by Tahir Mahmoud (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 10, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1438)
President-elect Donald Trump has made his intentions clear by appointing rightwing extremists into his administration. Almost all of them are extreme Islamophobes.
In his acceptance speech soon after his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton had conceded defeat in the early hours of November 9, President-elect Donald Trump said he wanted to be the president of all Americans, even the minorities he trashed during the election cycle. It was time to unite the people, he said, in what had been a very divisive campaign for which he personally bore the largest share of responsibility. The president-elect repeated the same words in his Thanksgiving Day message on November 25.
His actions since election night, especially in appointing people to various positions, provide no hint that he is prepared to act in a manner that gives cause for much optimism. This is evident from the men — and a few women — he has so far named to form part of his team. Ordinarily these would be called extreme right-wing elements, but give credit to the Western media. Their pundits have coined a new expression: “populists.” It sounds as if they are really popular among people. This is as true in the US as it is in much of Europe.
Let us look at some of the names that will comprise part of Trump’s team to understand what can be expected in the next four years.
Part of the Trump team, Vice President-elect Mike Pence can be considered the most moderate among those who have so far been appointed (he was part of the ticket). He is currently Indiana governor but is popular with social conservatives. He is a Roman Catholic and is staunchly opposed to abortion. He had served as chair of the House Republican Conference as well as chaired the Republican Study Group, a coalition of conservative House Republicans. This makes him popular with some evangelicals of the party. These zealots are staunchly anti-Muslim even if Pence himself may not have shown anti-Muslim sentiment.
The 44-year-old Reince Priebus will be Trump’s Chief of Staff and act as principal gatekeeper to the White House. He has been chairman of the Republican National Committee. Priebus is a known wheeler and dealer and acted as bridge between the party and Trump because the Republican Party had expressed great aversion to Trump’s nomination. Several prominent Republicans publicly dissociated themselves from Trump including House Speaker Paul Ryan. Priebus, however, is close to Ryan and is seen as being helpful in mending fences with the Republican Party top brass as well as steering the new regime’s legislative agenda in Congress.
Lieutenant General (retired) Michael Flynn’s appointment as National Security Advisor did not surprise many observers. He had served as Trump’s advisor in this position during the campaign. Flynn has been blunt in expressing strong anti-Muslim views. He claims Islam is not a religion and said in a twitter message last February, “Fear of Muslims is rational.” He has published a book, The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies. He is extremely hostile to Muslims and his appointment to national security post is seen as a direct threat to Muslims in the US.
President Barack Obama fired the 57-year-old former general, who had served both in Afghanistan and Iraq, from his post as director of the Defence Intelligence Agency in 2014. He was seen as not only as unqualified for this particular job but had also shown a propensity for violating rules pertaining to divulging national security interests.
His appointment is seen as reflecting Trump’s own preferences for how he plans to deal with Muslims. During the election campaign, Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out” what is going on. He has also called for creating a registry for American Muslims. Legal experts have said this would be a violation of the American constitution but the fact that Flynn claims “Islam is not a religion” means that the Muslims’ religious rights would not be protected.
He is known to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and has said the US should work closely with Russia in Syria to combat the terrorist group, Da‘ish. He has also appeared on RT, the Russian television network leading to establishment figures accusing him of being Putin’s puppet. If the incoming Trump administration follows through on its pledge to work with Putin, this is likely to have important repercussions for the US-Israeli-Saudi-instigated war on Syria. At the very least, this will stem the flow of weapons to the takfiri terrorists bringing this enterprise to an end.
Trump has appointed the 62-year-old Stephen Bannon as chief strategist. He is a right-wing zealot who had previously served as Goldman Sachs banker as well as radio host for Breitbart News. While not holding a cabinet level position, Bannon will be a major influence on Trump and serve as co-partner to chief of staff Priebus. How this will work is still unclear but there is bound to be friction between the younger and more ambitious and wheeler-dealer Priebus and the older right-wing zealot Bannon.
It will be interesting to see how the infighting plays out between the twin-headed donkey that will be jockeying for influence in the White House. It also cannot be discounted that Trump might fire one or the other or both if things get too rough between them. This is not mere conjecture. During the campaign, Trump fired several members of his team, appointing new ones instead. Also, Chris Christie was fired as head of his transition team and responsibility was transferred to vice president-elect Pence.
Bannon is xenophobic and misogynistic and has made no attempt to hide his anti-establishment views. Priebus, on the other hand is the quintessential establishment figure. Who will balance these two opposing views? Trump is not equipped to deal with such situations except to fire them.
Trump has appointed Jeff Sessions, a well-known racist and bigot, to the post of attorney general (the head of the US Justice Department). The president-elect has called him a “world class legal mind” but that cannot hide the fact that he is a racist. Sessions was rejected for appointment as a federal judge 30 years ago when it emerged that he had used the n-word and called a black assistant attorney “boy.” The term is derogatory and shows Sessions’ true feelings. He was unfit for appointment as a federal judge but he is fit to be the country’s attorney general, the top law officer in the country, as far as Trump is concerned. “Jeff is greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone who knows him,” Trump said reassuringly.
Sessions sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Judiciary Committee and the Budget Committee.
America’s spy chief will be Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo, from Wichita, Kansas. He is strongly opposed to the nuclear deal with Iran, opposes closing the gulag at Guantanamo Bay that Obama had promised to close in “one year” after being sworn in as president in 2009. Pompeo is also a strong advocate of the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program. It is interesting to note that while Pompeo had supported Trump’s rival Marco Rubio, the Senator from Florida who failed in winning the Republican Party nomination, the Kansas right-winger’s attraction to Trump was so great that that the latter took him on board for a very sensitive post.
With such appointments, Trump has served noticed that he intends to pursue his right-wing xenophobic agenda, especially against Muslims, Mexicans and African Americans. The gloves are completely off. Muslims in the US can expect rough days ahead.