Monday, March 12, 2012

Prominent Americans' paid advocacy for MEK terrorist group

Glenn Greenwald (Washington’s high-powered terrorist supporters 03/12/2012) and Marcy Wheeler (Ed Rendell Defends Material Support of the "Right" Terrorists Emptywheel 03/12/2012) are right, as they so often are: if the law is going to recognize advocacy in coordination with an officially-designated terrorist group as a crime, then advocates for the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) should be prosecuted and imprisoned just as supporters of other officially-designated terrorist groups are. In my mind, agreeing to paid advocacy is even more serious than advocacy, though the law goes too far in criminalizing the latter.

MEK is a Kurdish terrorist group that supported Saddam Hussein and opposes the current Iranian regime. Glenn and Marcy aren't just indulging in hyperbole when they write that American supporters of the MEK are breaking the law. They are. The occasion of their posts is news that the Treasury Department is investigating for Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania for his paid advocacy on behalf of the MEK. And by paid advocacy, we're not talking about pocket money - at least not what most people would consider pocket change. Glenn reports:

As but one example, Rendell, the former Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania and current MSNBC contributor, was paid $20,000 for a 10- minute speech before a MEK gathering, and has been a stalwart advocate of the group ever since.

Even for official Washington, where elite crimes are tolerated as a matter of course, this level of what appears to be overt criminality — taking large amounts of money from a designated Terrorist group, appearing before its meetings, meeting with its leaders, then advocating on its behalf — is too much to completely overlook.
He cites Scott Peterson's report from last August, Iranian group's big-money push to get off US terrorist list Christian Science Monitor 08/08/2011:

The contracts can range up to $100,000 and include several appearances. They sometimes explicitly state, according to the State Dept. official, that "We are not a front organization for the MEK."

The speaking events have created some extraordinary spectacles, including that of US heavyweights sharing the stage with the MEK's self-declared "president-elect" Maryam Rajavi. At a mid-June MEK rally in Paris, for example, Mrs. Rajavi was flanked by five rows of former top US and European officials. The noisy throng of thousands of well-orchestrated MEK supporters, draped in yellow vests and waving flags, banners, and balloons as clouds of confettifell, looked like an American political convention.
Other Americans who have taken paid gigs advocating for the terrorist group include John Bolton, Andrew Card, Gen. Wesley Clark, Gen. James Conway, P.J. Crowley, Howard Dean, Louis Freeh, Rudy Giuliani, Porter Goss, Lee Hamilton (Mr. Democratic bipartisanship himself!), Michael Hayden, Gen. James Jones, Michael Mukasey, Gen. Peter Pace, Bill Richardson, Tom Ridge, Gen. Hugh Shelton, James Woolsey, Gen. Anthony Zinni, . Yes, that would be antiwar Democrat Howard Dean in that group. It's a happily well-paid bipartisan group, matching supposed foreign-policy pragmatists and liberal like Dean and Wesley Clark with blithering warmongers like James Woolsey and John Bolton. As Cyndi Lauper says, "Money, money changes everything."

Even if it weren't as blatantly illegal as it appears to be, it doesn't say anything good about the judgment of Howard Dean and Wesley Clark that they would choose to advocate for a nasty bunch like the MEK, for money or not. (Or any of the rest of them, for that matter; those were the two most surprising for me.) Peterson reports on the MEK itself:

US government documents frequently use the term "cult-like" when describing the MEK, and describe "years of ideological training" for members akin to "brainwashing." The MEK has long denied that it is a cult and routinely charges critics with being agents of the Islamic Republic.

The MEK says it renounced violence in 2001, after claiming responsibility for 350 attacks in 2000 and 2001, according to a RAND tabulation. It is not known to have carried out any attacks for several years, though a 2004 FBI report found that the group was "currently actively involved in planning and executing acts of terrorism."

That conclusion was based on wiretaps of calls between MEK bases and headquarters in Iraq, France, and Los Angeles that discussed "specific acts of terrorism to include bombings" – and were corroborated by French intelligence and German police wiretaps, according to the FBI report.

Militant groups can change. Both Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, for example, used violence before becoming influential political forces in their own right. The MEK is one of those, say its increasing number of American advocates.
He notes that MEK's "record includes assassinations of US military advisers and attacks on US diplomats".

The MEK's lobbying push to get off the US terrorist list is closely related to efforts to promoting an American war with Iran, whose regime the MEK opposes.

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