‎‘Our (new) terrorists’ the MEK: Have we Seen this movie before?‎

The MEK landed on the FTO list in ‎‏1997‏‎ with ‎American blood on its hands and by allying itself with Saddam Hussein along with a long list of ‎bombings inside Iran.‎

Yes, and what kind of mind-boggling corruption — of the worst kind — influence peddling by a ‎‎“foreign power” (as defined by the ‎‏1978‏‎ Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to include foreign ‎terrorist groups) — lies hidden behind the curtain? Could some members of the MEK “foreign ‎terrorist organization,” their murderous history magically erased, be sent to a nice suburb ‎somewhere to live as your next door neighbor as happens with the organized crime “witness ‎protection program?” Or will the soon-to-be-legalized “terrorism” of the People’s Mojahedin ‎Organization of Iran (or Mojahedin-e Khalq, usually referred to as MEK) find more utilitarian ‎function in the mode of how U.S. neoconservative officials plotted with and used convicted con ‎artist Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraqi expatriate group to gin up the false “intelligence” that served ‎to launch the unjustified and counter-productive war on Iraq? Even worse, might this new MEK ‎operation end up resembling the sequel to Charlie Wilson’s War? ‎

Since we cannot seem to learn from history and therefore seem doomed to repeat our mistakes, ‎all of the above could be true. In any event, the old movie script will require few changes.‎

From MAK to MEK

The popular ‎‏2007‏‎ movie Charlie Wilson’s War found a way to glorify a rather derelict Texas ‎congressman’s exploits and secret appropriations to fund CIA covert assistance to Mujahideen ‎‎“rebels” (one faction recruited and trained by Osama Bin Laden himself) based on the repeatedly ‎discredited notion that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” As John Hanrahan points out, ‎Hollywood and Tom Hanks also found a way to edit out the real truth: “that the U.S.-aided ‎Mujahedeen’s ouster of the Soviets in ‎‏1989‏‎ ultimately led to civil war and the ultra-orthodox ‎Islamic Taliban coming to power in ‎‏1996‏‎, an event that also enabled anti-Soviet fighter Osama ‎bin Laden and his fledgling al Qaeda to set up a base from which to plan the ‎‏9/11‏‎ attacks.”‎

‎…Osama bin Laden arrived in the country…sent by then-Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki ‎bin Faisal, where he set up the Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK) which helped finance, recruit and ‎train mujahidin fighters. Bin Laden, the MAK, and the Afghan mujahidin in total received about ‎half a billion dollars a year from the CIA, and roughly the same from the Saudis, funneled ‎through Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)‎

‎…Continued US sponsorship of the al-Qaeda-Taliban nexus in Afghanistan was confirmed as ‎late as ‎‏2000‏‎ in Congressional hearings. Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations ‎Subcommittee on South Asia, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher — former White House Special ‎Assistant to President Reagan and now Senior Member of the House International Relations ‎Committee — declared that ‘this administration has a covert policy that has empowered the ‎Taliban and enabled this brutal movement to hold on to power’. The assumption is that ‘the ‎Taliban would bring stability to Afghanistan and permit the building of oil pipelines from Central ‎Asia through Afghanistan to Pakistan’ — From “Our Terrorists” by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed in ‎New Internationalist Magazine.‎

In other words, Charlie Wilson’s War seriously backfired and was a significant factor that gave ‎rise to the ‎‏9-11‏‎ attacks. (Incidentally — and a big reason why there’s so little hope of anyone ‎having learned from this sordid history — is that Dana Rohrabacher happens to be one of the ‎main Congressmen who has now taken big sums of money from the MEK front groups!)‎

An October ‎‏2010‏‎ report (“Restoring Afghanistan’s Tribal Balance”) for the New World ‎Strategies Coalition described U.S. covert support of the Mujahideen as follows:‎

