Here Are Five of Ted Cruz's Most Fanatical Foreign Policy Advisors

Three staffers from extremist group behind Trump's racist Muslim ban are among Cruz's picks.

Ted Cruz unveiled his foreign policy team today.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The GOP presidential hopeful who has called for the “carpet bombing” of densely-populated cities and the rejection of Muslim Syrian refugees in favor of Christians has reportedly picked his foreign policy team. No, this is not a reference to the multi-billionaire Donald Trump, who recently declared that his “primary consultant” on international affairs is himself.

Ted Cruz, who is presenting himself to the GOP establishment as the reasonable alternative to Trump, has assembled a team of anti-Muslim crusaders, war criminals and conspiracy theorists.

These picks indicate that Cruz is vying for the anti-Muslim vote, as well as the backing of the neoconservative, pro-war establishment. His  advisors include a stunning three people from the extremist think tank behind Trump's anti-Muslim ban, demonstrating that Cruz is arguably more serious than Trump about castigating Muslims in America, and more accountable to to the architects of such agendas. Here are his five most terrifying foreign policy advisors:

1. Frank Gaffney is a renowned conspiracy theorist and anti-Muslim activist whose extremist think tank, the Center for Security Policy, produced the shoddy research behind Donald Trump’s infamous proposed ban on non-American Muslim from entering the United States.

Since serving under the Reagan administration, Gaffney has morphed into what the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes. Gripped by paranoid fantasies about Muslims destroying the West from within, Gaffney believes that ‘creeping Shariah’ or Islamic religious law, is a dire threat to American democracy.”

Gaffney’s views are so extreme that he was banned from the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference for accusing numerous right-wing leaders, including Grover Norquist, of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. He has since levied this charge at other high-level officials, such as Hillary Clinton. Gaffney has also argued that Obama is a secret Muslim who was not born in the United States and, curiously, that the regime of Saddam Hussein was likely behind the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City bombings.

He has overtly called for ordinary Muslim-Americans to be subjected to McCarthy-era investigations. “So pervasive now is the MB’s [Muslim Brotherhood’s] ‘civilization jihad’ within the U.S. government and civil institutions that a serious, sustained and rigorous investigation of the phenomenon by the legislative branch is in order,” he argued for the Center for Security Policy in October 2011. “To that end, we need to establish a new and improved counterpart to the Cold War-era’s HUAC [House Un-American Activities Committee] and charge it with examining and rooting out anti-American – and anti-constitutional – activities that constitute an even more insidious peril than those pursued by communist Fifth Columnists fifty years ago.”

As recently as September, Gaffney hosted white nationalist Jared Taylor on his radio program, during which the latter openly raised concern about the “racial” threat posed by refugees. Numerous conservatives have distanced themselves from Gaffney, but Cruz has rallied behind him, declaring last year, “Frank Gaffney has been attacked over and over again for having the courage to stand up and speak the name ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ of the enemy that is waging jihad against us.”

2. Elliott Abrams is an extreme neoconservative war hawk who served under presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush and is best known for being indicted and censored for  lying to Congress about the Iran-Contra scandal (he was later pardoned by George H.W. Bush).

Currently a fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations, Abrams has – throughout his long career – pushed for U.S. wars of aggression at nearly every turn. He once boasted in an article penned for the National Review that “El Salvador's decade of guerilla war cost thousands of Salvadoran lives, and those of eight Americans… In this small corner of the Cold War, American policy was right, and it was successful.”

Aligned with Israel’s far-right Likud party, Abrams pressed in pressing the U.S. to back Israel’s brutal 2006 war on Lebanon, as documented by journalist Seymour Hersh. He has consistently opposed the most limited diplomacy, writing in October 2000, "After a decade of self-delusion, American Jews must face up to reality. The Palestinian leadership does not want peace with Israel and there will be no peace."

Journalist Tom Barry argued a decade ago, “Perhaps more than any other member of Bush's foreign-policy team, Abrams embodies the administration's zealous, ideological and dangerously delusional vision of US foreign policy in the Middle East.” And indeed, Abrams called for regime change in Iraq well before George W. Bush was elected into office.

Abrams’ hawkish policies extend to his criticisms of the Obama administration. He was an aggressive opponent of the nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, even accusing Obama of anti-Semitism for his defense against those who tried to undermine the accord. He is a vehement supporter of military escalation in Syria, calling not only for air strikes but also for a ground war, with the ultimate goal of regime change.

During Obama’s nomination of the defense secretary, Abrams levied spurious charges of anti-Semitism at Chuck Hagel, writing in the Weekly Standard that "Hagel seems to have a thing about 'the Jews.’”

However, Abrams himself has previously espoused anti-Semitic views, writing in his 1997 book, “Outside the land of Israel, there can be no doubt that Jews, faithful to the covenant between God and Abraham, are to stand apart from the nation in which they live. It is the very nature of being Jewish to be apart–except in Israel–from the rest of the population.”

Despite his numerous scandals, Abrams remains a relevant and powerful political figure, as he now moves from the team of ousted presidential candidate Marco Rubio to that of Cruz.

3. Fred Fleitz is a former CIA analyst and current senior vice president of policy and programs for the extremist Center for Security Policy who is perhaps known for his fear-mongering over Iran, including conspiracy theories that “left wing” CIA analysts have intentionally concealed Iran’s nuclear weapons activities. He was behind a 2006 report about the “strategic threat” posed by Iran which was strongly denounced by the International Atomic Energy Agency as full of "erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated information.”

Fleitz is a vehement defender of torture or, as he calls it, “enhanced interrogation.” Going futher, Fleitz has painted mainstream Muslim people and organizations as violent extremists, including demonizationof the civil rights organization Council on American-Islamic Relations.

4. Andrew McCarthy is co-chair of the Center for Law and Counterterrorism, affiliated with the National Review Institute. He is a birther who expresses strong prejudice against Islam.

In a 2010 article entitled, “The President Stands With Sharia,” he argues that the president’s support for the Ground Zero mosque shows that he stands with Muslim Brotherhood “satellites” rather than 9/11 families and the will of the American people.

McCarthy has been open about his strong disdain for even mainstream adherents of Islam, writing in 2011, “What ‘radicalizes’ Muslims is Islam — the mainstream interpretation of it. The ‘radicals’ propagating it do not need the “captive audience” provided by the prison environment. The ‘radicalization’ is happening in plain sight. 

Not only does McCarthy claim Obama is a secret Muslim who was not born in the United States, but he has also argued that the president is “the bridge figure between the Left and the Islamists.”

5. Jim Hanson is the executive vice president of Gaffney's Center for Security Policy. Like his boss, Hanson is known for extreme anti-Muslim rhetoric.

His fanaticiscm came to the fore with his claim that the arrest last year of 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was “a P.R. stunt, it was a staged event, where someone convinced this kid to bring a device that he didn’t build… They wanted people to react and they wanted to portray this kid as an innocent victim ... I don't think there is any question he was put up to it by someone else who wanted him to take that in to create this exact scenario.”

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

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