During the week of October 22-26, an official announcement effuses, “The nation will be rocked by the biggest conservative campus protest ever – Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, a wake-up call for Americans on 200 university and college campuses.” Ringmastered by David Horowitz, this circus will be performing under the tent of something called the "Terrorism Awareness Project.”
The purpose of this ballyhoolooza, we are told, is to confront the “Big Lies” of the Left regarding terrorism and militant Islam. Worthy subjects, to be sure. Indeed I would like to help the sponsors of the “wake-up call” promote awareness of them. Toward this end, let’s consider the American Right’s “special relationship” with one group of terrorists.
The U.S. State Department officially considers the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) a Foreign Terrorist Organization. While those honors date back to 1994, they’ve been renewed during the Bush years. Indeed in 2003 Foggy Bottom went further, including the National Council of Resistance of Iran — an MEK alias — under the terrorist designation. (The MEK is also known as the People’s Mujahedeen.)
To make a long and bizarre story short, the MEK got its start in early 1960s Iran, helped overthrow the Shah in 1979, but quickly turned on the revolutionary government it helped bring to power. Employing an ideological blend of Stalinism and Islamism, the tactics of a paramilitary guerilla faction, and the organizational structure of a cult, the group went into exile, eventually making their home in Iraq in the mid-1980s. Not only did Saddam give the organization cover: he armed, funded, and utilized them for a variety of ends over two decades.
The group’s wicked political brew was on spectacular display on the old MEK flag (see http://iranmanif.org/en/PMOI-Mojahedin-e-Khalq-MeK.htm; since abandoned), with its sickle and Kalashnikov positioned atop ofbeneath a Koranic verse. (Not — to state the obvious — that the mere presence of a Koranic verse in and of itself implies Islamist political commitments, but in this case the shoe very much fits.)
Here you have virtually everything the Right claims to oppose all rolled into one: Islamism, Marxism, terrorism, and Saddam. Naturally, then, neoconservatives would utterly deplore the MEK and everything it stands for, right? The MEK would in fact make an ideal target for Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week and Terrorism Awareness efforts, no?
Well, no. At least one of the carnival’s acts, it turns out, is rather fond of the Islamo-Stalinist-terrorist cult group, and has repeatedly argued for the removal of the MEK from the State Department’s list of terrorist groups and indeed urged the U.S. government to embrace it. Daniel Pipes, who will be speaking at Tufts on October 24th as part of the Horowitz high jinks, has made the MEK a recurring theme in his writings going back several years: here, here, and here.
Pipes has also gone to bat for the MEK right in the pages of Horowitz’s house organ.
But Pipes is far from alone on the Right in championing the MEK. He co-authored the first piece linked to above with Patrick Clawson of the right-wing Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Right-wing commentator Max Boot has argued not merely for the removal of the MEK from the terrorist list but for funding and unleashing it to do battle with Iranian forces — this while casually acknowledging that it is a “political cult.” (More on Boot’s disfigured views here.)
In some cases the MEK plays a stealth role in the media machinery of the American Right. What the FOX News Channel tells viewers about Alireza Jafarzadeh when he appears on its airwaves is that he is an “FNC Foreign Affairs Analyst.” What you have to go to the FOX News website to discover, however, is that Jafarzadeh served “for a dozen years as the chief congressional liaison and media spokesman for the U.S. representative office of Iran’s parliament in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.” But it is scarcely known that the sonorous-sounding National Council of Resistance of Iran is in fact a front name for the MEK.
Now, it's true that Jafarzadeh discontinued his post with the National Council of Resistance of Iran—but only when (and only because) its Washington office was forced to close in 2003 as a result of the State Department decision about it being a front for the MEK. It's not like he had a change of heart.
If you attend an “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” event, you might want to ask the speakers about this terrorist cult and whether they condemn it. Some of them might — not all neoconservatives agree on the MEK. (See here and here for examples of right-wing criticism of the outfit — though the lines of argumentation are sometimes bizarrely convoluted.)
But the fact that several prominent American conservatives have cozied up to an Islamist-Stalinist cult that was on Saddam’s payroll and the State Department considers a terrorist organization — this raises serious questions (to put it mildly) about the Right’s bedfellows and the calculus that determines them.
It suggests the need for a little more terrorism awareness.