Ted Cruz’s New Foreign Policy Team Makes Him as Extreme as Donald Trump

Cruz’s team, full of conspiracy theorists and arch-neoconservatives, belies the argument that he is a moderate compared to Trump.

Photo: Chris Carlson/AP

GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz has unveiled a foreign policy team full of conspiracy theorists and arch-neoconservatives who support policies just as belligerent as those of Donald Trump. While Cruz has been supported by some Republican figures (most recently, Sen. Lindsey Graham) who consider him a relatively moderate alternative to Trump, the foreign policy advisers he has assembled show him to be running as an extremist. Among the advisers Cruz has assembled are:

Frank Gaffney: Gaffney is the president of the famously Islamophobic Center for Security Policy. He has developed a number of theories about how Muslims are invading and conquering the United States, including by infiltrating the government via the Muslim Brotherhood and by conquering Dearborn, Michigan, and turning it into a “no-go zone” for non-Muslims (although he recently admitted to The Intercept that he has never been there). He also thinks tax lobbyist Grover Norquist is a stealth jihadist.

Andrew McCarthy: McCarthy is a former assistant U.S. attorney who has, in recent years, transformed into a far-right pundit for the National Review. He has claimed that President Obama was “raised as a Muslim,” and that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin may be infiltrating the U.S. government on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood. In between his lurid conspiracies, McCarthy has also been an outspoken supporter of post-9/11 torture practiced by the Bush administration, including waterboarding, which he has written “is not torture and was never illegal under U.S. law.”

Michael Ledeen: Ledeen, a Reagan-era consultant for the National Security Council who is now a fellow at the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has been among the most bellicose neoconservatives of the past few decades. During the 1980s, he helped set up the deal at the heart of the Iran-Contra scandal. In 2002, following warnings from former George H.W. Bush National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft that invading Iraq “could turn the whole region into a cauldron,” Ledeen stated his support for such an outcome, writing, “One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please. If ever there were a region that richly deserved being cauldronized, it is the Middle East today.” In the run-up to the invasion, Ledeen accused French President Jacques Chirac of “casting his lot with radical Islam and with the Arab extremists,” even darkly suggesting that the war may need to go “far beyond the boundaries of the Middle East, into the heart of Western Europe.” Since the failure of the war, Ledeen, apparently unfazed by the human carnage of Iraq’s collapse, has continued to advocate further destabilizing actions across the Middle East, particularly in Iran.

Elliott Abrams: Abrams is a former Reagan and Bush official who pleaded guilty to withholding information from Congress in the Iran-Contra scandal (he was later pardoned). He was a signatory of the Project for the New American Century’s 1998 letter calling on President Clinton to ramp up military operations against Iraq. He was one of President George W. Bush’s key Middle East advisers. The month before the U.S. invaded Iraq, he told Americans not to worry about civilians, saying, “We recognize that military action in Iraq, if necessary, will have adverse humanitarian consequences. We have been planning over the last several months, across all relevant agencies, to limit any such consequences and provide relief quickly.” In 2010, he complained that American Jews lacked a sufficient “commitment to Israel” because they voted for President Obama. He is an advocate for an expansive American ground presence in Syria, writing, “Combat forces may not be needed, but advisers certainly will be and in the thousands. It is not at all clear that any other forces — Jordanian, Emirati, or Saudi — can actually perform this function that Americans perform so well.”

During a normal election cycle, this collection of warmongers, criminals, and conspiracy theorists would place Cruz on the utmost fringe of his own party. But with Trump running a campaign that has been unprecedented in its bombastic rhetoric, Cruz will make the case that his own extremist platform is the reasonable alternative.

Top photo: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, waves to supporters as he arrives at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, Jan. 31, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa.

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