During the ‘jihad’ against the Soviets, the Judeo-Christian West teamed up with violent Islamic ‎radicals of the worst sort, against the Soviets, because they shared a common hatred for the ‎godless communists. The same people American leaders once called ‘freedom fighters’ ‎throughout the ‎‏80′‏s are now [in the current war] violent extremist jihadist terrorists who commit ‎immoral acts and heinous human rights violations that all Americans should find deplorable. Of ‎course, before ‎‏9/11‏‎ when these ‘terrorists’ were fighting against the Soviets, they were ‘our ‎terrorists’ and such human rights violations and war crimes hardly ever made the press. Today, ‎people aren’t really supposed to remember nor point out this interesting historical irony, especially ‎within the media.‎

By fast forwarding ‎‏30‏‎ years and changing one vowel, (MAK to MEK) we see history repeating ‎almost exactly. There’s ample evidence that Iranian MEK terrorists, “our new terrorists,” are ‎responsible for conducting assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. U.S. officials confirmed ‎the charges leveled by Iran’s leaders as well as the fact that the killings and bombings in Iran ‎were financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret service. In an exclusive report, NBC reported ‎that:‎

The group, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, has long been designated as a terrorist group by the ‎United States, accused of killing American servicemen and contractors in the ‎‏1970‏s and ‎supporting the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran before breaking with the Iranian mullahs ‎in ‎‏1980‏‎. The attacks, which have killed five Iranian nuclear scientists since ‎‏2007‏‎ and may have ‎destroyed a missile research and development site, have been carried out in dramatic fashion, ‎with motorcycle-borne assailants often attaching small magnetic bombs to the exterior of the ‎victims’ cars. — From NBC Rock Center exclusive report February, ‎‏2012‏‎. ‎

In April of this year, Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker article “Our Men in Iran” that ‎members of MEK were also being trained in Nevada by U.S. Joint Special Operation Command ‎for covert actions to topple the Iranian government. ‎

The following comments are from former U.S. security experts Flynt and Hillary Mann ‎Leverett’s excellent analysis of the highly politicized flip-flop, “By Delisting the MEK, the ‎Obama Administration is taking the Moral and Strategic Bankruptcy of America’s Iran Policy to ‎a New Low“: ‎

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… Yet, ‎precisely because we know how thoroughly corrupt and politicized these designations really are, ‎we recognize their significance as statements of U.S. policy.‎

Today, the Obama administration made a truly horrible statement about U.S. policy toward ‎Iran… Just this year, U.S. intelligence officials told high-profile media outlets that the MEK is ‎actively collaborating with Israeli intelligence to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists, see here; ‎Iranian officials have made the same charge. 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 U.S. government’s own professed standard for ‎terrorism?‎

‎…Here, the Obama administration is taking an organization that the U.S. government knows is ‎directly involved in the murder of innocent people and giving this group Washington’s “good ‎housekeeping seal of approval.”… Count on this: once the MEK is formally off the FTO list — a ‎legally defined process that will take a few months to play out — Congress will be appropriating ‎money to support the monafeqin as the vanguard of a new American strategy for regime change ‎in Iran.‎

In the ‎‏1990‏s, similar enthusiasm for Ahmad Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress — who ‎were about as unpopular among Iraqis as the MEK is among Iranians — led to President Bill ‎Clinton’s signing of the Iraq Liberation Act, which paved the way for George W. Bush’s ‎decision to invade Iraq in ‎‏2003‏‎. The chances for such a scenario to play out with regard to Iran ‎over the next few years — with even more disastrous consequences for America’s strategic and ‎moral standing — got a lot higher today.‎

Flynt Leverett served as a Middle East expert on George W. Bush’s National Security ‎Council staff until the Iraq War and worked previously at the State Department and at the ‎Central Intelligence Agency. Hillary Mann Leverett was the NSC expert on Iran and — ‎from ‎‏2001‏‎ to ‎‏2003‏‎ — was one of only a few U.S. diplomats authorized to negotiate with the ‎Iranians over Afghanistan, al-Qaeda and Iraq.‎

