Asking Tom Ridge About the MEK Gets an Angry Response

Today I went to a news conference on the MEK (which the State Dept. lists as a terrorist group) put on by the Institute for Democratic Strategies (which doesn't seem to have a webpage) at the National Press Club.

Among the speakers:

Ed Rendell, Former Governor of Pennsylvania
Tom Ridge, Former Governor of Pennsylvania
Col. Wes Martin (Ret.), Former Commander of Camp Ashraf
Michael Mukasey, Former Attorney General
Ramesh Sepehrrad

They have been criticized for their support of the MEK by Glenn Greenwald and others, see: "Leading Conservatives Openly Support a Terrorist Group."

See also: "Words of Praise for an Iranian Exile Group Described as a Cult by Its Critics" and "Mujahideen-e Khalq: Former U.S. Officials Make Millions Advocating for Terrorist Organization."

I asked Ridge about any financial arrangement between him or the other speakers and the MEK. He reacted with anger, questioning my motives and my affiliations. Rendell said in much calmer tone that no one was getting paid for today's event but that people there had been paid for other speeches at other events. One of the speakers indicated that Ridge had personally paid for today's event. Ridge in his remarks derided the notion that money would ever influence men of the stature of those speaking at the event. I asked if he was arguing that there was no problem of money influencing politics. Rendell cut that off. I asked if there were any other relevant financial ties besides speaking fees. Mukasey said "hell no."

I'd really wanted to ask another question about potential hypocrisy, given that Americans have been prosecuted under the law for supporting humanitarian organizations which the government claimed were linked to terrorists, which I think is a much more interesting issue, but they would not come back to me. See David Cole in the New York Times

I believe Mr. Mukasey and his compatriots had every right to say what they did. Indeed, I argued just that in the Supreme Court, on behalf of the Los Angeles-based Humanitarian Law Project, which fought for more than a decade in American courts for its right to teach the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Turkey how to bring human rights claims before the United Nations, and to assist them in peace overtures to the Turkish government.

But in June, the Supreme Court ruled against us, stating that all such speech could be prohibited, because it might indirectly support the group’s terrorist activity. Chief Justice John Roberts reasoned that a terrorist group might use human rights advocacy training to file harassing claims, that it might use peacemaking assistance as a cover while re-arming itself, and that such speech could contribute to the group’s “legitimacy,” and thus increase its ability to obtain support elsewhere that could be turned to terrorist ends. Under the court’s decision, former President Jimmy Carter’s election monitoring team could be prosecuted for meeting with and advising Hezbollah during the 2009 Lebanese elections.

At least two people in the audience were called upon for "questions" after me who were somehow affiliated with the event and who gave statements responding to or somehow deriding my question about funding.

CNN and NBC were there, but said they could not share video with me. The organizers of the event said they would share a transcript and video with me. I will post if/when they do or if I find another way to get that. Note to self: Get handy audio and video equipment.

Special thanks to Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy.
3 responses
My dear Sam Husseini,

I am Sid Harth.

Let me offer you some advise. Spell out your acronyms. For instance "MEK."

The People's Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI, also MEK, MKO) (Persian: سازمان مجاهدين خلق ايران sāzmān-e mojāhedin-e khalq-e irān) is a terrorist militant organization that advocates the overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Founded in September 5, 1965 by a group of leftist Iranian college students as an Islamic and Marxist political mass movement[3] MEK was originally devoted to armed struggle against the Shah of Iran, capitalism, and 'Western imperialism'.[4] In the aftermath of 1979 Iranian Revolution, at first the MEK and the Tudeh Party, chose to side with the clerics led by Ayatollah Khomeini against the liberals, nationalists and other moderate forces within the revolution. A power struggle ensued, and by mid-1981, MEK was fighting street battles against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.[5][6][7] During the Iran-Iraq War, the group was given refuge by Saddam Hussein and mounted attacks on Iran from within Iraqi territory.[8] Government sources claim that over 17,000 Iranians were killed by the MKO.[9]

The group claims to have renounced violence in 2001[10] and today it is the main component organization of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an "umbrella coalition" calling itself the "parliament-in-exile dedicated to a democratic, secular and coalition government in Iran. The group has had thousands of its members for many years in bases in Iraq, but according to the British Broadcasting Corporation "they were disarmed in the wake of the US-led invasion and are said to have adhered to a ceasefire."[11]

The United States, Canada, Iraq and Iran have designated the PMOI a terrorist organization.[12][13] On January 26, 2009, following what the group called a “seven-year-long legal and political battle”, the Council of the European Union removed the PMOI from the EU list of organisations it designates as terrorist.[14][15][16][17]

The PMOI and the NCRI claim to have provided the United States with intelligence on Iran's nuclear program in 2002 and 2008.[18][19] On September 6, 2011, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) elected Zohreh Akhyani as its new Secretary General for a two-year term.[20] The new Secretary General joined the PMOI 32 years ago following the anti-monarchic revolution in Iran in 1979.[21]

Now that I have done you a favor, tell me what is your problem. Speak freely. I am waiting.

...and I am Sid


...and I am Sid

Quite worthwhile material, thank you for the post.
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