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“His Global Brainless Trust”: Donald Trump’s New Foreign Policy Advisers Are As Rotten As His Steaks

A Christian academic accused of inciting violence against Muslims. A former Pentagon official who blocked investigations into Bush administration bigwigs. And an assortment of self-professed experts probably few in established foreign policy circles have ever heard of. These are the minds advising Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on foreign policy and national security.

Trump, who has been pressed for months to name his council of advisers, revealed five in a meeting with the Washington Post editorial board on Tuesday: Keith Kellogg, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Walid Phares, and Joseph E. Schmitz.

Few of these names will register with most voters, or many experts in Washington. None of them are especially sought after for foreign policy views and national security expertise in the nation’s capital—which may be why they’re attractive to Trump.

Trump revealed little about what specific advice they’d given so far, or how any of them may have shaped Trump’s surprising new position that the U.S. should rethink whether it needs to remain in the seven-decades-old NATO alliance with Europe.

Sounding more like a CFO than a commander-in-chief, Trump said of the alliance, “We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore,” adding, “NATO is costing us a fortune and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money.”

U.S. officials, including former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have said that European allies have to shoulder a bigger burden of NATO’s cost. But calling for the possible U.S. withdrawal from the treaty is a radical departure for a presidential candidate—even a candidate who has been endorsed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It also wasn’t clear how Trump’s arguably anti-interventionist position on the alliance squared with his choice of advisers. The most well-known among them is Phares, a politically conservative academic who has accused President Obama of “appeasement” toward radical Muslim terrorists and called for more U.S. military intervention in the Middle East.

To his detractors, Phares is a rare combination of lightning rod and dog whistle. His various claims about a creeping, underappreciated jihadi “apocalypse” against the West will find quarter with Trump’s broad suspicion of Muslims and his call to ban foreign Muslims from entering the U.S.

In a 2008 essay in the conservative Human Events, Phares warned that in the following four years, “Jihadists may recruit one million suicide bombers” and that by 2016, they would have 10 million and “seize five regimes equipped with the final weapon,” referring to nuclear weapons.

This isn’t Phares’s first time as a presidential adviser. As The Daily Beast reported in 2011, Phares’s work co-chairing the Middle East policy team for then-GOP candidate Mitt Romney—who has recently vowed to fight against Trump’s nomination—prompted the Council on American-Islamic Relations to call on the candidate to ditch Phares, whom it called “an associate to war crimes” and a “conspiracy theorist,” citing his ties to a violent anti-Muslim militia.

Mother Jones reported that in the 1980s Phares, a Christian who was then active in Lebanese political groups, trained militants in ideological beliefs to justify a war on Muslim and Druze factions, prompting a former CIA official to question why a man with ties to foreign political organizations was advising a U.S. presidential candidate.

Phares has his supporters, chiefly in neoconservative foreign policy circles and among conservative pundits and analysts. But those connections drew scrutiny in 2012 when the group Media Matters for America alleged that Phares’s connections to the Romney campaign weren’t properly identified when Phares was working as a consultant for Fox News.

Another Trump adviser, Schmitz, has served in government, as the Defense Department inspector general. Schmitz was brought in during the first term of President George W. Bush with a mandate to reform the watchdog office, but he eventually found himself the subject of scrutiny.

“Schmitz slowed or blocked investigations of senior Bush administration officials, spent taxpayer money on pet projects and accepted gifts that may have violated ethics guidelines,” according to an investigation by the Los Angeles Times in 2005. Current and former colleagues described him as “an intelligent but easily distracted leader who seemed to obsess over details,” including the hiring of a speechwriter and designs for a bathroom.

Schmitz also raised eyebrows for what the paper’s sources described as his “unusual” fascination with Baron Friedrich Von Steuben, a Revolutionary War hero who’s regarded as the military’s first inspector general. Schmitz reportedly replaced the Defense Department IG’s seal in its office across the country with a new one bearing the Von Steuben family motto, Sub Tutela Altissimi Semper, “under the protection of the Almighty always.”

 

By: Shane Harris, The Daily Beast, March 21, 2016

March 22, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, National Security | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Same Wrongheaded Justifications”: Republicans Introduce A Bill To Monitor Refugees Who Settle In New York

Last week, Republican New York state senator Terrence Murphy introduced a bill that would make it legal to register and monitor refugees entering the state. The move was opposed by refugee advocacy groups, who called the proposed legislation “heinous” and said that it only stigmatized refugees further.

