From the notorious racist who will be our new attorney general to the anti-public school crusader who’ll lead the department of education and the literal neo-Nazi serving as chief strategist, Donald Trump’s cabinet picks seem almost calculated to be as flamboyantly nonsensical as possible. And despite his campaign promise to “drain the swamp,” he has appointed an almost unprecedented number of Goldman Sachs executives and installed the daughter of a powerful shipping magnate as secretary of transportation. So we’ve all been anxious for the climax of this crazy parade that is Trump’s pick for secretary of state. Now, we may finally have our man, and sure enough the potential pick is nothing but a middle finger imaginable to both his supporters and the nation at large.
If the rumblings in Washington are correct, it appears that Trump intends to name Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) as his secretary of state. Rohrabacher shares Donald Trump’s
isolationist pro-Russian views and his fickle chauvinist worldview. However he was also one of the primary architects of the CIA’s policy of aiding the Islamic mujahideen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Elements of the mujahideen would evolve into al-Qaeda and become the prime boogeyman used by neoconservatives like Rohrabacher – the same men who had funded them to begin with – to push new neo-imperial adventures.
In the civil war that broke out after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, Rohrabacher remained a staunch advocate of supporting the theocratic Taliban, funneling hundreds of millions of dollars to the brutal regime. For someone who claims to be an “expert” on South Asia and a proud defender of freedom and liberty Rohrabacher’s views on the Taliban, as described in a 1996 journal article, are shocking:
The potential rise to power of the Taliban does not alarm Rohrabacher, because the Taliban could provide stability in an area where chaos was creating a real threat to the U.S. Rohrabacher says that under the previous situation Afghanistan was becoming a major source of drugs and a haven for terrorists “an anarchistic state of narco-terrorism.” In contrast, the Taliban leaders have already shown that they intend to establish a disciplined, moral society.
Rohrabacher calls the sensational media reporting of the “harsh” imposition of strict Islamic behavior, with the underlying implication that this somehow threatens the West, “nonsense.” He says the Taliban are devout traditionalists, not terrorists or revolutionaries, and, in contrast to the Iranians, they do not seem intent on exporting their beliefs.
Rohrabacher was apparently so impressed with the “moral society” the Taliban was building that a mere few months before 9/11 he met with Taliban leaders in Qatar and promised tens of millions more in American aid. Trump has painted President Obama as a traitor for cutting an imperfect yet undeniably beneficial deal with the theocratic mullahs in Tehran but apparently have no qualms with a man who pumped enormous amounts of money and weapons to the Taliban and al-Qaeda themselves. The fact that Trump could make this appointment, and that his virulently anti-Islamic followers could accept it without protest, is a testament to the historical aphasia that afflicts many neoconservatives when it comes to their past support for the very ‘terrorists’ that are the prime target of their fear-mongering today.
Given Trump’s natural talent for hypocrisy and contradiction, it is of course no surprise that his associates are well versed in self-delusion as well. Thus in a recent interview Rohrabacher could say with a straight face that since “radical Islamists are killing Russians like they’re killing Western Europeans and Americans” it was “rational” that he “suggested we work with Russia to defeat this threat.” A few short decades ago, however, it was his money that those very same radical Islamists were using to kill Russians. I for one propose awarding Rohrabaher a gold metal for the mental gymnastics he must constantly be engaged in. As a nation, however, we can only hope whatever disaster Rohrabacher inevitably precipitates if he is chosen as secretary of state is less horrible than the results of his previous attempt.
James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.