Senator John McCain deserves congratulations for his remarks on the Senate floor yesterday defending Huma Abedin — top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — against charges that she is part of a “Muslim brotherhood conspiracy,” as claimed by Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
But even as McCain condemned the attacks on Abedin, he defended the think tank — the Center for Security Policy — whose tinfoil-hatted research forms the basis of those attacks, and CSP’s president, Frank Gaffney, whom McCain described as “a longtime friend.” As Adam Serwer noted yesterday, “It’s Gaffney’s scurrilous reasoning masquerading as policy expertise that lead to Bachmann’s smearing of Abedin in the first place.”
This sort of thing, mongering crazy, American-way-of-life threatening conspiracies, is what Gaffney does. There’s always a Boogeyman out there.
Back in 2002, Gaffney was concerned about the influence of “the Wahhabi Lobby” — “a far-flung network of organizations associated with the agenda of the radical Wahhabist sect of Islam and largely financed, directly or indirectly, by the Saudi Arabian government and its proxies” — which he claimed was financing the campaigns of a number of U.S. politicians.
A complex network of individuals and organizations with ties to the clerical regime in Tehran is pressing forward in seeming synchrony to influence the new U.S. administration’s policy towards the Islamic Republic of Iran. Spearheaded by a de facto partnership between the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other organizations serving as mouthpieces for the mullahs’ party line, the network includes well-known American diplomats, congressional representatives, figures from academia and the think tank world.
Among those the CSP report named as “hav[ing] been associated in one way or another” with this supposed Iran Lobby were Ambassador Dennis Ross; Susan Rice, the Obama administration’s new Ambassador to the U.N.; Fletcher School professor and Middle East scholar, Vali Nasr; and Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass. The Center for A New American Security (CNAS) was also named as an Iran Lobby affiliate for having promoted diplomacy with Iran, which the report simply interprets as “appeasement”.
Back in the 90’s, like many other neocons, Gaffney was far more focused on the growing threat from China and the need for missile defense. Shortly after the attacks of September 11, he would be spinning elaborate stories about Muslim conspiracies to infiltrate the U.S. that went back “decades.”
As for what drives the fear-mongering of people like Gaffney, it’s worth reading this Christopher Hitchens article from 1990, in which he documented the neoconservatives’ frustration as the glasnost-era Soviet Union increasingly ceased to function as an appropriate bete noir. And guess who makes a cameo? “At last November’s gathering of the Committee for the Free World, when things were already beginning to look a bit too bright for holders of the neocon worldview,” Hitchens wrote, “Frank Gaffney, a Richard Perle acolyte, announced that he and a few hard-liners were setting up the Center for Security Policy to resist appeasement tendencies in the weapons business.”
Constantly hyping threats, which in turn creates a more conducive political atmosphere for the hawkish policies that they favor, is what Frank Gaffney is all about. The reputations of people like Huma Abedin, and the many other Americans smeared by Gaffney and company’s wild and irresponsible claims, are apparently just seen as acceptable collateral damage.