Glenn Greenwald Guardian/UK September 23, 2012
The Mujahedin-e Khalq (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 examples was Iraq's "sheltering" of the MEK. It is a felony to provide any "material support" to that group.
Nonetheless, a large group of prominent former US government officials have become vocal, relentless advocates for the group, specifically for removing them from the terrorist list. These former high-ranking US officials - who represent the full political spectrum - have been paid tens of thousands of dollars to speak in support of the MEK. "'Your speech agent calls, and says you get $20,000 to speak for 20 minutes. 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."
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 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". While the MEK denies involvement, the Iranian government has echoed these US officials in insisting that the group was responsible for those assassinations. 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.
Despite these reports that the MEK has been engaged in terrorism and other military aggression against Iran - or, more accurately: likely because of them - it was announced on Friday the US State Department will remove MEK from its list of terrorist organizations. It is worthwhile to take note of the five clear lessons it teaches:
Lesson One: There is a separate justice system in the US for Muslim Americans. The past decade has seen numerous "material support" prosecutions of US Muslims for the most trivial and incidental contacts with designated terror groups. Any Muslim who gets with sneezing distance of such a group is subject to prosecution.
Lesson Two: The US government is not opposed to terrorism; it favors it. 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.
Lesson Three: "Terrorism" remains the most meaningless, and thus the most manipulated, term in politics.. This list has nothing to do with terrorism. It is simply a way the US rewards those who comply with its dictates and punishes those who refuse. Terrorism means little other than: violence used by enemies of the US and its allies.
Lesson Four: Legalized influence-peddling within both parties is what drives DC. MEK achieved its goal 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.
Lesson Five: there is aggression between the US and Iran, but it's generally not from Iran. Over the last decade, the US has had Iran almost entirely encircled, thanks in part to large-scale ground invasions of the nations on its eastern and western borders. Some combination of Israel and the US have launched cyber warfare at the Iranians, murdered their civilian scientists, and caused explosions on its soil. The American president and the Israeli government continuously and publicly threaten to use force against them. And now, the US has taken a key step in ensuring that a group devoted to the overthrow of the 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. [Abridged]