Frank Gaffney, director of the hardline neoconservative Center for Security Policy (CSP), is a leading anti-Islamic pundit in the United States who advocates controversial weapons programs, a right-wing Israeli line on Mideast security, and an expansive "war on terror" targeting "Islamofascists" (a popular Gaffney term). Gaffney has been a militarist gadfly since the 1970s, getting his start working on the staff of Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson (D-WA) before joining the Ronald Reagan Pentagon working under Richard Perle.
On Iran and Syria
After the 2013 election of moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Gaffney led CSP's charge against any diplomatic rapprochement between Tehran and Washington. "By simply meeting with Mr. Rouhani, let alone by making other, more tangible concessions to Iran's president, Mr. Obama would confer a legitimacy on the self-professed Iranian con man that is unwarranted," wrote Gaffney in September 2013, insisting that Rouhani was less moderate than he appeared to be. Arguing that only the threat of military force could resolve the standoff, Gaffney concluded that Obama "should be open to congressional enactment of an authorization for the use of military force in Iran," even if such a resolution would wreck negotiations.
Gaffney has accused the Obama administration of weakening the United States by engaging Iran diplomatically and by presiding over modest cuts to the U.S. military budget. "Far from a Reaganesque policy of 'peace through strength' and the practice of what historian Henry Nau calls 'armed diplomacy' that it has made successful in the past, Team Obama is engaged in disarmed diplomacy. The results will, predictably, be disappointing and probably quite dangerous," Gaffney wrote. "The truth is that our adversaries, whether they be in Damascus, Tehran, Moscow, Beijing or elsewhere have not simply taken the measure this wholly inadequate American president. They are responding to all he is doing to emasculate what has been the principal obstacle to their ambitions: our military, long the world's finest. … [O]ur adversaries are [ready] to take advantage — diplomatically and otherwise — of our self-inflicted and unilateral disarmament."
However, unlike many of his neoconservative allies, Gaffney opposed a U.S. strike on Syria, arguing that it would only empower the country's Islamist rebels and would put Israel at risk of retaliation from Iran. Addressing those who argued that an attack on Syria was necessary to "send a message" to Iran, Gaffney concluded, "For those who think the United States must defeat the Iranian regime before it obtains nuclear weapons, there are other, more direct and certainly more effective means of doing so than by…attacking Syria." Instead, Gaffney argued, "We should help the people of Iran free themselves from their Islamist oppressors. Our success there would do more than any single other thing to assist the Syrian people."
Conspiracies and Anti-Islam Rhetoric
In mid-2012, Gaffney stoked controversy when he argued that the Muslim Brotherhood had infiltrated a variety of institutions, including various agencies of the U.S. government and organizations linked to the conservative movement. That summer, Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann and four Republican House colleagues wrote a letter to the inspectors general of several federal agencies calling for an investigation into the alleged Islamist "penetration" of the U.S. government. The letter singled out Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who happened to be Muslim, charging that the young aide had family members "connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations." In making the claim, the authors cited "The Muslim Brotherhood in America," a 10-part "online course" published by Gaffney in which the CSP director unloads a litany of conspiracy theories about the Islamist group.
These claims were roundly denounced on the left as well as the right. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) took to the Senate floor to decry what he called "an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman, a dedicated American, and a loyal public servant." House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) warned that "accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous." The Democratic and Republican leaders of the House Intelligence Committee also denounced the accusations as baseless.
Gaffney has also focused his invective and conspiracy-mongering on fellow conservatives. During a speech at a Nashville mega-church in late 2011, Gaffney reportedly "told the crowd that they were naive if they thought the Muslim Brotherhood threat could be expunged merely by voting Obama out of office." Commented journalist Jonathan Kay, "In fact, Gaffney believes the Brotherhood has penetrated the full range of Washington's political spectrum—including the Conservative Political Action Conference, the American Conservative Union, and even the Republican Party itself. To illustrate his point, Gaffney put up a long, rapid-fire sequence of slides showing photos of George W. Bush and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist posing with American Muslims, whom Gaffney invariably identified as 'Muslim Brotherhood operatives.'"
