President Donald Trump has a way of presenting the appearance of a commander-in-chief who is on top of some of the world's hot spots, yet it seems his version of "accomplishments" in volatile regions around the world do not align with his own intelligence apparatus, nor with the Defense Department.
We have seen Trump's director of National Intelligence provide unbidden assessments of Russia and North Korea. In January, Trump claimed his intelligence chiefs were misquoted by the press regarding testimony given by the chiefs at the Senate hearing, yet Trump could not provide one example of any area in which the press "misquoted" his intelligence chiefs. And remember when, while standing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, another U.S. president spoke in a sanguine manner about the "accomplishment of the mission" in Iraq?
It is clear Trump has been out of alignment with his intelligence community, and the president has said, "Time will prove me right, probably." Trump felt disgruntled because his intelligence chiefs contradicted numerous administration claims of foreign policy success. Trump brushed the whole thing off with his usual unsubstantiated claims about "fake news." Millions of Americans, however, did tune in and heard the testimony regarding assessments of global threats. The president was yet again attempting to spin foreign policy success in juxtaposition to the U.S. intelligence community.
In the realm of the Trump White House with this type of dysfunction, it was no surprise when National Intelligence Director Dan Coats told the president it was time to "move on." And there was then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who resigned in December 2018 following Trump's announcement regarding U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria. Oh, and remember Trump had also made the declaration that "We have won against ISIS." Some may have forgotten the name of Rasheed Muhammad, whom USAPoliticsZone.com reported as having been arrested at JFK Airport on Jan. 31, 2017, and that this arrest was directly linked to the heightened scrutiny because of Trump's Muslim travel ban. The arrest never took place, and this actually was a case of fake news.
Last week, it was revealed that a new Pentagon report directly blames Trump for a new and ongoing ISIS resurgence. Brett McGurk, former U.S. special presidential envoy for the ISIS fight, who also resigned following Trump's announcement of the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, has spoken of how the reduction in U.S. forces has made it difficult for the U.S. and allies to monitor a refugee camp. Does this not warrant a serious concern about the spread of ISIS ideology, and the potential for replenishment of the soldiers of ISIS? McGurk did say this recent Pentagon report should be taken very seriously. What if the Turkish forces were to launch a huge attack against the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria?
Last month, the U.S.-led coalition engaged the enemy with airstrikes and artillery strikes on ISIS fighters, buildings, tunnels, weapons caches and vehicles in Iraq. This doesn't sound like "We have won against ISIS," and ISIS does not seem to be vanquished if they are still able to tap into a multimillion-dollar war machine.
In the final analysis, the threat posed by ISIS is not over, by any stretch of the imagination, and maybe the words of Gen. Stanley McChrystal-U.S. Army (ret.) should be embraced by every American: "The kind of leadership that causes a dedicated patriot like Jim Mattis to leave should give pause to every American."
Brent Been is a Tahlequah educator with a special emphasis on civics and history.