An Ideological Coup against Trump?
As an Israeli who supports Trump and attended Trump’s inauguration to celebrate his win, I read with a heavy heart the reports leaking out of the White House that Sebastian Gorka did not resign but was forced out of his position as a security advisor to the President by General H.R. McMaster and General John Kelly.
Mr. Gorka is the seventh Trump loyalist McMaster has forced out in recent months from the President’s National Security Team. All have been attempting to carry out President Trump’s campaign promises to combat Iranian and radical Islamist terrorist threats, and to support Israel and the U.S.-Israel alliance.
Gorka was the third Trump loyalist forced out since General John F. Kelly, an old military colleague of McMaster, was appointed to be the chief of staff and reportedly encouraged McMaster to make any staffing changes he deems necessary.
If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it is a duck. Maybe it does not sound yet like a “purge” and an ideological coup, but it is starting to look like one, engineered by Generals McMaster and Kelly. It is designed to eliminate President Trump’s national security agenda of support to Israel, opposition to the Iran deal, and determination to name and combat radical Islamist terrorism.
On Friday, in a letter reported by the Federalist, Sebastian Gorka’s explained his “resignation” by expressing his unhappiness with the direction that the Trump administration’s foreign policy has taken as signaled by the President’s recent speech on Afghanistan. Gorka stated:
"Regrettably, outside of yourself (President Trump), the individuals who most embodied and represented the policies that will 'Make America Great Again' have been internally countered, systematically removed, or undermined in recent months. This was made patently obvious as I read the text of your speech on Afghanistan.... The fact that those who drafted and approved the speech removed any mention of Radical Islam or radical Islamic terrorism proves that a critical element of your presidential campaign has been lost.”
On Sunday, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Gorka offered harsh criticism of McMaster's stance towards Islamists saying:
“McMaster sees the threat of Islam through an Obama administration lens, meaning that religion has nothing to do with the war we are in.… He believes and he told me in his office that these people are just criminals.”
A source close to the White House said that after Bannon was forced out, anti-Bannon factions began erecting bureaucratic roadblocks to undermine Gorka internally.
Yahoo News reported that Kelly revoked Gorka’s security clearance, making it difficult if not impossible for him to continue his job. Other news outlets reported that Kelly has been restricting access to Trump as McMaster's detractors are trying to reach the president.
In his short term at the National Security Council (NSC), General McMaster has fired or forced out from the National Security Team, including the NSC, strong pro-Israel and anti-Iran officials such as Steve Bannon, K.T. McFarland, Adam Lovinger, Rich Higgins, Derek Harvey, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, and now Sebastian Gorka.
General McMaster quickly removed Bannon, the engineer of much of President Trump’s pro-Israel, anti-Islamist terrorism agenda, from the Principals Committee of the NSC. McMaster also removed K.T. McFarland, a veteran pro-Israel national security professional in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations and a key member of the team of Iran deal opponents originally gathered by Trump. Lovinger, a pro-Israel national security strategist from the Pentagon, was returned to the Pentagon with his security clearance revoked.
McMaster also fired Iran “hawk” Rich Higgins, the NSC’s director of strategic planning, after Higgins wrote a memo about personnel opposed to President Trump’s foreign policy agenda in the NSC. McMaster also fired Derek Harvey, a senior director and expert on the Middle East and one of the best intelligence analysts on Iraq, after Harvey prepared a list of NSC Obama-era holdovers to be fired for leaking national security information to the press. Instead, other conservatives were fired, such as Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a strong opponent of the Iran deal, who tried to intensify efforts to counter Iran in the Middle East and controlled officials opposed to the president’s policies.
As replacements for those fired, McMaster appointed individuals who are friendly with Obama-era ideologues who blame Israel for Palestinian terror, encourage negotiations with Hamas and are obsessed with the plan for Palestinian statehood.
As David Steinberg from PJ Media wrote, “Indeed, one is hard-pressed to identify a member of the NSC brought in by McMaster with a history of aligning with President Trump on Iran or with his Mideast policy or by his willingness to treat Islamic doctrine as the root cause of terror and related Mideast strife.”
But such nominations are not surprising if one understands McMaster’s own beliefs. He advised the president to certify that Iran is in compliance with the Iran deal, saying that Iran is merely violating the Iran deal’s “spirit” despite German intelligence reports that Iran is cheating and Trump’s promise to tear up or strictly enforce the Iran deal and punish violations. Iran has refused to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors into the Parchin nuclear facility or to interview Iran’s nuclear scientists, and has repeatedly tested intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Following the Obama administration’s practices, McMaster opposes using the term “radical Islamic terrorism” saying that the term isn’t helpful for U.S. goals because it does not help the U.S. in working with allies to defeat terrorist groups.“
Moreover, the general said that Jihadists terrorists aren’t true to their religion and terrorist organizations like ISIS represent a perversion of Islam and are thus un-Islamic
In addition, just before Trump’s visit to Israel, McMaster erroneously publicly claimed that the President would recognize “Palestinian Self-determination“ and refused to state that the Western Wall, one the holiest Jewish sites, and the last remnant of the walls around the Second Jewish Temple, is in Israel and insisted that Netanyahu could not accompany Trump to the site after failing to convince the President not to visit there.
President Trump must wake up and realize the damage that Generals Kelly and McMaster are inflicting on his policies and on those who have been loyal to his ideology. President Trump should know that Israeli history is littered with heroic generals on the battlefield who were weak appeasers in national security when they became prime ministers, such as Israeli chiefs of staff Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak. He should realize that just because they are generals they are not necessarily the right advisors to implement Trump’s tough-minded agenda.
Shoula Romano Horing is an Israeli born and raised attorney. Her blog: www.shoularomanohoring.com