Although other conspiratorial-minded members of the neoconservative firmament like David Horowitz and Andrew McCarthy embraced Gaffney's claims, they nonetheless resulted in his exile from the conservative mainstream. In May 2012, Slate blogger Dave Weigel reported that Gaffney had been banned both from the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference and from Grover Norquist's weekly policy lunches.
During the lead up to the November 2012 election, Gaffney was one of several right-wing pundits promoting the idea that President Obama lied about what happened during the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the death of four embassy employees, including the U.S. ambassador. Gaffney claimed the event may have exposed an effort by the Obama administration to aid "America's enemies." In an op-ed for the conservative TownHall.com, Gaffney claimed: "Amb. Stevens was there [in Benghazi]—on a particularly risky day, with no security to speak of and despite now-copiously-documented concerns about his own safety and that of his subordinates—for another priority mission: sending arms recovered from the former regime's stocks to the 'opposition' in Syria." He added, "What cries out for further investigation…is whether this shipment was part of a larger covert Obama effort to transfer weapons to our enemies that could make the Iran-Contra scandal, to say nothing of Operation Fast and Furious, pale by comparison?"
In August 2011, the Center for American Progress (CAP) identified Gaffney and CSP as being part of "a small, tightly networked group of misinformation experts" who have been instrumental in the "rise of Islamophobia" in the United States. Others have included David Yerushalmi of the Society of Americans for National Existence; Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum; Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch and Stop Islamization of America; and Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism. The report, titled"Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America" and based on an exhaustive research of tax documents revealing the funding networks supporting Islamophobia campaigns, also identified a small number of foundations that appear to have been the key funders of this network, including the Bradley and Scaife foundations, as well as the Donor's Forum.
As an example of Gaffney's "Sharia nonsense," the report cites Gaffney's claims regarding the Barack Obama administration's logo for the Missile Defense Agency, which features a crescent-type shape, which Gaffney worried was a sign that the president might "submit" to Islam. In a February 2010 article, Gaffney claimed, "Team Obama's anti-anti-missile initiatives are not simply acts of unilateral disarmament of the sort to be expected from an Alinsky acolyte. They seem to fit an increasingly obvious and worrying pattern of official U.S. submission to Islam and the theo-political-legal program the latter's authorities call Shariah."
In 2014, in response to the military successes of the "Islamic State" in Iraq and Syria, Gaffney led calls for a "war on Shariah." Writing for the conservative Breitbart in August 2014, Gaffney called on Congress to pass a authorization for the use of military force, arguing: "It is past time to recognize that we are at war not with one group of 'terrorists' or another. Rather, adherents to a doctrine or ideology they call shariah are at war with us. By identifying the political-military-legal ideology of shariah as the defining ideology of those with whom we are at war—much as we did in the past against Nazism, Fascism, Japanese imperialism, and communism—we have a chance of prevailing. And that chance will be greatly enhanced if we bring to bear now, as in the past, not only military but all other instruments of national power."
In 2010, Gaffney's CSP published a report titled "Shariah: The Threat to America," which contends that U.S. Muslims are waging a "stealth jihad" aimed at imposing Islamic law on the United States and proposes prosecuting those who practice Sharia. Citing the report, which was penned by David Yerushalmi, Gaffney wildly claimed that it"is now public knowledge that nearly every major Muslim organization in the United States is actually controlled by the MB [Muslim Brotherhood] or a derivative organization. Consequently, most of the Muslim-American groups of any prominence in America are now known to be, as a matter of fact, hostile to the United States and its Constitution."Commenting on this view, Nathan Brown, director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University, said that "Gaffney is a self-parody. I have better things to do with my time than investigating the veracity of his raving."
