NEW YORK — H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s embattled national security adviser, labeled the September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorist attacks “mass murder attacks,” instead of calling them acts of terrorism.
McMaster made the comments during a Tuesday event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) marking the 70th anniversary of the National Security Council (NSC).
He was addressing the expansion of the NSC from about fifty members in the 1960s, when it was run by Henry Kissinger, another CSIS speaker, to its current size of more than 360 employees.
“What has contributed to the growth over time, as well, from 50 or so to 167 is the emphasis on homeland security, especially after the mass murder attacks on our country on September 11, 2001,” McMaster stated.
McMaster was referring to about 167 policy workers at the NSC, which he explained employs about 360 people.
“We have made a conscious effort to reduce the size of the staff and to make sure that form follows function. As we devolve responsibilities back to departments and agencies, as we get out of, really, management of tactical issues, then we are able to reduce. So we have reduced significantly the numbers of policy people and overall staff. It was over four hundred or so at its peak. We are down to about 360-something now. That sounds like a lot. Of those 360, it’s really about 160 to 170 policy people.”
Watch the full speech below (relevant comments start at the 21-minute mark):
McMaster’s comments follow speeches given by numerous other Trump administration officials last month on the sixteenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks in which many of those officials, including President Donald Trump himself, did not once mention the terms “radical Islam” or “Islamic terrorism.”
As Breitbart News reported at the time, instead of naming the enemy, Trump seemingly went out of his way to use other descriptors in his 9/11 anniversary speech, including “terrorists who attacked us,” “barbaric forces of evil and destruction,” “horrible, horrible enemies,” “enemies of all civilized people,” and “enemies like we’ve never seen before.”
Those phrases were also not mentioned in speeches that day by other Trump administration senior officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Pence, speaking at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, referred to the scourge as “evil terrorists” and “global terrorism.” Pence did mention “the barbarians known as ISIS,” calling the global jihadist group by its acronym instead of the Islamic State.
Mattis, addressing the same Pentagon memorial as Trump, outwardly minimized the Islamic motivations of the terrorists by calling them “maniacs disguised in false religious garb.” He referred to “attackers perpetrating murder” on that fateful day, not even using the words “terrorist” or “terrorism.”
Sessions perhaps came closest to prescribing a religious ideology, calling out “extremists” who “seek to impose their speech codes, their religion, their theocracy.”
“For these extremists, it’s more than religion; it’s ideology,” he stated. “We have no choice but to defend against it.”
But Sessions did not mention a specific religion and did not expound upon which ideology the terrorists maintain.
McMaster has reportedly previously petitioned against using the phrase “Islamic terrorism.”
In February, CNN cited a source inside a National Security Council meeting quoting McMaster as saying that use of the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” is unhelpful in working with allies to fight terrorism.
In May, McMaster spoke on ABC’s This Week about whether Trump would use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” in a speech that the president was about to give in Saudi Arabia. “The president will call it whatever he wants to call it,” McMaster said. “But I think it’s important that, whatever we call it, we recognize that [extremists] are not religious people. And, in fact, these enemies of all civilizations, what they want to do is to cloak their criminal behavior under this false idea of some kind of religious war.”
This reporter previously exposed numerous instances of McMaster’s minimizing the Islamic motivations of radical Muslim terrorists.
Breitbart News unearthed a 2014 speech about the Middle East in which McMaster claimed that Islamic terrorist organizations are “really un-Islamic” and are “really irreligious organizations” who cloak themselves in the “false legitimacy of Islam.”
Delivering the keynote address at last April’s Norwich University ROTC Centennial Symposium, McMaster criticized “modern-day barbarians like Daesh and al-Qaeda who cynically use a perverted interpretation of religion to perpetuate ignorance, incite hatred, and commit the most heinous crimes against innocents.”
Breitbart News also reported that McMaster endorsed and touted a book that frames jihad as a largely peaceful “means to struggle or exert effort,” such as waking up early in the morning to recite prayers. It argues that groups like al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations have hijacked the concept of jihad to wage warfare using such tactics as suicide bombings.
That same book calls Hamas an “Islamist political group” while failing to categorize the deadly organization as a terrorist group and refers to al-Qaeda attacks and anti-Israel terrorism as “resistance.”
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, Aaron Klein Investigative Radio. Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.