Donald Trump Says Barack Obama ‘Founded’ ISIS. That’s Not What ISIS Says

Donald Trump US ISIS Rally
Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump addresses supporters during a campaign rally at the BB&T Center in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, August 10. He accused Barack Obama of being the "founder of ISIS." Gaston de Cardenas/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s assertion that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are the co-founders of ISIS is patently wrong. The group’s origins trace back to 1999, when it was linked to Al-Qaeda. At the time, Obama was an Illinois state senator.

The group later morphed into an independent terrorist organization. Its current leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was actually in U.S. custody in Iraq before being released in 2004, when Obama was still serving in the Illinois legislature. The group exploded on the scene in 2014, and one can put part of the blame for that on Obama, who clearly underestimated the group’s potential, famously dismissing it as the “jayvee team.” (An agreement to pull back U.S. forces, forged by President George W. Bush, probably played a role as well.)

This matters, because Trump made the charge at a rally this week. (He’s actually said similar things before including that Obama “invented” the terrorist group which has occupied territory in Syria and Iraq.) Trump doubled down on his claims on Thursday morning with Hugh Hewitt, the conservative broadcaster. Hewitt kept saying that Obama might have laid the conditions for ISIS’s rise but that he opposes ISIS and is “trying to kill them.”

"I know what you meant, you meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace," Hewitt said.

Trump replied: "No, I meant he's the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton."

Hewitt responded, "But he's not sympathetic to them. He hates them. He's trying to kill them."

Trump continued: "I don't care. He was the founder. His—the way he got out of Iraq was that that was the founding of ISIS, OK?"

Obama no more invented ISIS than, say, Ronald Reagan invented Al-Qaeda because it was formed while he was in office in 1988. One can criticize Obama’s handling of ISIS or charge that he laid the conditions for ISIS to become such a force in the region, but to say he created it is absurd. He secretly left Springfield, Illinois to form ISIS?

Aside from the 14,000 airstrikes the U.S. has launched to destroy ISIS, its training of the Iraqi military to fight ISIS, the 20,000 ISIS combatants estimated to have been killed by the U.S. and its allies including the United Kingdom, France and Australia, let’s consider what ISIS says about Obama. Does the militant group refer to him as its founder? Its inventor? Its ally?

No. ISIS actually has a magazine, Dabiq, which it uses for propaganda. In issue No. 9, you can read about how the group plans to sell Michelle Obama for about $40, after making her a slave—which is no way to treat the spouse of your founder. “And who knows, maybe Michelle Obama’s price won’t even exceed a third of a dīnār, and a third of a dīnār is too much for her,” the magazine proclaimed. The same issue accuses Obama of “leading a failed crusade” against ISIS, mocks his claims of success in Yemen, asking cheekily, “Would you like those words served with relish or pickle, president?” The group has also called Obama “vile” and “more foolish than [George W.] Bush.” It has called him “the mule of the Jews” and issued cartoons showing him being beheaded.

Maybe Trump believes that ISIS is putting on an act and actually loves Obama. But that’s as ludicrous as believing Obama’s parents forged a birth certificate and planted a birth announcement in the Honolulu newspaper—all in some effort to do what? Create a “Manchurian Candidate” in 1961 who would someday be president? Because a black kid from Hawaii had such a great chance of being president? Please.

Criticize Obama for mishandling and underestimating ISIS, but saying he founded the group is lunacy, or, as Trump  likes to say, maybe it’s worse than lunacy…maybe “there’s something going on.”