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Grover Norquist and the Muslim Takeover of America

By Roger Berkowitz

Conspiracies are everywhere. From the President’s birthplace to U.S. involvement in 9/11, conspiracy theorists rule the airwaves. It is easy to mock those who purvey false certainties, but that should not stop us from taking them seriously. When people feel threatened and uneasy, in times of spiritual homelessness and economic dislocation, there is a deeply human need for certainty. In other words, conspiracies satisfy a longing for a consistent and coherent world, one that makes sense and feels like home.

The most recent conspiracy theory making the rounds has now attracted the support of Michelle Bachmann and four other members of Congress. You may have heard that these Representatives in June sent letters to multiple federal agencies asking for an investigation of the increasing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood on U.S. policy. The letter named names and called out the U.S. Army as well as Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  In a July radio interview, Michelle Bachmann, elaborated:

“It appears that there has been deep penetration in the halls of our United States government by the Muslim Brotherhood. . . . It appears that there are individuals who are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood who have positions, very sensitive positions, in our Department of Justice, our Department of Homeland Security, potentially even in the National Intelligence Agency.”

To most, these conspiratorial fantasies were something to laugh at or to use for political points.  But that misses the bipartisan and widespread embrace of conspiratorial thinking across the country.

In a recent essay in the Daily Beast, Jonathan Kay locates the source of the latest conspiracy in the person of one Frank Gaffney, the Founder and President of the American Center for Security Policy. Gaffney is a former cold warrior and was deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear forces and arms control policy under Ronald Reagan. Since 9/11, he has replaced his Cold War instincts with a new obsession. In Kay’s words, Gaffney is on “the hunt for Muslim fifth columnists in Washington’s halls of power.”

In a twist too ironic to be believed, it turns out Gaffney’s conspiratorial antennae were first aroused by the romantic habits of his former roommate, Grover Norquist. It seems that around the time Norquist and Gaffney were bunking together in DC, the future president of Americans for Tax Reform married Samah Alrayyes, a muslim woman who was then working for USAID. For Gaffney this betrayal was too much, and he apparently has become convinced that Norquist is a closet Muslim who is, intentionally or not, betraying the United States to its Muslim foes. As Kay reports, Alrayyes

pops up repeatedly in Gaffney’s anti-sharia mythology, and he seems to imagine her as a sort of Rasputin figure within Washington’s conservative establishment, turning its members into Islamists one by one through her husband’s influence.

No one has written so factually and perceptively about the present American mania for conspiracies as the Canadian Jonathan Kay. Kay’s book Amongst the Truthers, used the highly educated and professional members of the “truther” movement—those who believe that the U.S. government was behind the 9/11 attacks—to explore the bipartisan realm of conspiracy movements in the U.S. Kay is continuing his investigations, which brought him to attend the Sharia Awareness Action Network conference in Tennessee earlier this year, where Gaffney was a key speaker.

Kay rightly puts Gaffney, Bachmann, and their co-conspirators in their places. More importantly, he also goes a long way to trying to understand their obsessions. He writes:

Gaffney’s performance seemed like something out of the McCarthy era—and he himself seemed to embrace the historical comparison. Like many speakers at the conference, he is a middle-aged man with strong memories of the Cold War. While critics of the anti-sharia movement are quick to brand these figures as Islamophobes, my own take is that they also suffer from a strong dose of Warsaw Pact-era nostalgia—and seek to reclaim the moral certainty that characterized an era in which the world could be divided clearly between good and evil.

The rise of conspiratorial thinking is not simply an accidental appendage of the internet age—although the internet undoubtedly aids the dissemination and power of conspiratorial belief. Conspiracies are rampant today in large part because there is a demand for simple, clear, and escapist explanations for the serious challenges we face. Conspiracies are therefore part and parcel of the search for consistent narratives that also lie behind the factionalization of political discourse. We would much prefer to speak into an echo chamber of our thoughts and opinions like our own than to risk speaking with those with whom we meaningfully disagree. It is easy to laugh at or disdain conspiracy theorists. It is much more difficult to see their need for consistency in our own choices of what to read and watch.

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  • Michael K

    I used to listen to Gaffney when he was a regular guest on the Hugh Hewitt show. The man is a war monger. He mention over the course of of few month at least a half a dozen countries he wanted to start a war with.

  • thibaud

    Not that he needs defenders but at least Gaffney’s not conspiring to drown the nation’s government in the bathtub.

    Progress will have occurred when the GOP worthies recognize that Norquist is an even bigger crackpot, and a far more damaging one, than Bachmann.

  • Tom Chambers

    I don’t pay attention to Gaffney or Truthers. But I will note that, since Kaye’s essay invokes the McCarthy era three times, it would have been relevant to include mention that the essence of McCarthy’s claim was correct– the US government had been infiltrated by agents of the USSR, as confirmed much later by Russian documents.

  • BT

    WRM once said – Nov 2009- re the War that dare not speak its name – “Our side can only prevail when folks understand who the other side is and what it really wants.”

    The USA is at war with militant Islamism, whether it cares to publicly admit it or not. I seem to recall your President recently gave the kill order for a fellow called Osama bin Laden.

    Deception, propaganda, infiltration and untoward influence have always been effective tools of war. It is naive to think that only one side in this hot/cold war has the subtlety and foresight to use them.