Nevertheless, despite—or perhaps because of—his bizarre views, Gaffney has "considerable influence on mainstream political discourse," according to CAP. He isfrequently cited in the press as an "expert" on U.S. foreign policy, appearing on the BBC and other radio and TV broadcasts. He is also a prolific writer, having published in most major media outlets and opinion journals, including the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New Republic, Washington Post, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times, National Review, Newsday, and Commentary magazine.
Gaffney has supported a long line of rightist and neoconservative advocacy groups and research institutes. He was a founding member of the Project for the New American Century, a neocon-led letterhead group formed in 1997 by William Kristol and Robert Kagan to champion a "Reaganite" foreign policy based on military strength and an interventionist overseas agenda. Gaffney is also a contributing expert for the Israel-based Ariel Center, which maintains a number of close links to rightist pro-Israel groups in the United States, and is a member of the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), the hawkish anti-communist Cold War-era group that was revived after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to champion the war on terror. He is an adviser for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, created after 9/11 with the purported mission of "promoting pluralism, defending democratic values, and fighting the ideologies that drive terrorism," and was an adviser to the now defunct Americans for Victory over Terrorism, created in 2002 by a William Bennett-led group of hardliners and neoconservatives.
Gaffney's views on U.S. foreign policy were shaped during the formative years of the neoconservative political faction in the early 1970s, when some disaffected liberals rallied around Sen. "Scoop" Jackson, a hardline Democrat known for his combative support of Israel and sharp anti-communism. When Jackson failed to garner support for his presidential election campaign in the mid-1970s, many of his disaffected liberal followers (who were derisively tagged as "neoconservatives" by left-leaning political figures) joined the Republican Party.
After the presidential victory of Ronald Reagan, Gaffney joined the Pentagon, where he served as an aide to then-Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle. Because of his pugnacity, especially toward State Department officials, Gaffney earned the moniker "Perle's Bulldog." After Perle resigned in 1987, Gaffney was nudged out of the Pentagon by Perle's replacement Frank Carlucci. Gaffney subsequently created the Center for Security Policy, which counts among its advisers an impressive list of retired military brass and elite public policy figures.
Like other promoters of the "peace through strength" credo espoused by CSP, Gaffney criticized Reagan for slipping toward the liberal frameworks of détente and arms control during his second term. Frustrated former Pentagon officials, including Perle, gathered for a brainstorming session after Gaffney's ouster. "What we need is the Domino's Pizza of the policy business," claimed Perle. "If you don't get your policy analysis in 30 minutes, you get your money back." Soon thereafter, with a start-up grant from the Olin Foundation, Gaffney founded the CSP.
According to Gaffney, the CSP "prides itself on being loosely modeled on the Committee on the Present Danger," which was also cited as the model for PNAC by its founders. Included on the CSP advisory council and board have been at least a dozen former CPD members. In a CSP annual report, Gaffney says CSP is "an organization for our time ... [whose] lean, agile organizational structure enables the Center to bring to today's debate what we call 'precision-guided ideas.'"
CSP garnered attention in 2014 when it was revealed that it receives funding in part from major aerospace and defense contractors, including Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, Raytheon, and General Electric.
Salon's Eli Clifton, who revealed these donors, wrote of the revelations: "The aerospace industry's decision to support Gaffney's highly controversial work is unusual due to his reputation as a member of the fringe, anti-Muslim far-right."
Before becoming undersecretary of defense for policy, Douglas Feith was the CSP's chairman and legal counsel as well as a financial contributor. Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Cheney have also long been close associates of CSP, which has been described as the "Star Warriors Hall of Fame." Rumsfeld, in addition to being a CSP "Keeper of the Flame" award winner in 1998, has been a CSP financial backer, and Cheney was formerly a CSP board member.
In 1990 Gaffney scoffed at those who believed that Mikhail Gorbachev intended to allow the peaceful disintegration of the Soviet Union. The CSP's mission was "to promote world peace through American strength," Gaffney asserted. Holding firm, he continued warning of the imperial designs of the then-collapsing Soviet Union. Gaffney discounted evidence that the country was rapidly disintegrating and dismissed the sincerity of Gorbachev's overtures of cooperation with the United States. "Now is the time for a new Team B," urged Gaffney, "and a clear-eyed assessment of the abiding Soviet (and other) challenges that dictate a continued, robust defense posture."
