On 13 October 2021, Col. (Retired) Lawrence B. Wilkerson, the former Chief of Staff of late US Secretary Of State Colin Powell, participated in a virtual discussion about US foreign policy and the War on Terror moderated by convicted terrorism supporter Sami Al-Arian. According to introductory remarks to the live-streamed conversation:
Today, we have the distinct honor of having a very distinguished [guest], a former public official who is very courageous, and honest, and daring about his views – a real commodity in Washington. He openly speaks truth to power, challenges public policy – not on the margins, at the core. He’s willing to admit mistakes and even offer apologies.
Watch the video here.
The event was hosted by the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) at Istanbul’s Sabahattin Zaim University and also featured contributions and questions by CIGA Senior Research Associate Üveys Han. Wilkerson, a retired US Army Colonel, has become known for publicly criticizing many aspects of the Iraq War and has said that “the Jewish lobby in America” had played an outsized influence in the run-up to the war, singling out Jewish officials of the Bush Administration in his criticism.
During the conversation with Al-Arian, Col. Wilkerson claimed that one reason for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was the desire of President George W. Bush to “avenge his father’s attempted assassination of Saddam Hussein” and that he wanted to ensure his reelection, adding that Afghanistan did not “have enough targets to demonstrate the incredible power of the United States of America.” Wilkerson also claimed that multiple “deep-state” entities colluded to shape US military and foreign policies.
CIGA head Sami Al-Arian in 2006 pleaded guilty to conspiring to make or receive contributions of funds, goods, or services to or for the benefit of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. CIGA has partnered with several European Islamist and fundamentalist groups in sponsoring a critical report on the US War on Terror that was co-edited by Al-Arian. CIGA also co-sponsored an “International Witness Campaign” commemorating the 20th anniversary of the War on Terror, whose partner associations included a host of Islamist organizations from several European countries. In August 2021, the GIOR reported that CIGA had organized an academic conference in Turkey named “Challenging Apartheid in Palestine” that featured prominent Islamist and Turkish figures as well as US academics with close ties to the GMB as speakers.
CIGA’s invitation to Col. Wilkerson can be seen as a recent example of Islamist groups who host debates with current or former members of the US government critical of counterterrorism policies in order to assist in delegitimizing US counterterrorism efforts.