With Flynn's departure, the intrigue only deepens. Many questions still need to be answered: Why did Trump, who apparently was aware of Flynn's dissembling for weeks, wait so long to force his adviser out? What did Trump himself know directly about Flynn's conversations with Russian officials? Did Flynn potentially make false claims to the FBI, who quizzed him in the first days of the administration? Could Flynn face prosecution?
Democratic politicians — and even some Republicans in Congress — are urging an investigation into the Flynn affair and the Trump camp's wider connections to Russia. After all, two other top Trump aides left their posts ahead of last year's election likely because of ties to Moscow.
Russian lawmakers conspicuously rushed to Flynn's defense on Tuesday, with some claiming his ouster was due to the Russophobia endemic to Washington.
But Flynn, a once-respected military officer turned political maverick who joined Trump early in his campaign, is guilty of acting on his own phobias. Long before his ties to Russia came under question, Flynn was known for harboring an extreme anti-Muslim worldview and for peddling Islamophobic conspiracy theories.
It's likely that Trump's fire-and-brimstone rhetoric about the war against "radical Islam," and his seeming declaration of a clash of civilizations, is in part informed by the views of Flynn and other zealots in the administration.
Flynn, Bannon and others have all, at various points, warned about a phantom Islamic takeover of the United States. In their zeal to crush jihadism, they train their attacks on Islam — a religion of more than a billion adherents — as a whole.
"Islam is not a real religion, but a political ideology masked behind a religion," Flynn claimed. He has repeatedly raged against the supposed "political correctness" of those who fear his rhetoric may alienate millions of Muslims, including American citizens.
"We’ve got to stop feeling the slightest bit guilty about calling them by name and identifying them as fanatical killers acting on behalf of a failed civilization," Flynn wrote in his book, "The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies," which was published last year.
"In the parlance of the day," observed Post book critic Carlos Lozada, "one might say Trump’s national security adviser is normalizing holy wars."
The key distinction between the outlook of the Flynns and Bannons of the world and their predecessors in earlier administrations is that the former genuinely believe radical groups like the Islamic State represent the real face of Islam. The latter generally treated jihadists as aberrations who gained power amid the dysfunction of failing states.
Yet the vague policy measures so far prescribed by Trump and Flynn to defeat the Islamic State are not that different from those practiced by the Obama administration they loathe: Namely, bombing campaigns, the cultivation of local allies and taking the battle of ideas to cyberspace.
What's different is the all-out embrace of a culture war, which seems at this point to be the signature political tactic of the Trump administration. You can draw a straight line from the extreme views of Flynn and others in the White House to Trump's travel ban on refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries — a move stymied in the courts in part because it reflected thinly-veiled bigotry.
That Flynn's views didn't automatically disqualify him from such a vital and strategic post in the world's most powerful government speaks volumes about the deep Islamophobia within the Trump administration. Not surprisingly, Muslim rights groups cheered Flynn's departure on Tuesday.
"We welcome Michael Flynn's resignation and hope it is followed by that of all the other anti-Muslim bigots currently formulating domestic and international policies in the White House, including Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian and Katharine Gorka," said Nihad Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in a statement. "Our nation is best served by those who base their policy recommendations on facts, not fear."
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