Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) made an apt description of Donald Trump’s (DT) cabinet selections when she said he has “a three ‘G’ Cabinet,” filled with “Goldman, generals, and gazillionaires.” The United States was founded on a principle of civilian control over military might, but DT has decided to select hawks for “civilian” advisors. Third-world countries come to mind.
The National Security Act of 1947 requires that the secretary of defense be appointed “from civilian life” by the president. The law mandates a grace period of ten years before an active duty officer can hold the post although Congress reduced the time to seven years in 2008. Yet DT is attempting to surround himself with uniforms and medals.
Former Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn will be DT’s National Security Adviser because this position does not require confirmation. Even the conservative Accuracy in Media disapproves of Flynn because of his close connections to the Russians—working for their propaganda machine and being paid for speaking at a gala dinner for the state-owned media company where he sat next to Vladimir Putin. In that speech he lauded the calls to lock up DT’s opponent in jail and demanded that “Crooked Hillary Clinton” drop out of the campaign. While Flynn accompanied DT to classified briefings, his personal firm was lobbying for foreign interests. To Flynn, all Muslims are evil, and police brutality is good.
During DT’s campaign, Flynn interacted with white supremacists, shared fake news stories, and pushed Islamphobia, calling the religion of 1.6 billion people “a cancer.” He also called the Muslim world an “epic failure” compared to “the superiority of the West.” He tweeted a false story claiming that NYPD found information on Anthony Weiner’s laptop that would ” put Hillary (Clinton) and her crew away for life.” Before that, he linked a tweet to one lying about Clinton “wearing hijab in solidarity with islamic terrorists,” using a 2009 photo of Clinton respectfully wearing the head covering in a visit to a mosque. Another link purported that an Iranian scientist may have been executed because he was exposed to Clinton’s email server.
Last August, Flynn claimed to have seen photos of Arabic signs along the U.S./Mexico border to guide potential state-sponsored terrorists and “radicalized Muslims” into the United States. No one else has seen these signs. Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., was removed from DT’s transition team after tweeting his continued support of the “fake news” conspiracy theory that led a North Carolina man shooting in a Washington, D.C. pizzeria because Flynn and others accused the place of being a child trafficking front for Clinton, leading a man coming from North Carolina to shoot a gun at patrons in a misguided attempt to rescue the children.
Flynn “inappropriately shared” classified information with foreign military officers in 2010, but the case against him was dismissed as insignificant. Former U.S. officials said that he was accused of telling Pakistani officials what other agencies, including the CIA, were doing in Afghanistan. He claimed that he had permission, but Army documents state that he did not. Flynn was a leader of the “lock her up” movement against Hillary Clinton for mishandling sensitive information.
In 2014, Flynn was fired as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. While he was at the Pentagon, his employees described his similarity to Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny and referred to his assertions with no factual basis “Flynn facts.”
Flynn suffers from several conflicts of interest. His business, started after he was fired from the government, has ties to the Turkish government, helpful to Flynn when he sat in on DT’s classified briefings. He was re-elected to a paid position on the board of a surveillance drone company that has Department of Defense contracts, a company that came from a business represented by Donald Trump, Jr. until 2014. Flynn’s company employs senior executives whose firms have federal contracts.
Flynn is rapidly losing his support for the position. For example, former Gen. Barry McCaffrey initially endorsed Flynn for the position, but that was before he learned more about Flynn’s statements on social media. McCaffrey said that Flynn’s tweets “border on being demented.” He called on people to “aggressively examine what was going on with Gen. Flynn and his son.”
Lacking the need to be confirmed, Flynn continues his white supremacist activities. Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of a far-right Austrian political party founded by ex-Nazis, met with Flynn at Trump Tower earlier this month. Strache claimed that his “Freedom Party continues to gain in influence,” but his candidate for president of Austria lost the run-off this month. The party did sign a “cooperation agreement” with Vladimir Putin’s Russian political party, laying out a five-year plan for regular meetings and joint projects.
If you’re not already terrified by Michael Flynn in this position, read this analysis by Jonathan Chait. And remember that DT is getting his “intelligence” briefings from Flynn instead of professionals in the federal government.
Flynn’s chief of staff, Army retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, served as chief operations officer for the mismanaged U.S. military occupation of Iraq after Baghdad fell in 2003. Like his colleagues, he made a fortune from connections with defense-related industries after he left the military.
Flynn will get hawkish company from John Kelly, a retired Marine nominated to head the civilian agency Department of Security. While overseeing Guantanamo Bay, he rigorously defended mass torture and and said that they are all “bad boys.” He doesn’t care that the majority of these “bad boys” have been unanimously cleared for release by all relevant government agencies.
In 2014, human rights organizations criticized Kelly for using allocations to reduce inequality in Central America for his militarization, violence, and displacement. Kelly now calls on escalating the domestic “war on drugs,” claiming that the growing legalization of marijuana in the United States threatens U.S. foreign policy objectives in Latin America. After he received the nomination, he said that the people voted to “put a stop to political correctness that for too long has dictated our approach to national security.” One of the largest jailers in the U.S. government, the DHS oversees “efforts to counter terrorism and enhance security, secure and manage our borders while facilitating trade and travel, enforce and administer our immigration laws, safeguard and secure cyberspace, build resilience to disasters, and provide essential support for national and economic security—in coordination with federal, state, local, international and private sector partners.” Kelly opposed opening combat positions to qualified servicewomen because, according to Kelly, it leads to lower standards.
Kelly’s deputy almost matches Michael Flynn in looniness. K.R. McFarland got this job by making friends with Eric Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. at the Fox network. DT had already seen her on TV. She likes torture and agrees with Kelly that failing to profile Muslims is “political correctness.” McFarland’s 2011 telephone conversation with Gen. David Petraeus in Afghanistan suggests collusion between the Fox network and the general, including a message from Roger Ailes that he and Rupert Murdoch wanted Petraeus to run for president. (Petraeus, convicted of giving out classified information, was considered for DT’s Secretary of State.)
As a GOP primary candidate for Hillary Clinton’s seat in 2006, McFarland claimed that Clinton’s fear of her drove the successful senator to keep her under surveillance by flying helicopters over McFarland’s house. She said that if voters don’t “throw the bums out,” people “can all start learning Chinese.” (Considering her boss’s closeness to Russia, she may have merely cited the wrong language. She is convinced that Clinton is responsible for the deaths at Benghazi. Her new job requires skill at analysis and synthesis of information without prejudice or bias.
James Mattis, nominee for the Secretary of Defense, sounds downright reasonable because he’s isn’t crazy. Yet he came by his nickname, “Mad Dog,” honestly. He lost his position as head of U.S. Central Command because of his hawkish stance toward Iran. The removal led to his forced retirement in 2013. Mattis has also been accused of war crimes for the aggressive tactics he oversaw in Iraq as commanding general of the 1st Marine Division during the Battle of Fallujah in 2004. DT, fond of Mattis’ “Mad Dog” nickname, said that the retired general is “the closest thing to Gen. George Patton that we have,” probably because he thinks they look alike. Looks are all important to DT.
DT’s picks, all losing generals, direct the nation back into the era of the medieval Crusades as perfect Christians declare war to eliminate the evil Muslims. Noam Chomsky said it best: Trump’s position is “vulgar imperialism masked by a fraudulent concern for the working people and the middle class.” The entire interview is well worth reading.