    You trotted out the tired trope of Islamophobia, a big favourite of covertly pro-Islamist organisations posing as moderates. I suggest this column bears the hallmarks of analysisphobia; a common affliction of the left-leaning elite who prefer a world-weary pose to effective problem-solving.

  • Daniel Messing

    The “McCarthy era” was one, we now know, in which there was an extremely active effort by Communist Russia to influence the US government. That McCarthy used the situation for his own ends(ultimately to his downfall) should not be used to deny the Communist activities of the time. So to denigrate the possibility of a foreign influence on the US government–based on the McCarthy era–seems an error.

  • Mapper

    I don’t think conspiracies about 9/11 or Obama’s birthplace are comparable with worries about Islamic influence on the US government. The latter is backed by a cascade of Saudi money around Washington, for one thing.
    WRM say’s its legitimate to ask tough questions about municipal finances, for example. Clearly doing so is not necessarily some crazed conpiracy against innocent local government workers.

    So why is it not legitimate to ask equally tough questions about islamc spending n DC? And why is the default response to try to smear anyone who does? There seems to be a suspect double standard.
    Having seen how the Army went to almost any length not to confront the Fort Hood shooter over many years, surely it’s at least open to reasonable possibility there could be similar willful blindness to other Islamists. I’d be interested in the author’s explanation of what, if anything, went wrong in the Fort Hood case .

  • Tom F.

    Love your blog and read it daily, but on this subject would you consider Andrew McCarthy a conspiracy nut (see link)? I have Top Secret clearance with US gov’t and my family members and personal contacts were (and still are every five years) all examined before my clearance was granted and is renewed. MaCarthey’s and others point is that thia does not seem to have been the case with Huma despite the sensitivity of her position and her (certainly at least her family’s) closeness to MB.

  • Lugo

    This was a moronic post. WRM should be ashamed to have Berkowitz as a guest blogger.

  • Charles

    Frank Gaffney is a principled and reasonable man. This column is filled with assertions and no evidence.

  • Kenny

    Conspiracy theory?


    Since 9/11, the U.S. government has been bending over backwards to appease the Muslims.


    Any of you Muslim apologist and multiculturalists out there wish to explain the ‘why.’

  • Tom


    I am neither, and I can: Because the State Department is delusional and thinks that our opponents can be brought around to think like us if we’re nice enough.

  • Lexington Green

    Very disappointing column. Huma Abedin was not submitted to the usual review process. If she had been she would not have passed. Why did this happen? It should not have. That is the issue Ms. Bachmann raised and she was and is correct to do so

    The Muslim Brotherhood is an organization with many elements, including propagsnda and infiltration and support for front organizations. It is actively promoting a militant and regressive form of Islam. To dismiss any concern about the operation of the MB in the USA with the much-abused term McCarthyism and to fail to address the basis for concern is simply ad hominem and is no argument at all.

    This problem is real. It will not go away in response to smug and dismissive treatment such as this post. People will increasingly demand answers.

    This post is so far below what readers expect on this blog that it is embarrassing.

  • thibaud

    “This post is so far below what readers expect on this blog”

    Tell it, brother.

    More votes for the decent folk!

    Stop the government’s poisoning of our precious bodily fluids!

    But, hey, just one favor, babe.

    I wish we could settle on the number of jihadis in the administration. The way ya keep changin’ the figures on me, it just makes me look like some kinda idiot…

  • Charles R. Williams

    Are Huma Abedin’s family connections to the Muslim Brotherhood an issue or are they not? And why or why not? This seems to be a legitimate issue.

    It is not any kind of logical argument to bring up the ghost of Joe McCarthy in this context. Communist subversion of the government, unions and the entertainment industry in the post-war period is a fact. It is also a fact that McCarthy shamelessly demagogued the issue after the threat had largely abated. Michelle Bachmann is no Joe McCarthy. The real issue is whether the Muslim Brotherhood is or is not a subversive threat in the way that Communism was and, if so, whether Abedin was properly vetted.

  • Frank Parriott

    This post is a disgrace. Instead of maligning Gaffney et al, here’s an idea, address their specific complaints. I suspect the reason they are not addressed is because to do so would be to reveal their validity. Shame, really, shame on you.

  • thibaud

    57! That’s the ticket. Fifty-seven jihadis in the gum’mint!

  • jwbaumann

    Articles written with a dismissive tone reflect a low intellect, laziness, or worse.

  • delta4ce7

    Roger, you must be basing your ideas on pure assumptions because it’s clear that you don’t read what the new world order people themselves say and then connect it with what they’ve managed to do to back up their stated goals. There’s no theory being presented. The conspiracy to do away with U.S. sovereignty based on our Constitution and individual rights almost without notice by American citizens and turning then into total slaves with no inherent rights at all is a well established fact.

  • Jimney Cricket

    Having researched the Muslim Brotherhood long before 9/11, I can state with absolute certitude that the Muslim Brotherhood has one and only one goal: a global caliphate. Period. The information is available to anyone willing to make the least bit of an effort. As for Gaffney, he is no war monger. Gaffney is a security monger and he has been working for the security of the United States for a very long time.

    Only an idiot would call Gaffney a conspiring nut for pointing out what the Muslim Brotherhood proudly but through stealth works towards. They will use whatever means and methods available and expedient to their cause.

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