When Donald Trump first took office, his national security adviser was a man who believed that the Florida Democratic Party was working to impose Sharia law on the Sunshine State — and that America’s southern border was lined with Arabic signs guiding “radicalized Muslims” into the U.S.
Michael Flynn’s tenure in the Trump administration proved brief, but his penchant for paranoid conspiracy theories did not leave the National Security Council with him: By the time Flynn was ousted, he had already installed staffers who sought to advance the security interests of the United States by, among other things, drafting a “memo” claiming that Marxists, Islamists, the “deep state,” globalists, Bankers, and Establishment Republicans were all conspiring to destroy President Trump because he posed an “existential threat” to “cultural Marxist” memes.
Once H.R. McMaster got settled in the West Wing, he evicted Flynn’s infowarriors from the building. The “Establishment” general proceeded to put together a more conventionally hawkish — and less flagrantly Islamophobic — national security team. But Trump soon grew tired of McMaster’s dry briefings and insufficient sycophancy, and abruptly replaced him with John Bolton.
While less flamboyant in fear and loathing of Muslims than Flynn was, Bolton is one of many fringe neoconservatives who’s taken up residence in the alt-right-wing foreign-policy think tanks erected by the Islamophobia industry: Since 2013, Bolton has served as chairman of the Gatestone Institute, an organization that claims Muslims have established hundreds of “microstates governed by Islamic Sharia law” (a.k.a. “no-go zones”) throughout France; that Muslim refugees have brought “a rape epidemic” and “exotic diseases” with them to Germany; and that the United Kingdom is on the cusp of becoming an “Islamist colony.”
And now, Bolton is remaking the National Security Council in his image. On Tuesday, Trump’s latest national security adviser named former CIA analyst Fred Fleitz as his chief of staff. Here are a few things worth knowing about the man who will now play a lead role in coordinating America’s national security policy:
• Fleitz served as Bolton’s chief of staff when the latter was undersecretary of State in George W. Bush’s administration. In that role, Fleitz fought viciously with analysts at the State Department and Central Intelligence Agency — because they refused to let Bolton publicly claim that Cuba was attempting to acquire biological weapons, on the basis of his idiosyncratic interpretation of intelligence reports. In declassified email exchanges, Fleitz derided the State Department’s assessment that there was insufficient evidence to claim Cuba was seeking illegal weapons as “wimpy.” The State Department’s top expert on biological weapons, Christian P. Westermann, meanwhile, wrote a colleague that Bolton and Fleitz’s “personal attacks, harassment and impugning of my integrity” were “now affecting my work, my health and dedication to public service.”
• Fleitz is a senior vice-president at Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, an Islamophobic think tank that claims the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the highest ranks of the American government — and called for a new House Un-American Activities Committee to investigate the Islamist “Fifth Columnists” that were wielding influence over the Obama administration. The think tank’s leadership has also claimed that Saddam Hussein was behind the Oklahoma City bombing; that Obama incorporated the Islamic crescent into the logo of a new missile-defense group; and that Chris Christie’s decision to appoint a Muslim-American to New Jersey’s state judiciary might well qualify as an act of treason.
• In an interview with Breitbart News Daily last summer, Fleitz warned that there are “communities where British Muslims are deliberately not assimilating, are being taught to hate British society, and this is incubating radicalism. There’s actually a parallel system of sharia law courts in the U.K. that operate …We may have generations of radical Islamists in the U.K., until the British government wakes up and stops the situation.”
• When the show’s host, Joel Pollack, reminded Fleitz that ultra-Orthodox Jews in the U.S. (a group Republicans are supposed to approve of) refuse to assimilate and follow their own internal systems of government, the intelligence expert clarified that he was “not concerned about Amish or Jewish communities, but I will tell you that there are enclaves of Muslim communities in Michigan and Minnesota that concern me.”
• In 2011, Fleitz insisted that the consensus conclusion among America’s 16 intelligence agencies about the state of Iran’s nuclear weapons program was wrong — and that Tehran was actually “on the brink of testing a nuclear weapon,” a claim that has since been exposed as utterly false, unless one accepts a very loose definition of “brink” (in 2015, before signing the nuclear agreement, Iran had only enriched its uranium to 20 percent purity; weapons-grade uranium requires roughly 90 percent).
• In March of this year, Fleitz published a book titled, The Coming North Korea Nuclear Nightmare: What Trump Must Do to Reverse Obama’s “Strategic Patience,” an analysis that argued, among other things, that Trump’s “more aggressive” policy initiatives toward Pyongyang “appear to be succeeding.”
When Trump first brought Bolton into the West Wing, some sought hope in the thought that he would serve as the most belligerent voice on a team of rivals. But the hiring of Fleitz — combined with the president’s recent moves to withdraw from the Iran deal and open a U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem — raise the prospect that this might now be John Bolton’s foreign-policy team; James Mattis just works on it.