FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Sebastian Gorka: Dreams of Fighting Jihad

Counter-terrorism has been a pop field for some decades. As vague as what it purports to counter, it has generated a pundocracy of sorts, guns and mouths for hire across the US imperium and its associate powers.

Much of this resembles the various fictions common during the Cold War: the notion that insurgencies could be defeated from the outside; the teeth chattering idea of a global Communist threat directed with intellectual clarity from Moscow or Beijing.  Human minds were, like puttee, pliable before the doctrinaires and ideologues. If you were told how to think, you would behave accordingly.

False rationalism pervades this entire field.  And there are few in this area more misguided on this point than Sebastian Gorka, President Donald Trump’s deputy assistant, former Breitbart editor and member of the White House Strategic Initiatives Group created by Stephen Bannon and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

The Gorka recipe for defence, spiked with anti-Islam fervour and dislike for misguided eggheads, neatly fits the Trump view of the world, though he remains, unlike his boss, a true ideologue.  Fake news, not to mention old-fashioned bias, is repeatedly alleged, and on that score, he is not always wrong.  (The assertion that networks can be pristinely objective is a fantastic one that needs debunking.)

Where the world of make-believe impresses itself upon Gorka is any rational assessment of the presidency and its meagre achievements so far. Calling them “fabulous”, Gorka repeatedly makes remarks to the extent that reporting on the inner workings of the Trump world bear “almost no resemblance to reality.”[1]

This enables us to then assess what resemblance to reality Gorka assesses when it comes to his pet subject: the Global Jihadi scourge. On several fronts, Gorka fails to supply his audience with any explanation as to whether there is such a global jihadi problem, let alone what form it is meant to take.  To do so would naturally entail having to describe a fantasy, even a conceit.

A spate of murderous drive-down spectaculars in European cities instigated by assailants either inspired by Islamic State or some other group with apocalyptic credentials is hardly evidence of a globally coherent world strategy. Had there been a unified leader of Islam, a fact hardly tenable given its various sects and internal contradictions, then assertions of a global jihadi front might hold some water.

Gorka’s Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War reads much like the screeds on modernisation theory churned out during the initial stages of postcolonialism.  As long as money, bubble gum and US ideas of liberal capital were filling the nationalist void in the Third World, favour towards communism would be stemmed.  Such an argument ignored the obvious point that nationalism was the driving force to begin with, with communism being conscripted to that end.

Similar errors in analysis are made in dealing with the “Global” Jihadi problem.  Categories are conflated; entities reduced to a common denominator of world revolution.  The attacks of 9/11 were acts of “jihadi terrorism… but, more importantly, that event was linked to communism.  It was linked to fascism.”[2]

This stunningly hollow reasoning would tend to neglect that US involvement in funding the mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the Soviets, not to mention propping regimes of such brutish reputation as Mubarak’s in Egypt, might also have had their share. Ideology, as ever, provides refined blinkers.

In Defeating Jihad, Gorka claims that the United States was caught unawares, and as chief defender of Freedom’s lands, “It is time for the America that vanquished the Third Reich and the Soviet Union to rise from its slumber.”

Tiresome moral references aspiring to clarity are made.  “It is time for us to speak truthfully about those who wish to kill us or enslave us.  It is time again to speak the words ‘evil’ and ‘enemy’.” The next error on equating threats follows.  “And it is time to draw a plan for victory, calling on strategies that have proved themselves against other totalitarian foes.”

Fictional formulas sell well in this field. Jihadists are rendered monolithic miscreants of the global order, requiring expunging. They are like Soviet-styled politburos, posing “existential threats” to the American way of life.  For Gorka, with his revamped neoconservative slant shaped by his own taste of Hungarian communism, it is all painfully clear. If only people were willing to listen to his revelation that Islam has a central motor, a vehicle for world domination that needs to be stopped in its tracks.

Essential, then, is a similar “Long Telegram” in the mould of former Soviet scholar, US diplomat and author of the doctrine of containment, George Kennan.  “If George Kennan had been a senior diplomat in the US embassy in Baghdad during the rise of ISIS in 2013 and had been asked to explain what was happening in the Middle East, his reply would have been practically the same as the Long Telegram.” Or perhaps not, as Kennan subsequently saw his analysis hijacked, condensed and ironed out for ideological purposes during the Truman administration.

Gorka finds it easy to plot a timeline of Islamic violence, claiming that the Jihadism of the last 30 years can be squarely rooted in the anti-modernism of various writers that gained traction in the nineteenth century. But this is hardly remarkable.  What is unfortunate is Gorka’s reading of history as having meaningful signs and parallels, showing the way for those bedazzled by faith.  Having gazed at its movement, he finds true meaning. It is precisely why such zeal is not merely dangerous, but ultimately worn.

Notes.

[1] http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/319343-trump-aide-says-leaked-stories-bear-almost-no-resemblance-to-reality

[2] http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/02/sebastian-gorka-donald-trump-white-house

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail