On Monday, Americans observed a solemn remembrance of the lives lost in the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but retired U.S. Air Force Lt. General Tom McInerney says victory will be tough to achieve unless the U.S. gets serious about specifically identifying the enemy as radical Islam and getting Muslim leaders to publicly condemn the perpetrators.
“We still have not identified the threat’s ideology, that is radical Islam. Until you do that, you can’t defeat the threat,” said McInerney, who rose to the number three position in the U.S. Air Force and also served as vice commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe.
He says President Trump did identity the ideology correctly on the campaign trail but has not been nearly as bold since taking office.
“We do not use the term ‘radical Islam’ very much in this administration. I’m a little disappointed in the Trump administration because the president was using it quite a bit and then has since restricted his use of the term,” said McInerney.
Another reason he can’t call the war a success is the volatile state of the entire Middle East.
“Now you have the Middle East. It’s the most unstable it has ever been in its history, so that’s why I’m not giving us high marks for being successful,” said McInerney.
Another major priority after 9/11 was the state of American intelligence capabilities. Here again, McInerney sees disappointment compared to what was possible.
“They haven’t identified these threats. They haven’t articulated the issues. Our special ops are good at getting high-value targets, so our intelligence people are doing a good job with all of our censors, etc. But we haven’t bundled it in the proper way, so our leaders can properly express the threat and the ideology I talked about earlier,” said McInerney.
So how can the U.S. prosecution of the war become more effective? McInerney says it all starts with prominent Muslims clearly and frequently denouncing terrorism.
“The only people that can really defeat radical Islam are the Muslims themselves. So we need fatwas out of Mecca and Medina. We need Arab leadership to declare those radical Islamists to be unholy warriors and that they will forever live in damnation for attacking the West,” said McInerney.
McInerney says critical mistakes from both George W. Bush and Barack Obama made the fight more difficult. He says Bush’s decision, through Amb. L. Paul Bremer, to disband the Iraqi army after toppling Saddam Hussein was a major error that only teed up experienced fighters to be part of the subsequent insurgency.
He says Obama’s decision to withdraw all U.S. forces in 2011 then created the vacuum that fostered the rise of ISIS.
McInerney says to pursue stability now requires a concerted confrontation of Iran.
“We cannot have the mullahs running wild over there. They’re developing ICBM’s and nuclear weapons covertly. We cannot accept that,” said McInerney.
He calls the Iran nuclear deal another major mistake by the Obama administration and says extensive collaboration with allies in the region will be need to to neutralize Iran.
“We need to take care of Iran, because they are the most destabilizing group in the Middle East. They are driving a lot of this (radical Islam-inspired terrorism),” said McInerney.
McInerney also asserts that 2016 campaign tactics are hampering our ability to work with Russia, which is a key player in any effort to stabilize the region.
“The Russian collusion was always a deceptive move by the Democratic Party to shield the wrongdoings that the Democrats under Obama did, with the unmasking, with a whole host of other things – Hillary Clinton’s emails, which was a violation of the Espionage Act,” said McInerney.
So now our relationship with Russia is tense. If we’re going to solve the problems over there, we need to be working with the Russians. All those things coupled together can bring the stability we need, but we must replace the current Iranian regime,” said McInerney.
Since 9/11, terrorist attacks in the West feature fewer grand, sweeping plots and many are carried out by individuals or small cells. McInerney says our intelligence efforts should be able to sniff out these plots much better because we know where to look for the potential terrorists.
“When you look at the incidents we’ve had in Europe and the United States, it always goes back to the mosques. We have not taken the appropriate actions to infiltrate them and to get rid of the bad ones,” said McInerney.