Imagine if a group of leading American liberals met on foreign soil with -- and expressed vocal support for -- supporters of a terrorist group that had (a) a long history of hateful anti-American rhetoric, (b) an active role in both the takeover of a U.S. embassy and Saddam Hussein's brutal 1991 repression of Iraqi Shiites, (c) extensive financial and military support from Saddam, (d) multiple acts of violence aimed at civilians, and (e) years of being designated a "Terrorist organization" by the U.S. under Presidents of both parties, a designation which is ongoing? The ensuing uproar and orgies of denunciation would be deafening.
But on December 23, a group of leading conservatives -- including Rudy Giuliani and former Bush officials Michael Mukasey, Tom Ridge, and Fran Townsend -- did exactly that. In Paris, of all places, they appeared at a forum organized by supporters of the Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK) -- a group declared by the U.S. since 1997 to be "terrorist organization" -- and expressed wholesale support for that group. Worse -- on foreign soil -- they vehemently criticized their own country's opposition to these Terrorists and specifically "demanded that Obama instead take the  group off the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations and incorporate it into efforts to overturn the mullah-led government in Tehran." In other words, they are calling on the U.S. to embrace this Saddam-supported, U.S.-hating Terrorist group and recruit them to help overthrow the government of Iran. To a foreign audience, Mukasey denounced his own country's opposition to these Terrorists as "nothing less than an embarrassment."
Using common definitions, there is good reason for the MEK to be deemed by the U.S. Government to be a Terrorist group. In 2007, the Bush administration declared that "MEK leadership and members across the world maintain the capacity and will to commit terrorist acts in Europe, the Middle East, the United States, Canada, and beyond," and added that the group exhibits "cult-like characteristics." The Council on Foreign Relations has detailed that the MEK has been involved in numerous violent actions over the years, including many directed at Americans, such as "the 1979 takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by Iranian revolutionaries" and "the killings of U.S.military personnel and civilians working on defense projects in Tehran in the 1970s." This is whom Guiliani, Ridge, Townsend and other conservatives are cheering.
Applying the orthodoxies of American political discourse, how can these Terrorist-supporting actions by prominent American conservatives not generate intense controversy? For one thing, their appearance in France to slam their own country's foreign policy blatantly violates the long-standing and rigorously enforced taboo against criticizing the U.S. Government while on dreaded foreign soil (the NYT previously noted that "nothing sets conservative opinion-mongers on edge like a speech made by a Democrat on foreign soil"). Worse, their conduct undoubtedly constitutes the crime of "aiding and abetting Terrorism" as interpreted by the Justice Department -- an interpretation recently upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision last year in Holder v. Humanitarian Law. Georgetown Law Professor David Cole represented the Humanitarian Law plaintiffs in their unsuccessful challenge to the DOJ's interpretation of the "material support" statute, and he argues today in The New York Times that as a result of that ruling, it is a felony in the U.S. "to engage in public advocacy to challenge a group's 'terrorist' designation or even to encourage peaceful avenues for redress of grievances."
Read the full article at Salon.com