What makes a terrorist?

The U.S. State Department supplied over 30 reasons for classifying the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK) as a terrorist organization. Among those reasons, "[S]tresing the ability and the will of MKO members and leadership to conduct terrorist operations across the world." Yet, U.S. Army Military Police guard the organization’s bases in Iraq and maintain control over the traffic and supplies heading in and out.

This parallel cooperation/condemnation has long been criticized by news agencies such as Al Jazeera, and rose to prominence in 2003. That year, many allege the CIA promoted MEK-sponsored attacks along the Iraq/Iran border.

The Pentagon and White House seem happy to use this group to their own end. In 2002, The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the public arm of the MEK, was cited as the prime source for revealing Iran’s nuclear program. At the time, Bush and other officials denied their praise of NCRI and MEK signaled a shift in the United States’ official position toward the organization, but it didn’t stop the praise.

Of course this is nothing new. Supporting groups like the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan or the Kurds in Northern Iraq has long been considered a foolproof formula for maintaining a strict foreign policy without getting our hands dirty. However, it seems foolhardy to pick our terrorist organizations. Just because an organization is using terrorist tactics to unseat power in Iran doesn’t make it any less terrorist.

Who separates a terrorist from a freedom fighter? Depends on the context, I suppose.

The White House is peopled by students of Kissinger, so it comes as no surprise the White House and Pentagon are using Kissinger’s doctrine to make lemonade out of their Iraq-war lemons. Just as the U.S. normalized relations with China (effectively ending the cold war in the east), relations with Iran will eventually become more friendly (particularly if the U.S. can count on cooperation from the likes of Turkey and Saudi Arabia). If our foreign policy follows history, the first people who will suffer for those normalized relations will be the MEK in southern Iran and (perhaps) the Kurds in Northern Iraq.

It’s happened before:

When Kissinger arrived in China, one of the first demands met was that all covert military actions against China cease immediately. Perhaps that came as solace to the family of Stephen "Gip" Kasarda Jr., who had given his life supporting CIA missions into Tibet, where many Tibetans, who had been trained at Fort McHale, Colorado, were waging a guerilla war against China. It probably came as no small consolation to the Tibetans, however, as the U.S. immediately withdrew official support and the Chinese army moved in to many locations that had been taken and held by the Tibetan freedom fighters.

How many more U.S. soldiers and operatives will be sacrificed "fighting freedom"? How many more groups who have counted on U.S. support over the years will be stranded and forgotten as the U.S. makes compromises across the world? Foreign policy is a complex issue, and no doubt many who gave their lives understood it was a distinct possibility—maybe even a guarantee. However, shouldn’t the United States’ war on terror extend to all terrorist organizations? If not, why not? And who will provide us the classification system that enables us to tell the good guys from the bad?

 

 

Independentreport.org –  June 05, 2007

 

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