Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is set to announce his foreign policy advisers, according to a new report by Bloomberg’s Eli Lake — and the list thus far includes some very controversial figures.
Cruz has previously called for carpet-bombing the Middle East to combat ISIS, said the United States should send troops to Iraq and Syria, and said something is torture only when it causes “pain equivalent to losing organs and systems.” Still, the list of advisers were surprising to many.
Here are three of the most shocking names:
Frank Gaffney, who served in the Department of Defense under President Reagan, was named as a foreign policy adviser for Cruz, according to Bloomberg. Gaffney is a major proponent of conspiracy theories, and has been described as “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Perhaps one of Gaffney’s favorite theories is the connection of politicians to the Muslim Brotherhood. In the past, he has accused Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, as well as President Obama, of having connections to the group. In an interview with The Daily Beast in July 2012, Gaffney said the Muslim Brotherhood was waiting to seize power in Washington, D.C., a moment which he called “zero hour.” He also told the publication that President Obama, whose citizenship and religion he has questioned in the past, is not Muslim but is “sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood supremacist agenda — I think that is now beyond dispute.”
A year earlier, Gaffney had called for a new House committee, modeled on Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s House Committee on Un-American Activities, dedicated to investigating “the extent to which the Obama administration’s anti-American activities reflect the success of the toxic Muslim Brotherhood… in penetrating and subverting both U.S. government agencies and civil institutions.”
The organization Gaffney founded and has led since leaving public service, the Center for Security Policy, has also been noted for its promotion of conspiracy theories by CNN, the International Business Times, Salon, the Washington Post, and countless others.
Recently, it was responsible for an unreliable poll which Republican candidate Donald Trump said in a statement found that “’25 percent of those polled agreed that violence against Americans here in the United States is justified as a part of the global jihad’ and 51 percent of those polled ‘agreed that Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to shariah.’”
According to the Bloomberg report, three of Gaffney’s colleagues at the Center for Security Policy are also on Cruz’s list of foreign policy advisers: former CIA officers Fred Fleitz and Clare Lopez as well as former Army Special Forces Master Sergeant Jim Hanson. Like their boss, all three believe in the Muslim Brotherhood’s infiltration of the U.S. government, and have even connected the non-profit Center for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to the organization.
Michael Ledeen, a former Reagan administration official involved in the Iran-contra scandal, publicly endorsed Cruz last month. “We’re at war with a coalition of radical Islamists and radical secularists. It’s not all one thing, nor is Islam all one thing,” Ledeen told Bloomberg.
Ledeen is a current Freedom Scholar at the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and a former scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, whose involvement with Islamophobic ideologues ThinkProgress has previously documented.
He has been an avid supporter of U.S. military action and before 2003, he was a vocal supporter of regime change in various countries in the Middle East, including Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Just months before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, he published a piece in the Wall Street Journal titled “The War on Terror Won’t End in Baghdad” in which he called for the “liberation” of people in those four countries and described the invasion of Iraq as a “just war.” “If we come to Baghdad, Damascus and Tehran as liberators, we can expect overwhelming popular support,” he wrote, before praising Donald Rumsfeld, a key architect of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Ledeen’s support for military action is overwhelming. In 2002, Jonah Goldberg noted that the bedrock tenet of the “Ledeen Doctrine,” “in more or less his own words,” was that “every 10 years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.” As The Intercept’s Murtaza Hussein also noted, in 2002, Ledeen also called for turning the entire Middle East into a “cauldron.”
Ledeen has focused specifically on regime change in Iran throughout his career. He previously served on the board of the Coalition for Democracy in Iran, an organization which worked with members of Congress to pass resolutions calling for regime change in the country in 2003 and 2004 and which blamed Iran for the insurgency in Iraq. Ledeen has also believed in and spread strange fabrications about the country. As independent political analyst Nima Shirazi has noted, during a debate at the Atlantic Council in March 2010, Ledeen said that the government had banned the color green after protests following Iran’s 2009 presidential election, due to its use by the opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.
“You can’t wear green. I’m wearing green today as a sign of solidarity with them,” Ledeen said falsely at the debate. “But the funniest is that there are streets in Tehran — as I’m sure you’ve seen — which have green stripes on them to tell you where you can park and where you can’t, and there are now teams of people out spraying black on top of the green because you can’t have green. That is not a self-confident and stable regime… These are people who are scared to death even of a bit of colored paint on a sidewalk.”
Elliott Abrams, a leading neoconservative who served as Deputy Special to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser under President George W. Bush, was another shocking name on Bloomberg’s list of Cruz advisers.
A former Reagan administration official, Abrams was at the forefront of U.S. anti-Communist activities in Central America, which were plagued with human rights violations. In Nicaragua in particular, the International Court of Justice found the U.S. support of anti-communist rebels, as well as the mining of the country’s ports and waters, during the Reagan administration was a violation of international law. Salon called Abrams during that time “combative and arrogant” and “a proto-Donald Rumsfeld.”
Still, Abrams defended U.S. intervention in the region years later. “The violence [in the region] is ending now in part because of the collapse of Communism throughout the world, but more because Communist efforts to take power by force were resisted and defeated,” he wrote in an article in the National Review. “In this small corner of the Cold War, American policy was right, and it was successful.”
Heavily involved in the Iran-contra scandal, Abrams was indicted for his role in illegally raising money for the Nicaraguan Contras, and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor for withholding information from Congress as part of a plea deal. He was later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush.
Abrams was also a key architect of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. “We recognize that military action in Iraq, if necessary, will have adverse humanitarian consequences,” he told CNN less than a month before the invasion. “We have been planning over the last several months, across all relevant agencies, to limit any such consequences and provide relief quickly.”
As a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Abrams often comments on Islam and the Middle East — which may be why he was picked by Cruz. He has been a vocal critic of the Iran nuclear deal and has previously blamed the rise of ISIS on President Obama’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.