The Uses of Political Violence

by , January 10, 2011

Rep. Peter King (R-New York) is the kind of in-your-face demagogue that only the state of New York could have elevated to high office. From his perch in the 3rd congressional district, in Long Island, King holds forth like a cruder version of Rudolph Giuliani, if you can imagine it. Yet we don’t have to imagine it, because it will be on full display when Rep. King, in his capacity as chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, presides over hearings on “the radicalization of the Muslim-American community.”

Those hearings portend a circus, in the course of which we’ll be subjected to a very public airing of the malignant views of people like Robert Spencer, Pamela “the shrieking harpy” Geller, and Frank Gaffney, a rogues gallery of anti-Muslimologist “experts” whose hate-filled rantings will further poison the atmosphere of an America itching for a lynching.

Although the neoconservatives were generally discredited in the wake of the Iraq war, when the complete failure of their policies – and prophecies – became all too apparent even to many of them, the dead-enders among them have sought to make a comeback by transferring their war on Muslims from the Middle East to the home front. The Ft. Hood massacre was a godsend to them, and they took full advantage of the opportunity. The “ground zero” mosque controversy was another shot in the arm for this movement, and Rep. King did not disappoint on that front: When it comes to crude bigotry and religion-based divisiveness, we can always rely on King to sink to the occasion, far lower than practically anyone else.

So the hearings will be a farce, a show trial of the Muslim community in which the mere act of putting up a defense gives the prosecution a legitimacy it could never achieve on the merits of the case. Because there is no organized pro-al Qaeda, pro-terrorist tendency in American Islam to speak of, at least so far. Which is why the FBI has had to resort to entrapment in prosecuting alleged homegrown “terrorists.” The last one was a confused Somali teenager, lured by the FBI into planning a bombing that never came off: the Ft. Hood shooter, although supposedly “inspired” by the American-born radical Islamist Anwar al-Awlaki, was a lone gunman, and not part of a terrorist cell or a larger network. The Obama administration made strenuous efforts to link the Times Square bomber to the Afghan Taliban, but since Faisal Shahzad pled guilty, that aspect of the case – which never held together very well – didn’t have its day in court. Indeed, all the domestic “terrorist” events since 9/11 have been committed by the prototypical lone gunman, and linked to psychological rather than political issues in the killer’s mind.

Yet there were and are those who have a direct interest in establishing all sorts of links where none exist: the Obama administration to further its foreign policy goals and justify a war, ambitious prosecutors who want to score points and make a name for themselves, and cretins like Rep. King, who have an ideological agenda they want to pursue to the very end, which is the prospect of us treating American Muslims much like Franklin Delano Roosevelt treated the Japanese-American community during World War II. Indeed, one particularly vicious neocon wrote an entire book justifying the Japanese internment camps in order to set up American Muslims for a similar scenario.

I’m not the only one who has pointed out Rep. King’s own flirtations with political violence – such as his open support for the Irish Republican Army and its front group, Noraid – but I hasten to add that such hypocrisy is merely a reflection of a more general double-standard when it comes to political violence.

We have the example of former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former secretary of homeland security Tom Ridge, former White House homeland security adviser Frances Townsend and former attorney general Michael Mukasey traveling to Paris to endorse the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK – Peoples’ Mujahideen), an organization characterized as a terrorist group by the US State Department. MEK has attacked US military and diplomatic personnel, and has been described by former members as a cult: ideologically, the MEK started out as a far leftist group, but like the neocons who have taken up its cause, has traveled to the other end of the political spectrum, offering itself up to the US government in much the same way as Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (INC) became the instrument of US war plans in Iraq.

MEK’s American supporters want to use it as a battering ram against the Iranian regime, and yet this exile group has even less credibility than the Chalabi organization did: what support they had inside Iran evaporated when they fled to Iraq and took up with Saddam Hussein, whose government succored and armed them. MEK fought in the Iran-Iraq war – on the Iraqi side. That hasn’t stopped American neocons from riding this particular hobbyhorse: “For your organization to be described as a terrorist organization is just really a disgrace,” bloviated Giuliani at the Paris confab – although the families of those Americans murdered in cold blood by MEK might disagree. That a former US Attorney General would endorse a group with American blood on its hands is what ‘s really disgraceful, but Mukasey shamelessly declared that the US ought to provide “all possible technical and covert support to those fighting to end oppression in Iran,” i.e. put the MEK on the CIA payroll. Townsend, too, made no bones about her support for the group and its terroristic mission: “If the United States truly wants to put pressure on the Iranian regime, it takes more than talk and it takes more than sanctions,” she said to the assembled terrorists.

If terrorists can be utilized as an instrument of US foreign policy, then they become “freedom-fighters,” as Ronald Reagan dubbed the Afghan forebears of the Taliban during the 1980s, when they were fighting the Soviets with American help. This attitude is shared by the Obama administration, which has not only stood by while prominent Americans have rallied to MEK’s cause, but has also failed to distance Washington from other US-linked groups engaged in terrorist activities against Iran, such as Jundallah, a Sunni extremist sect carrying out attacks in Iranian Baluchistan.

