President Trump has confirmed that retired Lt. General H.R. McMaster is his new choice to be his national security adviser.
There have been indications that the Republican establishment has been trying to prevent Trump from affecting the sweeping reform that he has promised. This appointment could indicate that, at least for the moment, they have gained the upper hand.
A source that has asked to remain anonymous informs me of being present in August 2014 when McMaster was the featured speaker for the President’s Lecture Series at National Defense University. McMaster addressed an assembly of all the students in the colleges of the National Defense, including the National War College, the College of International Security Affairs (CISA), the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy (formerly the Industrial College of the Armed Forces), and the others.
No transcript or video is publicly available, but there was a large crowd and multiple witnesses. In his address, McMaster reportedly said: “The Islamic State is not Islamic.”
This was during the Obama regime, when that was the official policy of the U.S. government. However, President Trump has repeatedly criticized his predecessor (and his 2016 election opponent) for not being willing to name the source of jihad terror. Since he has become president, Trump has repeatedly reiterated his desire to eradicate “radical Islamic terrorism.”
If McMaster holds the view that the Islamic State is not Islamic, then he is a disastrous pick for national security adviser. He would continue the willful ignorance of the Obama administration, stifling efforts to understand and successfully counter the motives and goals of the enemy.
The Obama team didn’t just deny that the Islamic State was Islamic. From 2011 on, it was official Obama administration policy to deny any connection between Islam and terrorism. This came as a result of an October 19, 2011 letter from Farhana Khera of Muslim Advocates to John Brennan, who was then the assistant to the president on National Security for Homeland Security and Counter Terrorism, and later, of course, served in the Obama administration as head of the CIA.
The letter was signed not just by Khera, but by the leaders of virtually all the significant Islamic groups in the United States: 57 Muslim, Arab, and South Asian organizations, many with ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim American Society (MAS), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Islamic Relief USA, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).
The letter denounced what it characterized as U.S. government agencies’ “use of biased, false and highly offensive training materials about Muslims and Islam.”
Despite the factual accuracy of the material about which they were complaining, the Muslim groups demanded that the task force “purge all federal government training materials of biased materials”; “implement a mandatory re-training program for FBI agents, U.S. Army officers, and all federal, state and local law enforcement who have been subjected to biased training”; and more.
They wished to ensure that all law enforcement officials would learn about Islam and jihad would be what the signatories wanted them to learn. Numerous books and presentations that gave a perfectly accurate view of Islam and jihad were removed from counter-terror training.
Today, even with Trump as president, this entrenched policy of the U.S. government remains. It ensures that all too many jihadists simply cannot be identified as risks, since the officials are bound as a matter of policy to ignore what, in saner times, would be taken as warning signs.
President Trump must reverse this. He must follow through and remove the prohibitions on allowing agents to study and understand the motivating ideology behind the jihad threat.
If McMaster was stating his conviction and not just the party line, this would represent a step backward in this effort, not the step forward that is so urgently needed. It would also represent a victory for the compromised McCain/Graham Republican establishment, which subscribes no less than Obama did to the “Islam is a religion of peace” line, and is trying to neutralize Trump and keep the swamp from being drained.