Former Vice President Dick Cheney, widely considered one of the more powerful vice presidents in U.S. history, was a key formulator of the “war on terror” and continues to defend the invasion of Iraq as well as the use of torture. He has also continued to espouse militaristic views as a member of the board of trustees for the American Enterprise Institute and through the short-lived advocacy organization he put together with his daughter, Liz, the Alliance for a Stronger America. Although an early opponent of Donald Trump, Cheney has since come to support him and applauded Trump’s decisions to leave the Iran nuclear deal, pardon “Scooter” Libby, and to support the controversial head of the CIA, Gina Haspel.
Since becoming secretary of state, Mike Pompeo has been involved in numerous high profile diplomatic affairs, including most notably his role in setting up the meeting between President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. The Trump administration’s second secretary of state, Pompeo previously served served as director of the CIA and was a congressman from Kansas from 2011-2017. An Iran hawk, Pompeo followed up on President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement by issuing threats to Tehran, saying: “The Iranian regime should know this is just the beginning.” He was among the leaders in the House of Representatives calling for repeated inquiries into the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, which focused on the activities and decisions of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
John Bolton’s chief of staff, Fred Fleitz, is a former CIA analyst who is closely associated with rightwing, conspiracy-mongering political factions. Known for his Islamophobic and militaristic views concerning U.S. foreign policy, in line with those of his boss, Fleitz also share’s Bolton’s penchant for taking an aggressive, rash tone with critics and political opponents. Fleitz once threatened Right Web with “legal actions” for mentioning in our profile of him reports by investigative journalists that linked Fleitz to the notorious PlameGate affair, which involved the outing of a CIA analyst during the George W. Bush presidency. Before joining the Trump administration, Fleitz was a senior staff member of the Center for Security Policy, led by hardline neoconservative ideologue Frank Gaffney, who has spread numerous discredited anti-Muslim conspiracy theories. After his appointment, the Southern Poverty Law Center opined, “Fleitz’s appointment is the latest in a disturbing trend of staffers leaving hate groups and joining the administration.”
Former Sen.Norm Coleman (R-MN) is the chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition. A longtime hawk who fervently supported the invasion of Iraq, Coleman has similarly supported President Trump’s hardline approach on Iran, including his decision to leave the Iran nuclear agreement and move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. After attending the ceremony for the new embassy in Jerusalem, Coleman wrote, “As a Jew, and as one who has fought for the existential right of Israel in a region where far too many of its neighbors seek its destruction, the emotion is difficult to describe. In many ways it feels like the birth of my own children.”
Billionaire investor Paul Singer is an important backer of rightwing “pro-Israel” advocacy in the United States who has financed a long list of neoconservative organizations. He was also one of the more generous supporters of Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign. Singer and like-minded mega-donors Sheldon Adelson and Bernard Marcus, all of whom have supported a hardline on Iran, account for over $40 million in pro-Trump political money. Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, quipped one journalist, “may have been exactly what [they] paid for when they threw their financial weight behind Trump.”
Keith Kellogg, a retired three-star general who served in Vietnam, was recently appointed as national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence. A passionate and unquestioning supporter of Donald Trump’s foreign policy, he once said of Trump: “I happen to think my guy has got the temperament to be the commander in chief. I happen to think my guy’s got it right.” Kellogg was a key leader of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-led governing body during the occupation in Iraq after he left the military, and spent the years between Iraq and the Trump administration in the private sector, with security-based corporations.
Christians United for Israel (CUFI) is a Christian Zionist advocacy organization that promotes the idea that Christians “have a biblical obligation to defend Israel.” CUFI has established itself as a driving force for extremely hawkish policies within the Republican Party, even though many perceive the group as having a religious vision that is anti-Semitic. CUFI showed its muscle in 2017 by pushing the Taylor Force Act—which threatened aid to the Palestinian Authority—even though both AIPAC and Israeli officials were lukewarm about it. One mainstream rabbi described CUFI’s leader, John Hagee, as someone “who is contemptuous of Muslims, dismissive of gays, possesses a triumphalist theology, and opposes a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
The Trumpian new regional order in the Middle East is predicated on strongman rule, disregard for human rights, Sunni primacy over Iran and other Shia centers of power, continued military support for pro-American warring parties regardless of the unlawfulness of such wars, and Israeli hegemony.
A comparison of U.S. nuclear diplomacy with Iran and the current version with North Korea puts the former in a good light and makes the latter look disappointing. Those with an interest in curbing the dangers of proliferating nuclear weapons should hope that the North Korea picture will improve with time. But whether it does or not, the process has put into perspective how badly mistaken was the Trump administration’s trashing of the Iran nuclear agreement.
Numerous high profile Trump administration officials maintain close ties with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists. In today’s America, disparaging Islam is acceptable in ways that disparaging other religions is not. Given the continuing well-funded campaigns by the Islamophobes and continuing support from their enablers in the Trump administration, starting with the president himself, it seems unlikely that this trend will be reversed any time soon.
The Trump administration’s nuclear proliferation policy is now in meltdown, one which no threat of “steely resolve”—in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s words—will easily contain. It is hemorrhaging in part because the administration has yet to forge a strategy that consistently and credibly signals a feasible bottom line that includes living with—rather than destroying—regimes it despises or fears. Political leaders on both sides of the aisle must call for a new model that has some reasonable hope of restraining America’s foes and bringing security to its Middle East allies.
Congressional midterm elections are just months away and another presidential election already looms. Who will be the political leader with the courage and presence of mind to declare: “Enough! Stop this madness!” Man or woman, straight or gay, black, brown, or white, that person will deserve the nation’s gratitude and the support of the electorate. Until that occurs, however, the American penchant for war will stretch on toward infinity.
To bolster the president’s arguments for cutting back immigration, the administration recently released a fear-mongering report about future terrorist threats. Among the potential threats: a Sudanese national who, in 2016, “pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS”; an Uzbek who “posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIS”; a Syrian who, in a plea agreement, “admitted that he knew a member of ISIS and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah,” an al-Qaeda offshoot.
The recent appointment of purveyors of anti-Muslim rhetoric to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom exposes the cynical approach Republicans have taken in promoting religious freedom.