In a stunning reversal from his campaign rhetoric, President Donald Trump declined to mention radical Islam on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, as did the vice president, secretary of defense and attorney general.
The omissions were first noticed by Breitbart, which pointed out that Attorney-General Jeff Sessions came closest to using the terminology by stating that the terrorists sought to “impose their speech codes, their religion, their theocracy.”
In his speech at the Republican convention accepting the party’s presidential nomination, Trump mentioned the Islamic basis of the jihadist threat four times. During the presidential campaign, Trump regularly attacked Hillary Clinton for declining to use the term “radical Islam.”
By omitting any mention of Islamism or jihad, the Trump Administration’s language is even closer to that of the Obama Administration than Hillary Clinton, who defined the enemy as “jihadists.” President Obama refused to use any terminology associated with Islam at all.
The change represents a big triumph for National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who fought tooth-and-nail against any Islam-themed language and pushes policies that are incompatible with the Trump Administration’s original stated vision.
McMaster won a power struggle within the White House and was reportedly the main force pushing out the most anti-Islamist voices in the Trump Administration, with chief strategist Steve Bannon and Deputy Assistant Sebastian Gorka his most prized scalps.
When he formally resigned, Gorka noted radical Islam was not anywhere to be found in Trump’s speech on his strategy for Afghanistan. In his resignation letter, Gorka wrote that the omission “proves that a crucial element of your presidential campaign has been lost.”
Likewise, Bannon said, “No administration in history has been so divided.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson responded to Gorka by saying he’s “completely wrong” and has “a lack of understanding of the president’s broader policy.”
Such a response is to be expected from Tillerson, who falls squarely into McMaster’s camp and repeatedly undermined President Trump when an Arab coalition confronted Qatar’s support of Islamist terrorism and extremism. Tillerson also opposes designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
(As CEO of ExxonMobil, Tillerson had long, close ties to the Qatari regime and even sat on the board of the U.S.-Qatar Business Council with Al-Jazeera officials.) Meanwhile, Qatar is on a spending spree to hire lobbyists with ties to the Trump Administration.
Tillerson’s State Department also hosted a coalition of Islamist groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas to get their input on issues related to Israel, another area where there are danger signs in the Trump Administration.
For now, the camp within the Trump Administration that opposes identifying the ideological threat as “radical Islam” has won the day.