- White House aide Sebastian Gorka appeared on MSNBC Live to talk about counterterrorism.
- Host Ali Veshi pressed Gorka on why the administration insists on referring to terror attacks as “radical Islamic terrorism.”
- Gorka suggested that doing otherwise would be like a doctor telling a cancer patient he or she had “the flu.”
White House national-security aide Sebastian Gorka offered an unusual analogy to defend Trump’s preference for referring to attacks by Islamist extremists as “radical Islamic terrorism” during an interview on MSNBC Tuesday, comparing the debate over terms to medical diagnoses.
MSNBC Live co-host Ali Veshi noted during an interview with Gorka that recent terrorist attacks in the West have had “little or no material or operational” connection to ISIS and cited some who have argued such attacks won’t go away even with the demise of that terrorist group.
Asked about the reasoning behind the White House tactic of referring to “radical Islamic terrorism” when describing such attacks, Gorka said it would “jettison the political correctness of the last eight years,” referring to the Obama administration’s avoidance of that term in such cases.
After Gorka stressed the US’s emphasis on working with foreign partners against terrorism, Velshi asked how using that term “helps stop the attacks in Paris or in Belgium.”
“If you have, so if you, god forbid, caught cancer, and the hospital was forbidden from calling it cancer and said, ‘you have the flu. Go home and hydrate and take some aspirins,’ would you actually have the right treatment?” Gorka responded.
“No, but there’s still no cure for cancer,” co-host Stephanie Ruhle said.
“Sorry, but … have you not heard of chemo?” Gorka replied.
“I have heard of chemo,” Ruhle said, “and cancer can still kill you. So it doesn’t matter what you call it.”
“It doesn’t matter what you call it? Really?” Gorka said. “So if I called it the flu and say, ‘go home and take some aspirin,’ what’s going to happen to you, Stephanie?”
“There must be … a better response to that,” Velshi said. “I asked you a very straightforward question …”
“And I gave you a very simple answer,” Gorka responded. “If you misdiagnose, if you misdiagnose anything, whether it’s a serious disease or a international geopolitical threat, you will never solve it. For the last eight years we had an administration that said, ‘oh, it’s economics. Oh, these people are disenfranchised.’ No, it’s not about economics. It’s not about being disenfranchised. It’s about people who have an ideology that is evil and has to be destroyed.”
Velshi then steered the conversation back to his original question, asking how the Trump administration planned to stop “lone-wolf” attacks conducted by individuals inspired by, rather than operating with, groups like ISIS.
“There’s no such thing as a lone wolf. You do know that?” Gorka answered. “That was a phrase invented by the last administration to make Americans stupid. There has never been — never been — a serious attack … or a serious plot that was unconnected from ISIS or Al Qaeda, at least through the ideology and the TTPs — the tactics, the training, the techniques, and the procedures — that they supply through the internet. Never happened. It’s bogus.”
It’s not clear how sweeping Gorka meant to be with that assertion. Other attacks that have targeted US citizens, like the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City or the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland, were not carried out by those groups. Other analyses have found that domestic right-wing terrorism acts have been more common than acts of Islamist terrorism.
Gorka promised that ISIS “will be annihilated,” echoing rhetoric that senior military officials have used to describe the campaign against the terrorist group, and said it was also necessary to work with Muslim partners to “delegitimize the ideology” in order to achieve a final victory against such groups.
The US-led coalition against ISIS has been fighting the group in Iraq and Syria since summer 2014, not long after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared ISIS’ “caliphate” from a mosque in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq.
The amount of territory recaptured from the group has accelerated during the first six months of the Trump administration, Brett McGurk, the State Department’s senior envoy to the coalition, said this month, attributing the gains to Trump’s policies.
Evidence suggests that the stepped-up campaign against the group has led to a significant increase in the number of civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria — 12 or more daily every day between Trump’s inauguration and July 13, according to Airwars, an independent observer group.
Watch the full exchange below:
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