Governmental Influence Peddling Barely Hidden

A steady flow totaling in the millions of dollars during these last years has been revealed, ‎funneled through various front groups to latter-day Charlie Wilson U.S. congresspersons, ‎Washington lobbying firms and former high level Department of Justice, Homeland Security, ‎military and U.S. counter-terrorism officials. Check out the excellent reports — here and here — ‎of Chris McGreal, a Guardian investigative journalist based in Washington who really did some ‎good research attempting to trace the sordid money trail, writing: ‎

US policy change on banned Iranian group came after extraordinary fundraising operation to ‎transform its image. Only a few years ago, US authorities were arresting pro-MEK activists. To ‎the US government, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK) was a terrorist group ‎alongside al-Qaida, Hamas and the Farc in Colombia. The MEK landed on the list in ‎‏1997‏‎ with ‎American blood on its hands and by allying itself with Saddam Hussein along with a long list of ‎bombings inside Iran.‎

But the organization is regarded very differently by a large number of members of Congress, ‎former White House officials and army generals, and even one of the US’s most renowned ‎reporters, Carl Bernstein. They see the MEK as a victim of US double dealings with the regime in ‎Tehran and a legitimate alternative to the Iran’s Islamic government.‎

That difference is in no small part the result of a formidable fundraising operation and campaign ‎to transform the MEK’s image led by more than ‎‏20‏‎ Iranian American organisations across the ‎US. These groups and their leaders have spent millions of dollars on donations to members of ‎Congress, paying Washington lobby groups and hiring influential politicians and officials, ‎including two former CIA directors, as speakers.‎

In a highly sensitive political game, MEK supporters have succeeded in pressing the state ‎department into removing the group from the list of terrorist organisations after winning a court ‎order requiring a decision to be made on the issue before the end of this month. But its ‎supporters were forced to tread a careful path so as not to cross anti-terrorism laws.‎

Only a few years ago, the US authorities were arresting pro-MEK activists and freezing the ‎assets of front groups for “material support for a terrorist organisation”. Now members of ‎Congress openly praise the group in apparent contradiction of the anti-terrorism legislation many ‎of them supported. Nearly ‎‏100‏‎ members of the House of Representatives backed a resolution ‎calling on the US government to drop the MEK from the terrorist list.‎

Most of the damning details, however, of what would probably be otherwise considered ‎‎“material support for terrorism” will probably lie buried and stamped “Top Secret” in Treasury ‎Department files forced closed when the presumptive targets of the investigation turned out to ‎include over three dozen top U.S. officials and even many of the federal investigators’ former ‎bosses and cronies: former Attorney General Michael Mukasey; former Assistant Attorney ‎General and Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff; two former CIA Directors; former ‎DOJ Attorney and Homeland Security Advisor to the President Frances Townsend; former U.S. ‎Attorney and NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani; former FBI Director Louis Freeh; former Homeland ‎Security Director Tom Ridge, etc. Clearly such powerful “political considerations” can trump the ‎law and easily subvert even the U.S. terrorism laws constantly promoted since ‎‏9-11‏‎ as all-‎important but now turned on their head. So unless a brave whistleblower or two steps forward, ‎we probably won’t know much more about the presumably forced closure of these criminal ‎terrorism investigations for another ‎‏20‏‎ years or so until a federal judge finally rules in agreement ‎with a FOIA request. Or unless new movie producers can force some leaks out to jazz up the old ‎script. ‎

‎“Terrorism” Propaganda: How to Play it Up or Play it Down ‎

The last ‎‏11‏‎ years have seen almost uninterrupted, cynical exaggerating and distorting of the ‎threat of Mid-east “terrorism” by our mainstream media (to scare us into doing dumb things like ‎launching war on countries like Iraq that had no connection to ‎‏9-11‏‎) so it was strangely out of the ‎norm for the Washington Post article to frame the de-listing of the MEK Foreign Terrorist ‎Organization (FTO) as humanitarian intervention. Interestingly, the Post reporter also chose the ‎term “label” to minimize the importance of the U.S. government’s designation-undesignation of a ‎‎“FTO” in the case of the MEK. ‎

