Petraeus Warns That Divisive Actions on Muslims Strengthen Extremists

The former general appeared to undercut President Trump’s early national security moves.

Anthony Behar/Zuma

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


President Donald Trump has faced criticism from across the political spectrum after signing an executive order last Friday restricting travel from seven majority-Muslim countries. On Wednesday, one of Trump’s favorite military minds appeared to add his voice to the public condemnation.

General David Petraeus, a finalist for secretary of state in the Trump administration despite his disgraced exit from the CIA, told the House Armed Services Committee that broad-brush statements from Trump and others in his administration about Islam and Muslims complicate the fight against groups like ISIS.

“We must also remember that Islamic extremists want to portray this fight as a clash of civilizations, with America at war against Islam,” Petraeus said at a hearing on national security threats and challenges. “We must not let them do that. Indeed, we must be very sensitive to actions that might give them ammunition in such an effort.”

Trump’s executive order grew out of his campaign promise to implement a “Muslim ban.” It followed reports that the Trump administration was considering reopening CIA black sites, based on a draft executive order that replaced phrases like “global war on terrorism” and “jihadist” with “radical Islamic terrorism” and “Islamist.” This weekend, Trump also elevated adviser Steve Bannon by giving him a seat on the National Security Council’s Principals Committee. Bannon has said that Islam is a “religion of submission” and frequently hosted and praised guests on his radio show who disparaged Islam.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Petraeus also pushed back on Trump’s suggestions that NATO alliances might be weakened and Russian aggression tolerated. Trump has called NATO “obsolete” and has worried leaders across the world with his seemingly soft stance on Russia.

“Americans should not take the current international order for granted,” the retired general said. “It did not will itself into existence. We created it. Likewise, it is not naturally self-sustaining. We have sustained it. If we stop doing so it will fray and eventually collapse. This is precisely what some of our adversaries seek to encourage.”

Petraeus told the committee that “conventional aggression” may get US adversaries like Russia “a bit of land on its periphery,” but the real fight is more fundamental. “The real center of gravity is the political will of the major democratic powers to defend Euro-Atlantic institutions like NATO and the [European Union],” Petraeus said. “That is why Russia is working tenaciously to sow doubt in the legitimacy of these institutions and our entire democratic way of life.”

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate