Given that New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani ran a whole failed presidential campaign on his supposed war on terror-fighting credentials – he was in office when 9/11 happened, or so I’ve heard — one might reasonably wonder: why is the former GOP candidate flying to Paris and publicly praising the Mujahhideen-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian exile group that worked side-by-side with Saddam Hussein and killed civilians and U.S. military personnel alike?
The question isn’t actually all that hard to answer. While, sure, the MEK might be designated a terrorist group by the State Department, it is rabidly opposed to the current Iranian government – so much so that the group fled Iran in the 1980s and sought refuge in Iraq, where it worked on behalf of the Iraqi dictator to stage suicide attacks against their own countrymen. So while terrorists, they’re useful terrorists when it comes to furthering U.S. policy goals for the Middle East, or at least that’s the thinking.
Led by Maryam Rajavi, the self-appointed “President Elect” of Iran (you think the 2009 Iranian election was rigged…), the group combines a strange personality cult with a mishmash of Marxist doctrine. And like the Afghan mujahadeen before it – those lovely folks who later formed the Taliban and al-Qaeda – there are plenty of high-profile U.S. politicians, Republican and Democrat alike, willing to lend the group their support.
As The Washington Post reported last week, Giuliani this month traveled to Paris and lavished praise on the MEK leadership. "The United States should not just be on your side," Giuliani proclaimed. "It should be enthusiastically on your side. You want the same things we want" (i.e. dead Iranians).
Joining Giuliani were several top Bush administration officials, including former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge and Attorney General Michael Mukasey, all of whom decried the fact that the group is listed as a terrorist organization, when all its really want to do is commit acts of terrorism against Persians.
But while the support these top GOP officials offered a bunch of well-financed terrorists was widely reported, there have strangely been no ensuing indictments, no FBI raids, no grand jury subpoenas – nothing.
According to U.S. law, though, that shouldn’t be the case. In June, the Supreme Court upheld a statute that defines “material support” for terrorism so broadly as to include providing any form of “advice” or “assistance” to a group designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization – even if that advice consists only of encouraging a terrorist group to stop committing acts of terrorism.
But prosecutions under the “material support” doctrine aren’t meant for the powerful, for people like Giuliani & Friends — they’re intended for those who challenge the powerful. So while top U.S. politicians are free to speak at international conferences sponsored by terrorist groups, pacifists and anti-war activists are subjected to FBI raids for speaking out against their own government’s foreign policy.
Since September, two dozen prominent peace activists based mostly in Chicago and Minneapolis have been served grand jury subpoenas by the FBI, ostensibly as part of an investigation into whether they and their organizations provided material support for terrorist groups in Colombia and Palestine. Federal agents have also raided the offices and homes of around a half-dozen activists, confiscating computer equipment, books and mailing lists.
While American politicians openly flaunt their support for terror, so long as the victims of said terror are poor brown foreigners, activists targeted in the raids have forcefully declared their innocence, charging that they’re being subjected to a witch hunt intended more to intimidate those who dare dissent than uncover actual criminal wrongdoing. Notably, no one has been arrested or charged with a crime.
Activists are far from intimidated, though, with Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin telling Change.org that the raids and subpoenas are actually proving to be a rallying cry for the peace movement in the U.S., which had been waning in the wake of President Obama’s election.
In a statement issued Thursday, dozens of pro-Palestine activist groups at colleges across the country denounced the raids as un-American.
“As students at over fifty American universities, we unequivocally condemn the abuse of grand jury subpoenas to chill the exercise of First Amendment rights by university students and anti-war activists speaking and organizing against Israel’s continued oppression of the Palestinian people,” says the statement, signed by chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine. “The abuse of laws criminalizing ‘material support for terrorism’ is unprecedented and, had they been implemented at the time of South African apartheid, would have effectively criminalized broad American support for the anti-apartheid movement.” (Nelson Mandela’s political party, the African National Congress, was listed by the State Department as a terrorist group during the 1980s.)
The folks who brought us color-coded terror alerts and aren’t likely to be indicted anytime soon — again, they support terrorists, but the right kind of terrorists — grassroots activism has the potential to force Attorney General Eric Holder and his accomplice, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, to back off their campaign of intimidation. If politicians are allowed to promote endless war without consequence, it’s not too much to ask that people of conscience be permitted to publicly oppose them.