So, One Man's Terrorist Really *Is* Another Man's Freedom Fighter

A post and comment from Mike at Rational Reasons leads me to this interesting discussion that may be making the lives of Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Parliamentary Secretary Jason Kenney uncomfortable indeed.

It all started earlier this week, when Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj suggested that, given the work done by the humanitarian branch of Hezbollah in providing critical health and education services to citizens in southern Lebanon (Hamas did the same thing in Gaza given the complete absense of the Palestinian government under Fatah), that perhaps it would be a good idea to negotiate with that wing of Hezbollah (sort of like the way England negotiated with the political wing of the IRA) to try and secure peace in the region. The suggestion was not a popular one, and Wrzesnewskyj (thank God for the ability to cut and paste) backtracked post haste.

Unfortunately for Conservative MP Jason Kenney, who compared Hezbollah to the Nazis and implied that Wrzesnewskyj and NDP MP Peggy Nash were anti-semetic for daring to suggest even the idea of negotiation, served himself up a heaping of sauce for the gander with his statement that the Canadian government should not talk to any terrorist groups on the terrorist list whatsoever.

Problem is, he has done just that. And there’s photographic evidence.

I’ll let Mike walk you through the logic:

if Wrzesnewskyj had to resign because he suggested that perhaps we should talk to Hezbollah, an organization on our terrorist list, then Kenney must not only resign his Parliamentary Secretary position, he should also resign his seat, because of this:

“The Toronto Star reports a photograph of Kenney appears on the website of the National Council of Resistance of Iran; the political arm of an Iranian rebel group, which Ottawa has declared a terrorist organization.”

Kenney is not (just) suggesting we talk to this banned terrorist group, he is actually talking to them. He is, in fact, speaking at a rally for them. Unlike Wrzesnewskyj, Kenney is actually a member of the Government and a direct representative of the Prime Minister.

Not only this, it appears that Stockwell Day is on record strenuously questioning the decision to put the National Council of Resistance of Iran on the Canadian list of terror organizations. He is also on record of having spoken on behalf of the group in the House of Commons. This despite the fact that not only is the group a terrorist organization by Canadian standards, it is a terrorist group according to the U.S. State Department.

What’s especially ironic is that Stockwell Day is now the Minister for Public Safety — the very ministry that keeps the list. And the list has not been amended. You’d think that if he had the courage of his convictions that the National Council of Resistance of Iran wasn’t the political wing of a terrorist organization, he’d have moved to have them stricken from the list, but no…

So, who is the National Council of Resistance of Iran? Well, it’s the political wing of People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran. This group has been responsible for staging riots outside of the Iranian embassy in Ottawa and clashes with police in Montreal. There are accusations of indiscriminate civilian killing and serious human rights abuses. But what I find especially interesting is their entry in the Canadian list explaining why they are there. And in a roundabout way, I’ll get to my point:

MEK is an Iranian terrorist organization that was based in Iraq until recently. It subscribes to an eclectic ideology that combines its own interpretation of Shiite Islamism with Marxist principles. The group aspires to overthrow the current regime in Iran and to establish a democratic, socialist Islamic republic. This Islamic socialism can only be attained through the destruction of the existing regime and the elimination of Western influence, described as “Westoxication” . To achieve this Islamic ideology, the use of physical force, armed struggle or jihad is necessary. Besides having had an alliance with Saddam Hussein, the organization has or had ties with: Amal, the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Al Fatah, and other Palestinian factions. The MEK is even suspected of past collusion with the regime of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

So, here’s the thing: MEK is out to overthrow the theocratic government of Iran. And so one can understand Stockwell Day’s reasoning for asking that they be kept off the list. I too believe that the theocratic government of Iran needs to fall to a democratic reform movement. The group aspires to establish a “democratic” though socialist republic, and while some might quibble with the “socialist” aspect, many would argue that this would be a significant improvement over the government that is there.

But the State Department does not tolerate the group’s methods. And in the description I detect a strange agglomeration of socialism and Islamic fundamentalism that could produce an awkward philosophy for the government and, ultimately, a new form of dictatorship. Then there are the connections with Saddam Hussein and the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

It seems that, in the Middle East, the really active rebel groups seeking to overthrow the established order are out to set up either an extreme nationalistic government (right wing) or an extreme socialistic government (left wing). The end of the Cold War diminished the power of the socialistic movements, possibly allowing the nationalistic sentiments to fluorish. It would be ironic and sad if, to try and take out the radical nationalists, the radical socialists come back to haunt us.

This is the sad harvest reaped when you believe that you hold the moral high ground without actually holding the moral high ground. What we’re seeing in the Middle East is nothing new; just another set of dictatorial groups being bolstered by Western interests to fight against other threats. Iran might not have been in the mess it was if it weren’t for a CIA backed coup which installed the dictatorial Shah in 1958. The Taliban owes a lot of its creation to American influence to try and take out the Soviets. Osama Bin Laden got his start because of American foreign policy. It all seemed like a good idea at the time.

But ultimately, maybe we have to accept the fact that there is no black and white when dealing in this sort of politics; only dark shades of grey. Maybe we should stop believing that freedom fighters are all angels, and terrorists are too devilish to touch. It seems that whenever we deal with freedom fighters, we get our hands dirty. And yet, on occasion it seems as though we have no choice but deal with terrorists, as we did with Fatah and Sinn Fein.

Maybe Stockwell Day’s approach in talking to the National Council of Resistance on Iran might actually be the sensible one, if he didn’t glorify their struggle against the mullahs, so. And if that is true, then Wrzesnewskyj did not deserve to be punished as he did.

Further Reading

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I’d ever agree with Conrad Black, but these two paragraphs, courtesy Tart Cider, are remarkably astute:

Israel acted on the Kosovo model of a war worth killing for but not worth dying for. Instead of going to where Hezbollah was, rooting them out, killing them, tearing up their bunkers and weapons stores and destroying them as a fighting force, as the Americans did at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, Israel made belligerent noises and ensured that Hezbollah would survive, shrieking from the house tops and the minarets of the Middle East that 5,000 brave Islamist warriors had stopped the Army of Israel.

So they should. They are brave and they did humiliate Israel. They have destroyed the mystique of Israeli invincibility, and eliminated a good deal of the perception of Israel’s deterrent strength. Israel smashed up the internationally popular city of Beirut at no risk to its own airmen, and inflicted terrible hardship on hundreds of thousands of Lebanese civilians, after kindly dropping leaflets on them first. The Americans and even the French held the door open at the United Nations for the Israelis to finish the job with Hezbollah, and instead Israel essentially attacked civilians instead of their true enemy.

The black and white vision of the Middle East reminds me of what my karate instructor said about the difference between an oak and a pine. The oak is strong, and it doesn’t budge. And eventually the snow so overburdens its branches, that the branches break and the tree suffers. The pine has slender boughs, however, that bend down when loaded, allowing the snow to slough off onto the ground.

The War on Terror can be won. I’m not suggesting that we give up. I’m not even opposed to some well targetted assassinations (like Osama Bin Laden). But the war isn’t going to be won easily, especially if we use indescriminate tactics. It’s going to take precision and patience, and the wileyness of a pine, not the brute strength of an oak.

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