More than that, Obama’s Justice Department has been actively going after Americans who travel abroad in support of left-wing “terrorist” groups, such as FARC and the Palestinian resistance. In October of last year the Justice Department raided the offices of the Antiwar Committee in Minneapolis, and also the homes and offices of left-wing activists in Chicago and North Carolina, and subpoenaed 19 people to appear before a grand jury fishing expedition.

Their crime? They had traveled abroad to engage in solidarity work with FARC and Palestinian resistance groups, which are on the State Department’s list of “foreign terrorist organizations” alongside the MEK. Unlike Giuliani, Townsend, Mukasey, and Ridge, the left-wing activists rounded up by Eric Holder don’t have top level connections in Congress and the Washington think-tanks, they don’t have editorial support from the Murdoch media empire, nor do they have the financial resources required to fight an all-out assault by the Justice Department. So they are harassed and prosecuted, while those with powerful connections and political pull go free – although both groups have engaged in exactly the same sort of activities.

Which just goes to prove, once again, that there are two sets of laws in latter-day America: one set for the powerful, and another for the powerless. Political violence is something that the US empire encourages when it is in its interests to do so, and condemns when its interests are threatened by unauthorized free-lancers. In every case, our rulers seek to use this kind of violence as their instrument, and this operating principle is underscored by the reaction, in some quarters, to the assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

The dead bodies were still on the ground in the parking lot of that Safeway store in Tucson when the left wing of the blogosphere was howling for “tea party” blood, blaming everyone from Sarah Palin to Ron Paul for the heinous crime. “Hate speech” had “incited” the assassin, one Jared Lee Loughner, a 22-year-old nutbag who lived not far from the murder scene. The local sheriff used his fifteen minutes of fame to opine that none of this would’ve happened if not for certain people “on the radio.” The Huffington Post was ablaze with commentary linking Loughner to the “tea party” – because, after all, both Loughner and the tea partiers are “anti-government”! Having just been walloped, big-time, in a national election, the “progressives” were quick to call for “right-wing” blood. A Democratic official told Politico on Sunday that “they need to deftly pin this on the tea partiers … just like the Clinton White House deftly pinned the Oklahoma City bombing on the militia and anti-government people.”

At a time when free speech is under assault on every front, “liberal” groups and politicians are eager to make the case for laws against “hate speech,” hopeful that this will put out of business right-wing talk radio and other manifestations of political incorrectness, or at least have a chilling effect. After all, they opine, just as we are the “only” Western country that doesn’t have socialized medicine, so we are practically alone among our European cousins in not having “hate speech” laws.

The attempt to characterize Loughner as a tea partier has absolutely nothing to do with anything he said or wrote: indeed, quite the opposite is the case. If we look at his YouTube videos, they are simply incoherent, ranting about how Loughner is into “conscience dreaming,” and railing about government “brainwashing” – typical paranoid ravings without any real political content, either right or left. A series of tweets by a former friend, one Caitie Parker, show that when she knew him, in 2007, he was a radical leftist – and his YouTube video featuring a flag-burning (hardly a tea party-ish type of activity) is certainly suggestive of that, although I wouldn’t draw any firm conclusions one way or the other.

Because what we are talking about here is not ideology, but psychopathology – although I’ll be the first to admit that the two often intersect. In this case, however, there is absolutely no indication – so far – that politics had anything to do with it. A mentally unstable individual, who disrupted classes at Pima Community College, where he was a student, with sudden outbursts, simply fixated on a public figure, and acted on his delusions. Yet the swiftness with which the “progressive” crowd glommed on to Loughner as a symbol of everything they think is wrong with this country indicates just how ready we are for a real honest to goodness witch hunt: how we are itching for a lynching, if only someone with all the requisite characteristics of a lynch-worthy victim would turn up.

To a ruling class pining for a “crisis” – one that will put them in the drivers’ seat and allow them to get away with smearing their enemies and repressing the opposition – the Tucson massacre is a golden opportunity, and you can bet your bottom dollar they’ll take full advantage of it.

For the ruling class, the uses of political violence are many and various – even if the violence isn’t being committed (this time) by our overseas allies or our own CIA. We hear a lot of babbling about how this means we have to tamp down the supposedly appalling “polarization” of our society, tamp down the “rhetoric,” and learn to love the middle ground. “Extremism” is the enemy of the day, and anyone who wanders off the straight and narrow is a dangerous potential “terrorist.”

Bullshit. Of course our rulers – who are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, both financial and political – don’t want any polarization. Instead, they want us to calmly accept our fate under their system, and go down quietly. They don’t want WikiLeaks exposing their overseas criminality, they don’t want anyone questioning their own criminal activities on the home front, and if you rock the boat you’re an “extremist” with “terrorist” inclinations, a candidate for the no-fly list and an investigation by Homeland Security.

This is the world they’re working to create: an America where speech is regulated, where the internet is controlled by the government, and the only political violence allowed is that engaged in by the US military on a massive scale, and practiced on nonwhites, preferably overseas. Are you ready to live in that world? I’m not, but then again, I may not have much choice in the matter.

Read more by Justin Raimondo