The Soviet Union imploded before Gaffney could mobilize right-wing congressional members to establish an independent threat assessments commission. However, the Center for Security Policy nonetheless became one of the most influential policy institutes in the right's counter-establishment during the 1990s. Working with the congressional members of its advisory board, Gaffney's center was instrumental in establishing two independent commissions—chaired by Donald Rumsfeld—that challenged the Clinton administration's reluctance to authorize a space weapons program and a multi-tiered missile defense system.
In an article in the Nation, journalist Jason Vest wrote: "Beyond compiling an A-list of influential conservative hawks, Gaffney has been prolific over the past 15 years, churning out a constant stream of reports (as well as regular columns for the Washington Times) making the case that the gravest threats to U.S. national security are China, Iraq, still-undeveloped ballistic missiles launched by rogue states, and the passage of or adherence to virtually any form of arms control treaty. Gaffney and CSP's prescriptions for national security have been fairly simple: Gut all arms control treaties, push ahead with weapons systems virtually everyone agrees should be killed (such as the V-22 Osprey), give no quarter to the Palestinians and, most important, go full-steam ahead on just about every national missile defense program. (CSP was heavily represented on the late-1990s Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, which was instrumental in keeping the program alive during the Clinton years)."
Terrorism, Islamofascism, and National Security
It was not until after 9/11, however, that Gaffney began zeroing in on what he saw as burgeoning international terrorist networks threatening the United States. As Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service wrote, "Precisely whom the war is being waged against depends on the week. But since the Center's founding in 1988, the enemy has included the Soviet Union and its real or suspected allies; China; the Oslo peace process; Arabs (especially Palestinians); the United Nations and the Law of the Sea, in particular; anyone opposed to ever-bigger defense budgets and expensive, if unworkable, missile-defense programs; and, most recently, 'Islamofascists' (from al-Qaida to Saudi Arabia and the UAE to Iran)."
Gaffney says that post-9/11 the main threat to peace and security is "Islamofascism," which is a terms he says "makes clear that the war is about much more than Iraq and Afghanistan" and includes those countries—namely, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, North Korea, China, Cuba, Venezuela, and South Africa—which provide direct or indirect support for the Islamofascists "in their death struggle with us."
A typical example of his discourse on this topic was a March 2006 article for the Jewish World Review titled "Islamofascist 'Coup' in Turkey," in which Gaffney claimed that "Islamofascists" were poised to create a "Muslim caliphate," in this case by trying to overturn Ataturk's secular legacy in Turkey. Wrote Gaffney: "Ending Ataturk's experiment and restoring the Muslim caliphate it supplanted has long been a goal of Islamofascists, adherents to a dangerous political movement whose global reach and terrorist methods have largely been enabled by decades of investment by the world's repressive Islamist regimes, led by Saudi Arabia. The rise of Islamofascism has prompted some in the West to hope that Turkey would continue to serve as a model for the Muslim world even after an avowed Islamist named Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2002 parlayed a minority of votes into a monopoly of power. This delusion contributed to the European Union allowing its negotiations for Turkish accession to the EU to be skillfully used by Erdogan to checkmate Turkey's military." He concluded: "It behooves the European Union to reinforce the political impact of such sentiment by making clear that Islamofascist behavior will be what precludes Turkey from being eligible for membership, not efforts by the Turkish military to counter the Islamists' takeover. And the United States and other freedom-loving nations must make clear that they view an Islamist Turkey as no model for the Muslim world and a threat to that nation's standing as a valued member of the free one."
