With the Libyan revolution in its final hours, or days, or weeks, there’s one sinister figure who even now must be tempted to go into hiding with the Colonel … and that’s Congressman Peter King, currently the head of the House Homeland Security Committee, which these past three months has been conducting investigations into the “radical Islamisation’ of Muslims in the US”.

King believes that US Muslim communities are breeding grounds for hate and violent intent, and that the loyalty of American Muslims should not be taken for granted … that doesn’t seem borne out by the absence of attacks by US Muslims, but King believes he knows about terrorists … perhaps because he supported them for so many years.

As noted here before, the Long Island Congressman was for decades the most vociferous supporter of the IRA in the US, defending the group in the early 1980s as “freedom fighters” against British tyranny, just as the IRA was renewing its campaign of violent attacks, as part of a bullet and ballot-box dual strategy.

King was thrown out of a Northern Ireland courtroom for disruptive behaviour in 1982, the judge defining him as an IRA supporter — indeed he came within a hair’s breadth of being either officially deported or arrested, apparently being saved from ignominy only by intercession by the Reagan administration with the Thatcher government. He returned home to lead NORAID, the US fund-raising group that helped channel money to the IRA to buy weapons.

Pressed on his support for the group, King has offered various explanations — initially a brusque argument that the “IRA didn’t kill Americans” and he was only interested in opposing enemies of his country. He’s also tried to make out that his annual visits to Ireland through the ’80s, during which time he stayed with members of the IRA, were an early and unilateral part of the peace process.

King’s involvement with the IRA has been known for decades, with the only person to really make a fuss about it being Ed Moloney, who has written a history of the group, and UK journalist Alex Massie. The inauguration of King’s committee revived the issue, and  The New York Times and The Washington Post running major stories on the link. In response to the latter, King came out with his “peace angel” story:

I [wanted] a peace agreement, a working agreement, where the nationalist community would feel their rights would be respected … “felt that the IRA, in the context of Irish history, and Sinn Fein were a legitimate force that had to be recognised and you wouldn’t have peace without them. Listen, I think I’m one of the people who brought about peace in Ireland.”

But as Moloney notes, that story doesn’t begin to stack up. King’s contacts in the IRA weren’t from the political faction — Gerry Adams et al — steering towards Sinn Fein. King was with the hardliners. His closest contact in the IRA was Mickey McKevitt, who at the time was the group’s quartermaster general, in charge of sourcing weapons.

This is where things might get difficult for King, because McKevitt’s major source for weapons at the time was … Libya, and Colonel Gaddafi, then in his expansive phase of funding a range of groups he defined as “anti-imperialist”. The weapons sourced by McKevitt undoubtedly killed civilians by the score in the 1980s. Doubtless Gaddafi’s secret service apparatus kept records of all such meetings.

Now of course, in time-honoured fashion, rebels are advancing on secret service buildings — and unless Gaddafi’s remnant forces have been very diligent in shredding, they may have a treasure trove of information on their hands. Representative King must be having the odd sleepless night wondering what they’ll find there.

Should they come up with anything, it may prove a staggering blow to the Republicans. Americans can institute a cognitive dissonance about the IRA, when they talk about zero tolerance for terrorism, but a connection to Gaddafi, when he was helping out Palestinian groups and the IRA, and at the time of Lockerbie, may prove too much. Perhaps that was one reason for US involvement. All politics is local, as the man said.

Meanwhile, it is beyond absurdity that King can head a committee on security in his homeland, while having been an advocate of terror in other peoples’. The case has received no attention from the conservatariat, which pretty much confirms their hypocrisy on the matter of “zero tolerance” for terror. The IRA killed a lot of Brits, and two Australians — when are the respective governments going to make any form of protest to the leadership of Congress about the leadership role of a man unconcerned for the deaths of civilians in allied countries “because they weren’t Americans?”. McKevitt, King’s close friend and associate, is currently serving 20 years for being one of the planners of the “Real IRA” Omagh bombing, which killed 30 people. The Omagh bombing! And King is adjudicating on the risk of “radicalisation” of American Muslims. It’s a disgusting, hypocritical situation — perhaps to be resolved soon, when someone opens a filing cabinet in Tripoli …

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey