Rachel Marsden: Trump administration guilty of hypocrisy in fight against terrorism

Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at The Baltimore Sun.

In the days leading up to the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, U.S. President Donald Trump saw fit to tell another country how it should be restraining itself from rooting out rogue terrorist elements within its own borders.

"President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province," Mr. Trump tweeted. "The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don't let that happen!"


The U.S. State Department has even acknowledged in a travel warning that Idlib is rife with terrorists: "Terrorist and other violent extremist groups including ISIS and al-Qa'ida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (dominated by al-Qa'ida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusrah, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization), operate in Syria. In July 2017, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham consolidated power in Idlib province after it clashed with other armed actors."

Mr. Trump needs to pick a lane. He can't support terrorist liquidation only by countries whose leaders he likes. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, was caught talking out of both sides of his mouth the other day about Syria's war against terrorists.


"We've tried to convey the message in recent days that if there's a third use of chemical weapons, the response will be much stronger," Mr. Bolton said, referring to previous U.S. airstrikes under the pretext of Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons.

In his speech to the Federalist Society in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Mr. Bolton formally announced America's rejection of the International Criminal Court, calling it "an assault on the constitutional rights of the American people and the sovereignty of the United States."

According to Mr. Bolton, America has a right to sovereignty, but Syria doesn't.

Meanwhile, the Russian government announced that on Sept. 7, leaders of Tahrir al-Sham met with coordinators of the White Helmets in Syria. "At the meeting they agreed on scenarios for staging and filming of incidents with the alleged use of chemical agents by the Syrian government forces against civilian population," the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The White Helmets -- an organization operating under humanitarian pretext in Syria, founded by a British mercenary and with an odd habit of being able to operate freely in al-Qaida-held territory -- have received a great deal of State Department funding. So how do we know that accusations of chemical attacks aren't just a setup to justify further intervention in Syria?

Since Mr. Bolton opposes the International Criminal Court's pursuit of Americans facing allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan, would he also defend Mr. Assad if the International Criminal Court tries to bring him up on charges of terrorist extermination? Why isn't Mr. Bolton defending Mr. Assad's terrorist-fighting efforts in the same way he defended Israel for killing terrorists?

"The United States supports a direct and robust peace process, and we will not allow the ICC, or any other organization, to constrain Israel's right to self-defense," Mr. Bolton said in his speech.

When was the last time that Israel got the "Assad treatment" from the Trump administration and faced criticism for the way it fights what it defines as terrorism? Unlike Mr. Assad's Syria, Israel appears to have carte blanche to do whatever it wants in the interests of fighting terrorism -- as do its regional partners who have agreed to gang up with Israel against Iran. Saudi Arabia, for instance, is imprisoning bloggers and their relatives. When Canada called out the Saudis for it, did we hear anything from Messrs. Trump or Bolton in support of Canada's position? Not a chance.


And since the Saudi army is virtually useless, Saudi Arabia has outsourced the dirty work of fighting Iranian proxies in neighboring Yemen to the United Arab Emirates. Civilians in Yemen are getting caught up in the conflict and being slaughtered by American hardware. Again, not a peep from Messrs. Bolton or Trump about the manner in which Saudi Arabia is fighting what it considers to be a threat, even though the Saudis are engaging in regional interventionism outside of their own borders.

The double standards are so glaring that there should be some kind of inquiry into foreign meddling by Israel and its regional allies into American foreign policy. If special counsel Robert Mueller is tired of struggling to find connections between the Trump administration and Russia, he'll no doubt have more luck finding connections between this administration and Israel, Saudi Arabia or the UAE.

Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and former Fox News host based in Paris.