Question: What is the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist?
Answer: Whether Washington is funding him this month.
Have you ever heard of the Mujahedin-e Khalq? Probably not. The U.S. State Department lists it as #29 on its official list of terrorist organizations.
The U.S. government has funded the MEK. It has trained its members on our soil.
The best investigative journalist in the United States is Seymour Hersh. This is widely acknowledged. His stories are carefully researched. When he publishes something, the targets find it easier to stonewall than to try to prove he was wrong. Better to dig in and say nothing than to give his report more publicity.
He has reported that the Joint Special Operations Command trained MEK members at its National Security Site in Nevada beginning in 2005. This is where counter-intelligence training goes on in the USA.
This makes sense to me. Training Iranian terrorists surely counts in my book as being counter-intelligence. Counter-sanity is closer to it.
I am sure that the MEK promised never to use this training against anyone from the United States. “You infidels can rest assured that we will direct our wrath only against only other Iranians. So, you can tell your State Department to take us off its list.”
Hersh reports that the M.E.K. was originally a Marxist-Islamist student organization.
Religion may be the opiate of the masses, but these students thought that water and oil mix well. They were majoring in the social sciences, not chemistry. But I digress. Back to Hersh.
The M.E.K.’s ties with Western intelligence deepened after the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003, and JSOC began operating inside Iran in an effort to substantiate the Bush Administration’s fears that Iran was building the bomb at one or more secret underground locations. Funds were covertly passed to a number of dissident organizations, for intelligence collection and, ultimately, for anti-regime terrorist activities. Directly, or indirectly, the M.E.K. ended up with resources like arms and intelligence.
This was all very hush-hush, as things Hersh investigates usually are. Then he publishes, and things go from hush-hush to “let’s just deny it and shut up.”
Despite the growing ties, and a much-intensified lobbying effort organized by its advocates, M.E.K. has remained on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations—which meant that secrecy was essential in the Nevada training. “We did train them here, and washed them through the Energy Department because the D.O.E. owns all this land in southern Nevada,” a former senior American intelligence official told me. “We were deploying them over long distances in the desert and mountains, and building their capacity in communications—coördinating commo is a big deal.” (A spokesman for J.S.O.C. said that “U.S. Special Operations Forces were neither aware of nor involved in the training of M.E.K. members.”)
This was a Bush deal. The training ceased by the time Obama was inaugurated.
In a separate interview, a retired four-star general, who has advised the Bush and Obama Administrations on national-security issues, said that he had been privately briefed in 2005 about the training of Iranians associated with the M.E.K. in Nevada by an American involved in the program. They got “the standard training,” he said, “in commo, crypto [cryptography], small-unit tactics, and weaponry—that went on for six months,” the retired general said. “They were kept in little pods.” He also was told, he said, that the men doing the training were from JSOC, which, by 2005, had become a major instrument in the Bush Administration’s global war on terror. “The JSOC trainers were not front-line guys who had been in the field, but second- and third-tier guys—trainers and the like—and they started going off the reservation. ‘If we’re going to teach you tactics, let me show you some really sexy stuff…’ ”
Our tax dollars at work!
Allan Gerson, a Washington attorney for the M.E.K., notes that the M.E.K. has publicly and repeatedly renounced terror. Gerson said he would not comment on the alleged training in Nevada. But such training, if true, he said, would be “especially incongruent with the State Department’s decision to continue to maintain the M.E.K. on the terrorist list. How can the U.S. train those on State’s foreign terrorist list, when others face criminal penalties for providing a nickel to the same organization?”
Good question, Allan. And the answer is: that’s the way Washington works.
The sources I spoke to were unable to say whether the people trained in Nevada were now involved in operations in Iran or elsewhere. But they pointed to the general benefit of American support. “The M.E.K. was a total joke,” the senior Pentagon consultant said, “and now it’s a real network inside Iran. How did the M.E.K. get so much more efficient?” he asked rhetorically. “Part of it is the training in Nevada. Part of it is logistical support in Kurdistan, and part of it is inside Iran. M.E.K. now has a capacity for efficient operations that it never had before.”
It worked so well in Afghanistan, where the CIA supplied Osama bin Laden with aid, that higher-ups in the Bush Administration figured it couldn’t fail in Iran, either.
Chalmers Johnson wrote three volumes on U.S. foreign policy before he died last year. In April 2000, he wrote this.
Not so many years later, these Afghan “freedom fighters” began to turn up in unexpected places. Some of them bombed the World Trade Center in New York City, murdered several C.I.A. employees on their way to work in Virginia as well as some American businessmen in Pakistan who just happened to become symbolic targets. The Afghans also support Osama bin Laden, who was once a prime C.I.A. “asset” back when our national security advisers thought giving guns to religious fundamentalists was a great idea.
He called this “blowback.” It is still blowing back. Nothing has changed. It’s business as usual in Washington, D.C.