Terrorists are "un-Islamic" and the label "radical Islamic terrorism" is not helpful when describing their activities, President Donald Trump's new national security adviser said this week, showing a marked difference from the language the president and many of his senior advisers often use.
Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster made the comments during his first "all-hands" staff meeting on Thursday, reports The New York Times, quoting people who attended. They also reported the new adviser, who remains in the active military, wore his Army uniform during the talks.
'This is very much a repudiation of his new boss's lexicon and worldview," William McCants, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of "The ISIS Apocalypse," told The Times. "McMaster, like Obama, is someone who was in positions of leadership and thought the United States should not play into the jihadist propaganda that this is a religious war."
McMaster's comments though, are in direct conflict not only with Trump, but with his predecessor's, Michael Flynn, who resigned last week while admitting he had misled several officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, about his communications with a Russian diplomat.
McCants said McMaster's views will be welcomed among the agencies sending recommendations through the National Security Council, as they'll see him as an "advocate to express dissenting opinions."
However, he warned that the views won't be the final word in Trump's White House, as he and many of his top advisers also subscribe to the radical Islam theory.
Retired Army Col. Peter Mansoor, who served with McMaster during the 2007 surge in Iraq, told Fox News, before McMaster's meeting, that the general "absolutely does not view Islam as the enemy. He also believes McMaster will "present a degree of pushback against the theories being propounded in the White House that this is a clash of civilizations and needs to be treated as such."
McMaster has made his views on dealing with Islamic militants clear, reports The Times, including with Trump, who named him to replace Flynn after his first choice, retired Navy Vice Admiral Robert Harwood turned down the post.
The new adviser appears to take the positions of both former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush who separated terrorism from radical Islam, arguing that Muslim allies' help to capture and kill terrorists.
During his presidential campaign, Trump often took Obama to task for his more moderate views, lampooning him for not using the radical Islamic terrorism designation.
On Friday, one day after McMaster made his comments, Trump again made the same claims in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Committee saying "we are going to keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country."
Challenging his superiors is nothing new for McMaster, who is well known for his independent views.
"The key thing to know about McMaster — an active-duty three-star general and deputy commander of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command — is that he has made a career of speaking truth to power, often instinctively, without the slightest talent for fawning to his superiors," Fred Kaplan wrote in an article, "Trump Just Hired the Army's Smartest Officer," for Slate Magazine.
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