A fringe group of conservatives believes that Islamic fundamentalists have infiltrated the deepest recesses of the U.S. government. That’s nonsense.
In the 1950s, Sen. Joe McCarthy and other paranoid anti-communists saw Reds under the bed — and in the State Department. Today a fringe group of conservatives believes similarly that Islamic fundamentalists have infiltrated the deepest recesses of the American government. In refuting such an aspersion made by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) against a State Department official, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has struck a profile in courage that should encourage other conservatives to distance themselves from crackpot conspiracy theories.
On Wednesday McCain defended Huma Abedin, a Muslim American who serves as deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. In a letter to the inspector general of the State Department, Bachmann and four other Republican representatives had warned that Abedin, a longtime Clinton aide, “has three family members — her late father, her mother and her brother — connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations.” The letter was one of five sent to inspectors general of various agencies citing “serious security concerns” about Muslim Brotherhood penetration.
McCain said the attacks on Abedin “have no logic, no basis and no merit, and they need to stop now. I have every confidence in Huma’s loyalty to our country, and everyone else should as well.” On Thursday, House SpeakerJohn A. Boehner(R-Ohio) added, “Accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous.”
It’s gratifying that leaders like McCain and Boehner have come to the defense of a well-regarded victim of guilt by tenuous association. But the Republican Party as a whole needs to dissociate itself from the larger neo-McCarthyite worldview that informs Bachmann’s ravings. The letters to the inspectors general cited the Center for Security Policy, a group founded by Frank Gaffney, a radio host and former Reagan administration official. The group’s website offers a breathless video tutorial about the stealth “civilization jihad” being pursued by the Muslim Brotherhood through the “penetration and subversion of this country’s civil society and governing institutions.”
Such delusions have consequences. On July 15, Clinton’s motorcade in Alexandria, Egypt, was pelted with shoes and tomatoes by protesters who accused the United States of having supported the election of President Mohamed Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood. A New York Times report traced that sentiment in part to a July 4 installment of Gaffney’s online radio program.
The notion of an Islamic Fifth Column in this country is poisonous not only to domestic tranquillity but also to effective diplomacy. Leaders of both parties should repudiate it.