So it’s just a “label” when Michael Mukasey and three dozen other high level political figures ‎flaunted the law in support of a “foreign terrorist organization.” But would the Post say mere ‎FTO “labels” justify launching thousands of US government investigations and prosecutions of ‎ordinary, non-powerful, non politically-connected people for “material support”? There are ‎‏23‏‎ ‎anti-war activists in the Mid-west who are still under Department of Justice investigation two ‎years after their homes were raided by the FBI; and there are thousands of people serving long ‎prison terms or, even worse, on “kill lists” to be summarily executed due, the Government would ‎allege, to even a fleeting or tenuous connection to someone or some group on the US FTO list. ‎Furthermore, no transparency, no judicial process has seemingly existed — until MEK’s big ‎money lobbying campaign came along — to dispute the accuracy of such FTO “labels.”‎

An article at the Bill of Rights Defense Committee’s “Peoples Blog for the Constitution” entitled ‎‎“Terrorist designation a problem? Befriend a politician” points out this terrible double standard: ‎

The severe ramifications of this law have resulted in solitary confinement and a fifteen year ‎sentence for US citizen Fahad Hashmi, who allowed a suitcase of raincoats at his apartment, and ‎a ‎‏17‏‎ year sentence for Tarek Mehanna, who translated a text by a Saudi religious scholar. The ‎removal of the MEK from the FTO list demonstrates not only the double-standard for ‎enforcement of material support laws, but also the over-broad and heavy-handed criminalization ‎of constitutionally protected activity.‎

When the overbroad law resulted in investigations of prominent politicians and former officials, ‎the law was not modified to address First Amendment concerns, but instead maintained, while a ‎specific organization was removed from the terrorist list to accommodate those politicians’ ‎activities. The material support law should be changed so that it doesn’t criminalize association, ‎expression, or other activity protected by the First Amendment, or efforts aimed to advance ‎humanitarian goals. ‎

Finally, consider how unbelievable and in-congruent for the MEK to have such a powerful lobby ‎that it can reach its tentacles into U.S. political “leadership” like this, spending millions of dollars ‎in exchange for political endorsements and yet be portrayed at the very same time, as the Post ‎and other media does, as a poor group of refugees trapped in Iraq enemy territory in need of ‎humanitarian intervention. Where would this refugee group which (for ‎‏15‏‎ years) has been ‎designated a “foreign terrorist organization” get the millions it paid to U.S. officials and ‎politicians for their assistance and influence-peddling? News articles do allude to the fact that ‎the payments and the political pressure were in violation of U.S. law, but these articles fail to go ‎into how and why federal investigators were apparently forced to drop their investigation of ‎officials who received huge payments from the MEK. ‎

The big money model for lobbyist success has paved the way for the coalition of MEK front ‎groups to corrupt U.S. Government by funneling millions of dollars from who-knows-where to ‎elected and appointed political figures to turn dark into light. Certainly there will now be other ‎foreign-based front groups following this example in ever more flagrant disregard of what Justice ‎Brandeis long ago warned us, about how government wrongdoing and contempt for (and ‎subversion of) the law functions.‎

Contrast the portrayal of the need for “humanitarian intervention” on behalf of what was ‎portrayed as defenseless women and children refugees in the MEK Camp in Iraq with the ‎millions of dollars that have gone into PR propaganda firms, corrupt U.S. congresspersons and ‎former high level DOJ, Homeland Security and counter-terrorism officials to essentially re-write ‎the history of a violent terrorist group that worked for Saddam Hussein — who some of these ‎same officials were, only a decade before, falsely implying was responsible for ‎‏9-11‏‎. Why did ‎these millions of dollars not go to helping the MEK women and children move from Iraq if they ‎are in such danger instead of going into corrupt U.S. political figures’ pockets? ‎

If only the American people would wake up to this corruption, they might find themselves, at the ‎very least, extremely confused that some of the same U.S. political figures who were so hell-bent ‎to take out Saddam Hussein are now sponsoring one of Saddam’s main “terrorist” underlings. ‎Don’t they remember Charlie Wilson’s War? Or what Friedrich Nietzsche said: “Whoever fights ‎monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”