In general I agree with Aaron’s take on the impending hearings on radicalization among American Muslims; the series of violent incidents he cites pretty clearly demonstrate that this is a problem, and the efforts to pretend otherwise are absurd. While I’m not convinced much good is going to come out of the hearings (how often do committee hearings accomplish anything, anyway?), the warnings that the hearing will have a horribly pernicious bigotry-promoting effect are pretty overwrought.
But man, does it have to be Peter King chairing the hearings?
I suppose on some level it’s appropriate, since King has a long history with violent radicals. But it’s a history of supporting them. A 2005 New York Sun article lays out the ugly details of King’s enthusiasm for what he called “the legitimate voice of occupied Ireland” — the Irish Republican Army:
He forged links with leaders of the IRA and Sinn Fein in Ireland, and in America he hooked up with Irish Northern Aid, known as Noraid, a New York based group that the American, British, and Irish governments often accused of funneling guns and money to the IRA. At a time when the IRA’s murder of Lord Mountbatten and its fierce bombing campaign in Britain and Ireland persuaded most American politicians to shun IRA-support groups, Mr. King displayed no such inhibitions. He spoke regularly at Noraid protests and became close to the group’s publicity director, the Bronx lawyer Martin Galvin, a figure reviled by the British.
Mr. King’s support for the IRA was unequivocal. In 1982, for instance, he told a pro-IRA rally in Nassau County: “We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry.”
By the mid-1980s, the authorities on both sides of the Atlantic were openly hostile to Mr. King. On one occasion, a judge threw him out of a Belfast courtroom during the murder trial of IRA men because, in the judge’s view, “he was an obvious collaborator with the IRA.” When he attended other trials, the police singled him out for thorough body searches.
During his visits to Ireland, Mr. King would often stay with well-known leaders of the IRA, and he socialized in IRA drinking haunts. At one of such clubs, the Felons, membership was limited to IRA veterans who had served time in jail…
More than 3,600 civilians, soldiers, and policemen died in the conflict between 1969 and 1994 – the per-capita equivalent death toll in America would be nearly 700,000 – and the IRA was responsible for around half of those killings.
That article is about how King had “cooled on Ireland” — but only because he was turned off by Bush-era anti-Americanism, not because of a newfound understanding that supporting terrorism was as wrong during The Troubles as it is now. As Alex Massie has pointed out, King’s IRA apologism continued after 9/11:
Nor was King ever apparently concerned by the links the IRA forged with countries hostile to the United States, such as Libya and Cuba. In 2002 — after September 11, mind you — King condemned as “irresponsible” congressional hearings investigating links between the IRA and the Colombian terrorist-group FARC. King claimed that the hearings were rigged and subject to a “pre-ordained agenda” despite ample evidence demonstrating that the IRA was offering bomb-making and explosives training to the FARC.
As recently as 2005, King told me that “we shouldn’t rush to be too sanctimonious” about the murder of Robert McCartney in a Belfast pub. Although the killing was witnessed by dozens of drinkers, IRA intimidation ensured that none came forward.
As Massie wrote yesterday, noting King’s shocking-if-true claim that Obama offered to make him ambassador to Ireland:
King and those Americans who shared his views could have supported the perfectly-respectable United Ireland cause without endorsing or defending the IRA. They chose not to. Their hostility to Britain and to Unionists is fine; their preference for the IRA and Sinn Fein rather than the [Social Democratic and Labour Party] is inexcusable.
Indeed. Let’s not allow this to be whitewashed: King is holding hearings to determine why American Muslims become the sort of people he’d have little problem with if they were Ulster Catholics.