Government Arbitrarily Puts Organizations On and Off and Back On Terrorist List to Suit Its Shifting Political Goals
Anyone who questions the U.S. may be labeled as a “potential terrorist“.
When America does anything, it’s a-okay … but when anyone else does what America does they’re labeled a terrorist.
Moreover, organizations are labeled as terrorists, then de-listed, and then re-listed … depending on ever-changing American policy objectives.
For example, two-time Emmy award-winning 20/20 news producer Danny Schecther writes:
Question: When is a terrorist a terrorist?
Answer: When the US government says so.
When the Mujhadeen in Afghanistan were assassinating members of their government and the Russian troops dispatched to support it, they were, in Washington’s view, freedom fighters, even as their enemies branded them terrorists.
When they turned against an Afghan government imposed by the United States or revolted against a US invasion, they were once again branded terrorists.
When armed groups battling Gadaffi’s govermment were supported by NATO, they were called freedom fighters. When some recently and allegedly turned violently against the United States which is now dominating Libyan politics, they are once again castigated as terrorists.
One day they were feared terrorists, the next day they were not. The “bad guys” became “good guys” [and back again] with the swipe of a pen.
And Glenn Greenwald – who has been writing about American support for the Iranian terrorist group MEK for years – notes:
[MEK] is an Iranian dissident group that has been formally designated for the last 15 years by the US State Department as a “foreign terrorist organization”. When the Bush administration sought to justify its attack on Iraq in 2003 by accusing Saddam Hussein of being a sponsor of “international terrorism”, one of its prime examples was Iraq’s “sheltering” of the MEK. Its inclusion on the terrorist list has meant that it is a felony to provide any “material support” to that group.
Nonetheless, a large group of prominent former US government officials from both political parties has spent the last several years receiving substantial sums of cash to give speeches to the MEK, and have then become vocal, relentless advocates for the group, specifically for removing them from the terrorist list. Last year, the Christian Science Monitor thoroughly described “these former high-ranking US officials – who represent the full political spectrum – [who] have been paid tens of thousands of dollars to speak in support of the MEK.” They include Democrats Howard Dean, Ed Rendell, Wesley Clark, Bill Richardson, and Lee Hamilton, and Republicans Rudy Giuliani, Fran Townsend, Tom Ridge, Michael Mukasey, and Andrew Card.
Money has also been paid to journalists such as The Washington Post’s Carl Bernstein and the Chicago Tribune’s Clarence Page. Townsend is a CNN contributor and Rendell is an MSNBC contributor, yet those MEK payments are rarely, if ever, disclosed by those media outlets when featuring those contributors (indeed, Townsend can go on CNN to opine on Iran, even urging that its alleged conduct be viewed as “an act for war”, with no disclosure whatsoever during the segment of her MEK payments). Quoting a State Department official, CSM detailed how the scheme works:
“‘Your speech agent calls, and says you get $20,000 to speak for 20 minutes. They will send a private jet, you get $25,000 more when you are done, and they will send a team to brief you on what to say.’ . . . The contracts can range up to $100,000 and include several appearances.”
On Friday, the Guardian’s Washington reporter Chris McGreal added substantial information about the recipients of the funding and, especially, its sources. As he put it, the pro-MEK campaign “has seen large sums of money directed at three principal targets: members of Congress, Washington lobby groups and influential former officials“, including the GOP Congressman who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers.
What makes this effort all the more extraordinary are the reports that MEK has actually intensified its terrorist and other military activities over the last couple of years. In February, NBC News reported, citing US officials, that “deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by [MEK]” as it is “financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret service”.
In April, the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh reported that the US itself has for years provided extensive training to MEK operatives, on US soil (in other words, the US government provided exactly the “material support” for a designated terror group which the law criminalizes).
It was announced on Friday the US State Department will remove MEK from its list of terrorist organizations.
This MEK scam more vividly illustrates the rot and corruption at the heart of America’s DC-based political culture than almost any episode I can recall ….
Here we have a glittering, bipartisan cast of former US officials and other prominent Americans who are swimming in cash as they advocate on behalf of a designated terrorist organization. After receiving their cash, Howard Dean and Rudy Giuliani met with MEK leaders, and Dean actually declared that the group’s leader should be recognized by the west as President of Iran. That is exactly the type of coordinated messaging with a terrorist group with the supreme court found, in its 2010 Humanitarian Law v. Holder ruling, could, consistent with the First Amendment, lead to prosecution for “material support of terrorism” (ironically, numerous MEK shills, including CNN’s Townsend, praised the supreme court for its broad reading of that statute when they thought, correctly, that it was being applied to Muslims).
The fact that a group is subsequently removed from the list does not retroactively legalize the providing of material support when it was on the list).
In sum, there are numerous American Muslims sitting in prison for years for far less substantial interactions with terror groups than this bipartisan group of former officials gave to MEK. This is what New York Times Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal meant when he wrote back in March that the 9/11 attacks have “led to what’s essentially a separate justice system for Muslims“. The converse is equally true: America’s political elites can engage in the most egregious offenses – torture, illegal eavesdropping, money-driven material support for a terror group – with complete impunity.
The history of the US list of designated terrorist organizations, and its close cousin list of state sponsors of terrorism, is simple: a country or group goes on the list when they use violence to impede US interests, and they are then taken off the list when they start to use exactly the same violence to advance US interests. The terrorist list is not a list of terrorists; it’s a list of states and groups which use their power to defy US dictates rather than adhere to them.
The NYU scholar Remi Brulin has exhaustively detailed the rank game-playing that has taken place with this list: Saddam was put on it when he allied with the Soviets in the early 1980s, then was taken off when the US wanted to arm and fund him against Iran in the mid-1980s, then he was put back on in the early 1990s when the US wanted to attack him.
And now, with the MEK, we have a group that, at least according to some reports, appears to have intensified its terrorism, and yet they are removed from the list. Why? Because now they are aligned against the prime enemy of the US and Israel – and working closely with those two nations – and are therefore, magically, no longer “terrorists”. As the Iran experts Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett wrote on Friday:
“Since when did murdering unarmed civilians (and, in some instances, members of their families as well) on public streets in the middle of a heavily populated urban area (Tehran) not meet even the US government’s own professed standard for terrorism?”
They answered their own question: “We have seen too many times over the years just how cynically American administrations have manipulated these designations, adding and removing organizations and countries for reasons that have little or nothing to do with designees’ actual involvement in terrorist activity.” In other words, the best and most efficient way to be removed from the list is to start engaging in terrorism for and in conjunction with the US and its allies (i.e. Israel) rather than against them.
MEK [managed to] funnel millions of dollars into the bank accounts of key ex-officials from both parties, a bipartisan list of DC lobbyist firms, and several key journalists. In other words, it achieved its policy aims the same way most groups in DC do: by buying influence within both parties, and paying influence-peddlers who parlay their political celebrity into personal riches.
Once the bipartisan list of DC officials receiving cash from MEK became known, it became almost impossible to imagine any outcome other than this one. As one person tweeted after reading this State Department decision: any American billionaire could easily have his birthday declared a national holiday by simply spreading the cash around enough to DC political and media figures on a bipartisan basis.
The US has taken a key step in ensuring that a group devoted to the overthrow of the [Iranian] regime, a group that sided with Saddam in his war against Iran, is able to receive funding and otherwise be fully admitted into the precincts of international respectability. Just imagine if Iran took steps to legitimize an American rebel group that has long been devoted to the overthrow of the US government and which has a long history of serious violence on US soil.