Last week the New York Times reported that President Donald Trump plans to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, although Tillerson and Trump deny the reports. Pompeo would be a troubling choice as the nation’s top diplomat. His hawkish views on Islam are more likely to enable Trump’s Muslim-hating rhetoric, not suppress it.
As The Atlantic notes, Pompeo has close ties with Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, who has argued that following Islamic law is “an impermissible act of sedition, which has to be prosecuted.”
From a policy standpoint, Pompeo would make a perfect fit for Trump because they are both warmongers. A fierce opponent of the Iran deal, Pompeo said in 2014, while a member of the House of Representatives from Kansas, that military force should be used to halt Tehran’s nuclear program.
As disastrous as Tillerson has been, he at least was a voice of calm in quelling the calls for war coming out of the Oval Office. He consistently pushed back against calls for military action in North Korea, saying that diplomacy should be prioritized. Unlike Trump, he supports the Iran deal and is reportedly working behind the scenes to save it. During a hearing on the Hill, Tillerson said that classifying the Muslim Brotherhood as a terror group would complicate peace negotiations in the Middle East.
Tillerson’s rhetoric toward Islam is not remotely as inflammatory as Trump’s, and he seems to always be the voice of relative reason in an otherwise xenophobic administration. By comparison, Pompeo has spoken at the Act for America conference (the Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed the organization an anti-Muslim hate group). In 2015 he wrote an op-ed in the Kansas City Star arguing against the closure of the Guantanamo detention facility (and, by the way, Pompeo is a fan of waterboarding, a form of torture). As member of the House Intelligence Committee, Pompeo told Congress in 2013 that Muslim leaders who do not condemn terrorist attacks are “potentially complicit in these acts and, more importantly still, in those that may well follow.”
Pompeo basically took the actions of a few and equated them to all Muslims, just like his boss Trump, whose first order of business as president was signing a travel ban for people from certain Muslim countries and who, just last week, retweeted anti-Muslim videos from an Islamophobic political party in the United Kingdom.
A secretary of state is, in fact, a mouthpiece for the president’s foreign policy, but he or she is also supposed to find ways to avoid conflict. Pompeo’s very public anti-Muslim stances make it clear that he is predisposed to seeing Muslims as violent simply because they are Muslim.
Moreover, Pompeo is a pretty awful CIA director who has been accused of being more of an ideologue than a professional intelligence gatherer. When asked if Trump’s Twitter activity makes his job harder during a Q&A Saturday at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, Calif., Pompeo said that it actually made his job easier.
“I have seen things the president has put on his Twitter account actually have a real-world impact on our capacity to understand what’s going on in other places of the world,” Pompeo said. “Our adversaries responded to those tweets in ways that were helpful to us to understand command and control issues, who’s listening to what messages, how those messages are resonating around the world.”
This man may be our next secretary of state, folks.
Indeed, America has a very destructive history in the Middle East. But Trump’s open hatred for Islam and willingness to appoint as his top diplomat someone who shares those views is arguably a game changer. Pompeo as America’s top diplomat will signal to the world that Trump’s Islamophobia is official U.S. diplomatic policy, a message that far-right extremists the globe over will hail in victory.