep repercussions for humans that happen to die from their fire. You might think it’s a procedural nicety (international law) that could prevent these civilians from dying from those arms, but I’m pretty sure any Syrian, Iraqi, or moderately educated human doesn’t see it your way.

          What you write about Rwanda largely supports my contention. The United States never even tried to prevent genocide there. It never even made the argument that it was time to assemble troops to stop the ongoing massacre. It could have–very early on called for a UN Security council meeting. It chose not to.

          I think I’m done posting here–and even largely reading posts here–it’s 2017, Trump will further abrogate our constitution, and we will quibble instead about the law being relevant and important, or how Obama’s actions in Syria and Libya amounted to hurting innocent lives through providing arms through Turkey and Saudi Arabia to extremist groups (in contravention of international law).

      • What is in the process of being eroded is the self assumed right/duty of the US to intervene unilaterally in such events. Had they wished to they could have pushed the issue in the Security Council but they didn’t wish to, as anon writes, and that is precisely where the problem lies. A peacekeeper who selectively turns a blind eye abdicates all authority and is left with only force

  4. The action of the photo shown with this report is followed by what has become a Trump routine. He will hold up the document and show it to the nation even though we cannot read the text. Trump is thereby re-enacting the scene when Moses has come down from Mount Sinai and shows the tablets of the Ten Commandments to the Jews in the desert. Moses the law giver!
    Well, Trump has not yet signed a single law. He has started his governmental daily “Punch and Judy” show named the “Donald and Mike” show. Mike is watching what Donald does.
    Trump, you are not Moses.

    • This is a good point, Dieter. P.T. Barnum at work using W.C. Fields’ great line: Never give a sucker an even break.

    • Saudi Arabia should have been first on the list, after all our worst terrorist attack on American soil was on 9/11 and the criminals who did it were from that nation. So why not?

      • I’d rather go the other way. Nationals are not responsible for actions taken by other nationals with whom they have nothing to do.

  5. It was former NATO commander Gen. Wesley Clark who revealed that Bush had these plans to subject other states to the same tender mercies that left Iraq a basket case.

    Bush and Cheney may be mercifully gone, but the Washington swamp remains a breeding ground for more proponents of chaos.

  6. Bush’s motivations for overthrowing Middle Eastern governments were centered around Israel and the efforts of their strategic planners aided by their American based Zionists Neocons to insure that Israel remained the hegemon of the region without any serious rivals or serious threats.

    Obama’s enthusiasm for the Arab Spring, including his favoring the departure of Bin Ali in Tunisia, Mubarak in Egypt and Assad in Syria, derived from his democratic impulses.

    Obama’s attitude was not unique. Indeed, the whole world felt a strong moment of hope and inspiration at the prospect the these dictators would be replaced by parliamentary governments and associated western freedoms and that the aspirations and rhythmic chants of the demonstrators in Tahrir Square would be realized.

    The tears of Wael Ghonin, ‘that Google guy” as President Obama called him, who fell apart on a widely viewed television interview were shared by many who watch this interview and also watched the demonstrators who risked their lives every night in Tahrir Square who cried out for a liberal and humane society.

    • Too much has been made of Wesley Clarks comment. True enough, there were Neocons who held this view, but it was never the policy of
      the American government, though maybe a fuzzy long range vision for some. Clark was
      doing no more
      than articulating his own personal surmise.

      • NO ! There was a document on USG stationery which Gen. Wesley Clark saw; it was the policy of the group headed by the then Dep. SecDEf Paul Wolfowitz. No personal surmise and not fuzzy at all. We who were there still have nightmares.

        • Paul Wolfowitz does not sigh off on policy, the president does. The Undersecretary of Defense only recommends it.

          Of course, Wolfowitz would do anything for Israel. That was my earlier point, that it was the view so some Neocons.

  7. The six-months provision blocking ALL immigration into the United States is aimed at intimidating Americans opposed to Trumpism and subliminally make them more docile. There is no actual earthly practical reason to stop all immigration from every country.

    Subliminally, this is how it works. It’s like kidnapping someone and isolating them. Think Patty Hearst in the closet. It psychologically shocks her and gains a larger measure of control over her. Patty Heart locked in a closet is cut off from the outside world. She becomes docile. But in our case, it’s the United States that is kidnapped for six months and held in an immigration-free closet – we are psychologically cut off more from the world in this picture. We are the hostages, even though we (for now) have the right to leave.

    This is how part of our minds analyzes the six-months provision: If Trump can block all people from immigrating INTO the United States, he can also block any people from LEAVING the United States. Get it? It may seem illegal to stop all inbound immigration, but it also seems illegal that he could stop outbound immigration (or travel!) from the U.S. as well.

    It makes most of us more docile, even if just a little. We assume he won’t stop at any length to get what he wants. We assume he could violate The Constitution (he already does already with emoluments, etc.) and block our exits from the Trump Closet. We reason that maybe the Supreme Court would overturn this. We also understand that the Supreme Court might not overturn it or that it would even take months if not years to overturn it. Scary.

    • If another attack is done in America by a Muslim from one of these listed countries, then you will know something is up. The Trump supporters will be able to say, ‘well here ya go, see….’. I’m hoping I’m wrong, and that all of this banned immigration is just hype, and nothing more.

  8. I understand that the refugee families on planes to the US who were in transit when Trump signed the edict were taken into detention when the planes landed.
    Our church has been working intesively with a 7-member refugee family since June arrival–after 12 YEARS in a camp–where 4 of the kids were born… I cannot IMAGINE the cruelty of doing this to these detained people at this point. It beggars belief.

    • According to articles in the Huffington Post, this ban even applies to people who hold dual citizenship and American green cards. Not being an attorney, but having a wife who was an immigrant, I don’t see how this is legal. And yet it is happening. One wonders how many times he will break the law with impunity before Congress reacts. I think that if anything, Trump is worse than many of us had feared before the election.

  9. Get on a plane with a valid visa. Arrive in the US and be handcuffed and detained. This is the way the US now operates. Take note.

  10. Not one of these persons was an enemy soldier or a so-called “enemy combatant”. Not one of these persons has entered US territory illegally. Not one of these persons was suspected of having committed or was planning to commit a crime on US soil. Hence the Trump administration must in every individual case demonstrate a legal cause why it restricted the freedom of movement of these persons. I hold that every one of these cases was a false arrest. The moment they are in US custody they are protected by our constitution.

  11. Mike Pence looks like he’s watching over the signing of a death warrant.

    What is it you’re so unhappy about Mr. Pence?

    • A – Mike Pence is an avowed Dominionist. Dominonism – A faux-Christian extreme right-wing cult endeavoring to make our country a theocracy with the Dominionists in control. They are currently a heartbeat away. link to

  12. As others have said the ban is reprehensible. What may be terrifying is that our narcissist in chief appears to be using a backdrop of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Is that how he views himself?

  13. Why isn’t anybody noting the fact that the bulk of the banned countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen (Houthi) on Trump’s list are on the Shia side of the Islamic religious spectrum. All of them are fighting to suppress Salafist Sunni rebellions sponsored by Saudi Arabia and other gulf countries like Qatar and Kuwait. And those Salafist sponsors of global jihad? Not on Trump’s list.

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