John Kerry's Vietnam service controversy and the US policy toward the Mojahedin Khalgh (MEK) are seemingly two seperate areas of discussion. But one could in fact say the two issues are married, literally.
The members of the so-called Swiftboat Veterans for Truth have some interesting connections. Dexter Lehtinen is a Vietnam vet and an attorney from Miami. Lehtinen was wounded in Vietnam and upon his return was “disappointed,” to put it politely, when he heard the well known 1971 John Kerry testimony about Vietnam atrocities. He fully supports the anti-Kerry group and has been active raising money for their activities.
Earlier this month (September 12), Dexter appeared on CSPAN's morning show promoting a “Kerry Lied” rally to be taken place later that same day in Washington DC. Dexter is married to Ileana. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a Republican congresswoman from Florida's 18th district. That's the southern-most district in the United States.
Just like all other Cuban-American Republicans, she is viciously anti-Castro. She favors “regime change” for Cuba and constantly pushes the US Government for tougher stance against the Island nation. (As if any tougher stance short of a US invasion were possible, but she probably wouldn't mind an armed invasion.)
Her statements make Cuba sound like a hell-hole of constant misery and torture. She wants Europe and Canada to ban tourists from going to Cuba in order to starve out Castro and foment an uprising. She accounts her own “escape” from the clutches of the evil dictator, having to leave behind friends and property in the midst of communist enslavement. And how much of that communist ideological slavery did she have to endure personally before being rescued? Not much, she left when she was 7.
Does this profile sound at all familiar? Well, it must have sounded perfect to the members of Mujahedeen e Khalg. Some time ago, they tapped Ms. Ros-Lehtinen as an ally in Congress. The tales of the two “tyrannical regimes” of Iran and Cuba being two peas in a pod must've resonated with her own life story, or at least with her trusted staff member Yleem Poblete to whom she frequently defers the harder questions regarding the MEK.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen has been going around trying to gather support for MEK at least since the late 90's. She's been “admired” by Alireza Jafarzadeh, the NCR spokesman in Washington and the occasional Fox News Iran “expert.” Both have a stated goal of removing the MEK from the state departments list of terrorist groups.
Recently she claimed she had the support of 150 members of Congress but she wouldn't reveal their names. When pressed she told the Hill News on April 8, 2003: “Because of the Khatami well-funded campaign on propaganda, lies and misinformation, I have decided not to release the names of these signers.”
Setting aside the assertion that Khatami is so powerful as to force members of the United States House of Representatives to communicate in secret, this still sounded a bit fishy. Shortly after this, a number of high ranking Congressmen such as Henry Hide and Tom Lantos of the House International Relations Committee publicly disassociated themselves with the letter that Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said she circulated. Eventually it was revealed that only 4 other members expressed support for the letter.
The letter also drew fire from Congress's only fluent speaker of Persian: Representative Bob Ney of Ohio (He taught English in Shiraz before the Revolution.) Ney simply pointed out that this group has American blood on its hands. Several high profile terrorist attacks against Americans in the 70s and involvement in the taking of the US Embassy in Tehran are credibly attributed to the MEK. In addition the group briefly engaged the US Military in Iraq during the initial invasion last year.
But being a terrorist with American blood on your hands is just not good enough reason for Ros-Lehtinen to stop backing the group. Perhaps there's more to the story.
Ros-Lehtinen is up for reelection this year. Quite a few people on her list of donors are of Middle Eastern descent including Iranians. Two of her maxed-out supporters are Yousif Ghafari and Farid Ghadry. Both of these individuals are big fans of George Bush and the US military involvement in the Middle East.
Ghafari is a Lebanese man from Michigan who is a Bush “Ranger,” meaning he raised over $200,000 for the Republican party this year. Ghafari, a wealthy Engineer, is on the record supporting the war in Iraq and helping convince Michigan's large Arab community to donate to Bush. He was nominated by the Bush Administration for the post of Alternate US Representative to the United Nations.
Ghadry is the head of the Reform Party of Syria, an organization with the stated goal of pushing Democracy in Syria. He's been making the rounds in the lecture circuit as an advocate of regime change for Syria, taking every opportunity to suggest that Syrian leaders are just like Iraqi leaders. He has admitted “receiving help” from the United States. His organization frequently speaks on behalf of the Syrian Diaspora but he has almost no support in the region. Ghadry is called “Syrian Chalabi” by opposition groups inside Syria.
So how did these types of people find their way to anti-Castro Congresswoman in southern Florida and why are they funding her campaign? I haven't dug that deep yet, but my guess is that there is a sort of “donor brokerage” being run by Washington power elites with strong ties to the administration. In other words they were referred to Ros-Lehtinen by MEK or MEK's Neoconservative benefactors in Washington.
The Neocons in Washington have obviously met with the MEK and are keeping them on ice until they have support in congress. Then, when they're ready to do something drastic, preferably shortly after a Bush reelection, they'll suddenly pop up the MEK's of the world to serve as the Chalabi's du-Jour. Until that happens, die-hard fans like Ros-Lehtinen are given the role of keeping the groups' aims active in congress. In exchange, they receive donations from some high-profile donors.
Qumars Bolourchian is a writer and photographer living in Califronia.
– MEK stands for 'Mojahedin Khalgh ' a Persian – English transliteration. The same group also goes by 'Mojahedin Khalgh Organization' (MKO), 'People's Mojahedin,' (PM, PMO) and lately 'National Council of Resistance,' (NCR).
Veterans bash Kerry at Aqua Turf author event' (Record-Journal)
– '', by: Bradley J. Hernlem, Ph.D. (Payvand.com)
– 'Iran “terrorist” group finds support on Hill' by Sam Dealey. (Hill News)
– 'Rep. Ros-Lehtinen defends Iranian group labeled terrorist front for Saddam Hussein' By Sam Dealey (Hill News)
– 'Gray Lady runs ad for Terrorists' By Kenneth R. Timmerman (Insight)
– 'Opposing force: Syria's opposition forces believe that national reconciliation is the way to fight US intervention in domestic affairs.' (Al-Ahram)
– 'The Search for Syrian Liberals. Few Good Men' by Eli J. Lake (The New Republic)
– Congressman Ileana Roslehtinen Political Campaign Fundraising and Campaign Finance Info.