The bill, S6253-2015, has been a long time in the making and is cosponsored by a variety of Republican and independent senators. In a post on the New York Senate’s website last December, Murphy wrote, “The provisions of the bill allow New York to create its own mechanism to properly vet and monitor individuals seeking asylum within the state’s borders while continuing necessary humanitarian efforts.” His bill was a criticism of the federal government’s current screening process, which was characterized as having insufficient screening measures, despite the Obama administration’s step-by-step breakdown of how Syrian refugees are granted asylum in the U.S.

Murphy’s bill calls for the homeland security and emergency agencies to make plans with refugee agencies to monitor refugees for either a year or until they are given permanent residency by American immigration authorities. The bill proposed “requiring refugee resettlement agencies to submit quarterly reports to the bureau of refugee and immigrant assistance and requiring such agencies to monitor refugees for a certain period of time.” This is in addition to the two years of background checks performed by the federal government before refugees can even set foot in the country.

But exploring the bill reveals the same wrongheaded justifications used by other Republican governors and politicians who have vowed to keep Syrian refugees out of the country since the Paris attacks in November. The attackers were almost entirely European citizens who slipped back into Europe undetected. Of those who made it into the country posing as refugees, they took advantage of the European Union’s mismanaged handling of the refugee crisis. That in itself is a huge difference between the attacks in Paris and the likelihood of a Paris-style attack in the U.S.: it’s simply not as geographically close to hotbeds of extremism.

Furthermore, if terrorists were dressing up as refugees and entering the U.S. to commit attacks, it would’ve happened already. This country has accepted 2 million refugees since 1990 and yet not a single terrorist attack has been attributed to any of them. Anti-immigrant groups, on the other hand, have carried out numerous terrorist attacks over the same period. The same applies in Europe, which took in over a million refugees last year and has suffered a single attack which involved refugees, though the vast majority of conspirators in Paris were European.

The New York Immigration Coalition responded critically to the proposed legislation. “In places like Rochester and Buffalo where larger refugee populations have been settled, we have seen these communities help grow the economies of these localities,” read the group’s statement. “The ‘special registration’ called upon by this bill does not “protect” anyone, but puts up more red tape and ostracizes refugees.”

The New York bill is not the only one under consideration by state legislatures. In South Carolina, a similar bill is being proposed, along with civil liabilities for sponsors of refugees from Syria, Sudan and Iran who end up committing a terrorist act. “If it is not illegal, it is at least un-American,” said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director at Council on American-Islamic Relations, to the AP. That law may face a legal challenge, though, because it discriminates against people of a specific national origin.

Meanwhile, New York’s own refugee registration law is being reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee, where if approved, it will go to the state legislature for a vote. State Democrats, whose leaders have already pledged support for Syrian refugees entering the state, are most likely to oppose it.

 

By: Saif Alnuweiri, The National Memo, March 21, 2016

March 22, 2016 Posted by | Immigrants, Syrian Refugees, Terrorists | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dr. Ben Carson Is On Life Support”: Slowly Fading, Just One Step Away From Hospice

Moments before Tuesday night’s fear-mongering GOP debate, Ben Carson gave a preview of the utter strangeness that was to emerge from his mouth during the night’s proceedings.

During a visit to the media spin room, Carson was asked if he would need to ramp up his rhetoric in the ensuing debate. His response was nothing short of bewildering.

“Um, well maybe I’ll bring some weapons with me, spice it up a little bit,” he told ABC News, chortling at his own odd suggestion. This off-hand remark was strangely prescient, characterizing the night was to come.

Instead of the foreign policy “slam dunk” he promised in a campaign video, Carson sunk into the background as the top-tier candidates—Trump, Cruz, Rubio, and to some degree Christie—duked it out in varying dour and vicious tones.

What little stage time Carson got (some 10 minutes and 27 seconds approximately) was consumed by a highlight reel of ill-fated remarks about bombing children and disruptive coughing, and, of course, a complaint about not getting enough time.

Hugh Hewitt asked a question about the former neurosurgeon’s ability to declare war where children would inevitably end up as casualties. The response could have served as a demonstration of strength, a label which often evades Carson next to the bombastic yelling of Trump, but ended up as an ill-fated comparison to his medical experience.

“Well, interestingly enough, you should see the eyes of some of those children when I say to them ‘We’re going to have to open your head up and take out this tumor,’” Carson tangentially responded. “They’re not happy about it, believe me. And they don’t like me very much at that point. But later on, they love me.”