Two months prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Gaffney predicted during an interview for "Four Corners," an investigative TV news program of Australian Broadcasting Network, "I believe that when you find, as you will I hope shortly, that the Iraqi people welcome the end of this horrible regime, even if it comes at some further expense to themselves, knowing as they do that the alternative is more of the horror that they've lived under for the past two or three decades. Ah you'll see I think an outpouring of appreciation for their liberation that will make what we saw in Afghanistan recently pale by comparison. You'll see, moreover, evidence in the files and the bunkers that become available to our military, evidence not only of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction programs and his future ambitions for their use perhaps and for aggression against his neighbors, but also, I would be willing to bet, evidence of his past complicity with acts of terror against the West, perhaps more generally but certainly against the United States which in turn I think will further vindicate the course of action that this president is courageously embarked upon."
Gaffney has frequently invoked the notorious Team B exercise of the mid-1970s—during which a team of outside analysts reinterpreted CIA intelligence regarding the Soviet threat to the United States—as a model for future threat assessment efforts. Ignoring the fact that most experts agree that Team B misrepresented the Soviet threat, Gaffney has repeatedly called for establishing a new Team B, most famously in 1990 after the Soviet threat had all but vanished.
He repeated this assertion again during his interview on Four Corners, saying: "Well I think one simply has to look at what the Soviets actually did and what they had, what they were building, what they were planning, to see that in fact the Team B assessment was vastly more accurate in its depiction of all of that, than was an assessment that they had a huge economy, they were not devoting much of it to military activities, the activities were not terribly threatening, they did not anticipate or desire to meet, let alone exceed, our military capabilities and the like, which was the sort of standard fare of the time in the intelligence community as I recall."
Although largely devoted to U.S. security and defense policies, CSP also spends a lot of energy championing hardline Israeli security issues. In May 2006, for example, the institute launched an advertising campaign in the United States protesting a plan by the Israel government that CSP said was "giving territory to terrorists." When unveiling the 30-second spot, Gaffney said: "[Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert needs to know that Americans will not support, let alone finance, such an action that would threaten the future survival of both Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, endanger the effort to consolidate the liberation of Iraq, and create a new safe-haven from which Islamofascist terrorists will be able to plot and launch attacks against the United States."
Gaffney was the lead author of War Footing: Ten Steps America Must Take to Survive and Prevail in the War for the Free World. Among the other authors included in this 2005 book published by the Naval Institute Press are James Woolsey, General Tom McInerney, General Paul Vallely, Alex Alexiev, Andrew McCarthy, Claudia Rosett, Michael Rubin, Daniel Gouré, and two CSP scholars, Caroline Glick and Michael Waller.
At a 2006 CPD presentation, Gaffney warned that Iran "is working toward a capability that could destroy America as we know it." According to Gaffney, Iran's missile program appears designed to detonate a nuclear weapon "in space high above the United States, unleashing an immensely powerful electro-magnetic pulse (EMP)" that would destroy the U.S. electrical grid. The result could reduce the United States "to a pre-industrial society in the blink of an eye." When this claim was echoed years later by Newt Gingrich, physicists described it as "far-fetched."
Gaffney is also one of the principals of the Set America Free Coalition. The coalition—which includes military contractors, neocons, and greens—shares staff and principals with the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. It believes that national security is closely connected with energy security, especially from Middle East oil. Its slogan is "Cut Dependence on Foreign Oil. Secure America."
The largely neocon group includes Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY); Clifford May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; Robert McFarlane; Thomas Neumann of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, Daniel Pipes of Middle East Forum, James Woolsey, and Meyrav Wurmser of the Hudson Institute. Other notables include Gary Bauer of American Values, former Sen. Lincoln Chaffee (R-RI), David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, and Milton Copulos of the National Defense Council Foundation.
CSP's board and advisory council have included many figures with strong ties to defense industries. To name just a few: Stanley Ebner is a chief Boeing lobbyist; Charles Kupperman is vice president, Strategic Integration & Operations, Missile Defense Systems, Boeing Company; Douglas Graham is Lockheed's director of defense systems; and Amoretta Hoeber is a former TRW executive. Other CSP advisory council members have include former Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA), Robert Joseph, Phyllis Kaminsky, and Fred Ikle.