AUSTIN, Texas — Michael Flynn, a military veteran who was once a key player in the U.S. intelligence state, is likely to have an integral part in setting foreign and domestic policy in the administration of President-elect Donald Trump.
If Flynn accepts Trump’s reported offer, the retired lieutenant general’s strong Islamophobic views could be a signal that the incoming president intends to follow through on anti-Muslim policy promises he made on the campaign trail, from increasing surveillance of Muslim communities to forcing Muslims to register in a national database.
Speculation has swirled for months about Flynn’s potential role in Trump’s White House. An advisor to the Trump campaign, he was reportedly considered as a possible candidate for vice president, but the latest rumors coming from inside the Trump transition team suggest he is a likely choice for national security adviser.
Despite Trump’s promises to “drain the swamp” and keep lobbyists out of his administration, Flynn’s consulting firm has been linked to a Turkish corporation with ties to the Erdogan government.
NBC News reported on Wednesday night via Twitter that Flynn would be named national security adviser, though the speculation continued well into Thursday evening, with no indication that Flynn had accepted the offer.
BREAKING: President-elect Trump intends to pick Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to be his National Security Advisor, a source familiar tells @NBCNews
— CNBC Now (@CNBCnow) November 17, 2016
Although it’s not considered a cabinet-level position, the national security adviser nonetheless occupies a vital role in the West Wing, guiding U.S. foreign policy on matters ranging from military intervention to economic investment, and is tasked with coordinating with U.S. intelligence agencies as well.
The post is currently held by Susan Rice, the former diplomat and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations known for her defense of the Iraq War. Previous national security advisers include Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski — both of whom have gone down in history for overseeing war crimes committed on behalf of the United States.
Flynn’s military career has equipped him to assume a government post devoted to the expansion of U.S. empire and the promotion of U.S. intervention in foreign affairs. After enlisting in 1981 and rising through the ranks in the Army, he became assistant director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in September 2011 before being promoted to director in April 2012. He retired in April 2014, a year earlier than expected, and later claimed he’d been forced out of the role after disagreeing with White House policies on al-Qaida.
Since his retirement, Flynn has become known for his extreme views on Muslims. In June of this year he was appointed to the board of ACT for America, which the Southern Poverty Law Center defines as an anti-Muslim hate group. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has identified ACT as part of the “inner core” of America’s Islamophobia industry, a nationwide network of far-right NGOs with access to hundreds of millions of dollars in funding that is dedicated to spreading fear and misinformation about Muslims and the Islamic faith.
In a speech given on behalf of ACT on Aug. 9 in a church in San Antonio, Texas, Flynn repeated Islamophobic misinformation about Muslims, including the notion that Muslims want to impose “Shariah law” on Americans.
“I don’t see Islam as a religion. I mean, I see it as a political ideology,” Flynn told the audience. “I’ve studied it, I’ve looked at it, I see it as a political ideology.”
In July, Flynn published “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies,” a book in which he and co-author Michael Ledeen propagate the far-right’s claim that “radical Islamists” are waging a war against the American people.
“While Flynn at times draws distinctions between what he describes as radical Islamists and ordinary Muslims, in conversation he often refers simply to Islam when referencing the United States’ chief enemy,” noted The Intercept’s Ryan Devereaux, who interviewed Flynn after the book’s publication.
In reality, only a tiny percentage of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims support terrorist groups. A November 2015 poll found that less than 15 percent of people living in Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East were sympathetic to Daesh (an Arabic acronym for the terrorist group known in the West as ISIS or ISIL), and Muslims make up the vast majority of Daesh’s victims.
In “Field of Fight,” Flynn even suggests that Muslims want to drink the blood of their enemies. Devereaux quoted the following lurid passage from the book:
“There is no escape from this war. Do you want to be ruled by men who eagerly drink the blood of their dying enemies? Such questions are almost never asked. Yet if you read the publicly available ISIS documents on their intentions, there’s no doubt that they are dead set on taking us over and drinking our blood.”
Flynn’s claims bear a close resemblance to “blood libel,” the anti-Semitic myth that Jews ritualistically drink the blood or eat the flesh of their enemies. In July, Flynn retweeted an anti-Semitic tweet, though he later claimed that he’d shared it by mistake. According to experts like Dr. James Renton, a Reader in History at Edge Hill University in England, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are closely linked and advocates of both frequently employ similar rhetoric.
In a Wednesday night appearance on Fox News’ “The Kelly File,” Carl Higbie, a spokesman for the pro-Trump Great America PAC, spoke favorably of the internment camps of World War II, in which American citizens of Japanese ancestry were held against their will. Higbie suggested such camps might provide precedent for Trump’s actions against Muslims.
“We’ve done it based on race, we’ve done it based on religion, we’ve done it based on region,” Higbie argued.
Host Megyn Kelly responded:
“Come on, you’re not proposing we go back to the days of internment camps, I hope. You know better than to suggest that. That’s the kind of stuff that gets people scared, Carl.”
If Flynn is confirmed as Trump’s national security adviser, it could be another sign that Muslims are justified in their fear of losing fundamental human rights under a Trump presidency. Flynn’s intelligence and military ties, coupled with his apparently anti-Muslim worldview, would make him uniquely qualified to help turn some of America’s most dangerous Islamophobic rhetoric into U.S. government policy.
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