“And by the same token,” he went on, “you have to be able to look at the big picture, and understand that it’s actually merciful if you go ahead and finish the job, rather than death by a thousand pricks.”

Hewitt pressed him by bluntly asking if Carson would be OK with the deaths of thousands of civilians and children in an effort to fight terrorism. Amidst the boos that erupted in the Venetian Casino, Carson awkwardly replied, “You got it,” seemingly not believing the words he himself was actually saying. Even when Carson leaned on what little applicable experience he has, referencing the scholars fund he created to demonstrate leadership abilities, he misfired.

“One of the things that you’ll notice if you look through my life is that I don’t do a lot of talking,” Carson said. “I do a lot of doing.” But Carson gave more than 141 paid speeches between the start of 2014 and the beginning of his campaign, not to mention an extensive, quasi-illegal book tour wedged in the middle of this campaign cycle.

His floundering in the debate may not have been so noticeable if there weren’t as much at stake for Carson. It wasn’t that long ago that Carson bolted to the front of the GOP pack, drawing the attention of Trump’s oxygen-extinguishing ire (remember when he analogized him to a child molester?).

But November’s terrorist attacks in Paris pivoted the conversation to national security and foreign policy, causing Carson, who was woefully unprepared for any in-depth conversation on either topic, to plummet in the polls.

His campaign tried to make adjustments to mold the quiet doctor into an overnight foreign policy wonk, including a trip to Syrian refugee camps, which resulted in the badly worded summarization: They were not that bad. Carson is scheduled to take another trip, this time to Africa, this month.

Carson’s campaign even released a seven-step plan to “protect America” ahead of the debate, that includes a call for a declaration of war against ISIS. Only special ops forces would be needed on the ground for the time being, his communications manager Doug Watts told The Daily Beast yesterday.

Yet in the debate, Carson seemed to be all but certain that there would be ground troops in this war.

“If our military experts say we need boots on the ground, we should put boots on the ground and recognize that there will be boots on the ground and they’ll be over here, and they’ll be their boots if we don’t get out of there now,” he said during a particularly meandering answer.

But the seventh step of the procedural is the one that probably gives the most pause. The final proposal of the Carson Doctrine to make America safe again calls for an investigation of “the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and a supporter of terrorism.”

“Given the precarious situation America is in with sleeper cells and jihadists making threats from within, and CAIR’s background, publicly stated affinity with Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, we believe further investigation is in order,” Watts elaborated.

The United Arab Emirates did in fact put CAIR on its own version of a terrorist watch list in 2014, but experts balked at the suggestion that the organization poses a viable threat in the United States.

“Carson’s remarks are typically silly,” Hussein Ibish, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institutes in Washington, told The Daily Beast. “He pontificates a great deal about Muslim and Islamic matters, and every time he opens his mouth, he reveals himself to be exceptionally ignorant and informed entirely by bigots and a hateful rhetoric.”

The bigots to whom Ibish is referring include Islamophobe and recent GOP darling Frank Gaffney Jr., who has suggested that CAIR is waging a “stealthy, pre-violent” jihad against the United States. (Gaffney also insists American Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist is secretly working to help Muslim Brotherhood moles infiltrate the U.S. government.)

Ibish explained that while CAIR may have had “origins in Brotherhood-supporting or sympathetic causes,” the organization is by no means “connected to terrorism or in any practical, material sense supportive of terrorism.”

“If Dr. Carson doesn’t realize that CAIR has been ‘investigated’ since 9/11 as thoroughly as any American organizational entity has ever been investigated by the government, he hasn’t got a clue,” Ibish added. “But then again, he is a fool.”

For their part, CAIR condemned Carson a long time ago when he said that he was against a Muslim being president.

“Ben Carson is a failing candidate grasping at straws and seeking payback for CAIR’s previous criticism of his anti-Muslim bigotry,” Corey Saylor, the national legislative director for the organization, told The Daily Beast. “He found that Islamophobia gave him a boost in the past, so he is using it again.”

But there are no obvious signs that it will give him a boost now.

Carson fell from 22 percent to 11 percent in two Washington Post-ABC News polls taken less than a month apart. And even as the campaign attempts to right the sinking ship, private tensions between business manager Armstrong Williams and other staffers are getting played out in public.

And if last night’s debate was any indication, all Carson can do is smile and feign toughness on a stage with loudmouth bigots and opportunistic politicians simply out-muscling him.

It doesn’t work to play nice anymore.

 

By: Gideon Resnick, The Daily Beast, December 16, 2015

December 18, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Islamophobia, National Security, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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