The Bush administration inherited many of Iraq's problems when it invaded that country, including an Iranian terrorist organization funded and armed by Saddam Hussein, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MKO).
Though the group is on the State Department's terrorist list, it still operates freely in the US -- including organizing fundraisers in the MCI center in Washington DC in January 2004 (with Richard Perle as a key note speaker) and extensive lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.
In the midst of a war on terror, the Bush administration chose in 2003 to protect 3,000 of the organization's militants and house them in a camp given to the group by Saddam -- Camp Ashraf just north of Baghdad.
Ever since, the fate of this State Department-listed terrorist organization has been unclear. Hated by Iraqis for its involvement in Saddam's crimes against the Iraqi people, the Baghdad government wants to expel the group. But no country is willing to take them.
I wrote about this in the Washington Times this past Sunday:
"Though the Iranian government wants to put the group's leadership on trial in Iran, it seems less interested in the organization's rank and file. The European governments have little interest in taking in 3,000 battle-hardened Muslim militants, fearing that they will use Europe as a base to plan and execute further terrorist attacks.
The U.S., on the other hand, has already contradicted its own principles by giving preferential treatment to an organization on the State Department's terrorist list -- even though President Bush himself pointed to the organization's patronage under Saddam Hussein as evidence of Iraq's support for international terrorists in his speech to the United Nations in September 2002.
'Iraq continues to shelter and support terrorist organizations that direct violence against Iran,' President Bush said. To complicate matters further, if reports that the U.S. has used MKO terrorists for cross-border raids into Iran are true, then Washington certainly doesn't want these militants to end up in Iranian hands.
Washington seems doomed if it does, doomed if it doesn't."
What is often forgotten in the discussions about the Mujahedin is that it is not only a terrorist organization, but also a cult that brainwashes its members, places children of Mujahedin members with other families in order to prevent parents from defecting, and who according to Human Rights Watch, maintains control by torturing its rank and file. "Members who try to leave the Mujahedin pay a very heavy price," according to Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch.
The solution? Well, protecting one terrorist group while sending another group to Gitmo doesn't do much to strengthen our credibility.
Instead, we should recognize that the rank and file of this terrorist cult are also victims of the organization. Unlike other terrorist groups, the Mujahedin does not have a breeding ground where it can recruit its members from. Rather, they have to cling on to their existing membership for survival, which partly explains why they are so ferocious against those who seek to leave the cult.
The best way of defeating this terrorist group is to help the rank and file break from the cult. You can read the full op-ed here.
And a new documentary on the Mujahedin by the award-winning filmmaker, James Longley, is available on Link TV.
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