Does Rep. King’s IRA/Terrorist Connection Matter?

Sheila Musaji

Posted Mar 13, 2011      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Does Rep. King’s IRA/Terrorist Connection Matter?

by Sheila Musaji

During the uproar over the Park51/Cordoba House community center last year, Rep. King King called for a “full investigation” of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf because Rauf refused to call Hamas a “terrorist organization.”  Watch this video of Jon Stewart on the Daily Show (3/8) that includes this statement by King as well as a statement by King in 1995 saying “the moral standing of the IRA is equal to that of the British army.”

Based on King’s own statements it would seem that it might be time to have a full investigation of Rep. Peter King, or at the very least a reconsideration of whether or not a person with his background is qualified to Chair the Congressional Committee on Homeland Security.

As Wajahat Ali notes Congressman Peter King, who has rationalized his past defense of IRA terrorism without a hint of self-awareness or irony, is now the self-appointed protector of America from future terrorist attacks by holding a congressional hearing on the “Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.” King presiding over this hearing would be like asking Mel Gibson to chair an impartial session on Jewish American loyalties.

In the past, Rep. King openly supported the IRA. 

Justin Elliott notes in his article “The Republican congressman who supported terrorism”:  “If “IRA” were replaced with “Hamas,” the sort of fundraising King did would these days earn you a lengthy prison sentence for material support for terrorism.” 

Alex Massie points out in his article “The Terrorists’ Man in Washington” that ”... King presents himself as a hawk on security issues who, like so many so-called conservatives, is an enthusiastic supporter of torture and, should it prove necessary, nuclear weapons. Listening to King talk about al Qaeda, you could be forgiven for thinking that he’s the terrorists’ most implacable enemy.    Which would be funny if it weren’t such a sour joke. For years, King, who represents a chunk of New York’s Long Island, was in fact the terrorists’ best friend. King wasn’t merely an apologist for terrorism, he was an enthusiastic supporter of terrorism.    Of course it was Irish, not Islamic terrorism that King championed. So that’s different. Right? For decades, King was one of the keenest, most reliable American voices supporting the Irish Republican Army during its long and murderous campaign.  According to King, the terrorist movement was “the legitimate voice of occupied Ireland.”    In Northern Ireland, the conflict was drily referred to as “The Troubles.” But that understatement hides the brutal nature of an ugly, squalid conflict during which more than 3,600 people were killed. Republican terrorists were responsible for more than 2,000 of these deaths. The scale of the carnage was such that, on a per-capita basis, a comparable conflict in the United States would kill 700,000 Americans.    And King was at the heart of it: In the 1980s, he was a prominent fundraiser for Noraid, the Irish-American organization that raised money for the IRA and was suspected of running guns to Ulster.  Indeed, King’s rise to prominence within the Irish-American movement was predicated upon his support for the IRA at a time when New Yorkers were softer on terrorism than they are now. Noraid helped win King his seat in Congress, making him, in some respects, the terrorists’ Man in Washington.  

Robert Wright in his article “A Mosque Maligned” pointed out that “Representative King, who shares the Weekly Standard’s grave suspicions about Rauf, supported the Irish Republican Army back when it was killing lots of innocent civilians. He raised money for the I.R.A. and said it was “the legitimate voice of occupied Ireland” and praised the “brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry” and in various other ways backed this terrorist group. If Rauf’s past looked like King’s past, there would indeed be cause for concern.”

King’s IRA connections were of enough concern that as M.J. Rosenberg has reported In 1984, “the Secret Service listed him as a threat when President Reagan made a trip to Nassau County to watch a Special Olympics event.”

Rep. King wrote a novel “Vale of Tears” in which he seems to grasp the concept that terrorism might be a problem, no matter its source, as the product description on Amazon reads:  “In King’s fictional two track style of creating a fictional future and flashing back to actual events in history, he places Congressman Sean Cross at the center of international terrorism, this time coming from the (sic) radical Islam in cahoots with the Irish Republican Army.”

Peter Finn reminds us that “In 1985, the Irish government boycotted the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City, the biggest celebration in the Irish-American calendar. The cause of its umbrage was Peter King, that year’s grand marshal and someone the Irish government said was an “avowed” supporter of a terrorist organization, the Irish Republican Army.    King, then a local politician on Long Island, was one of the most zealous American defenders of the militant IRA and its campaign to drive the British out of Northern Ireland. He (King) argued that IRA violence was an inevitable response to British repression and that the organization had to be understood in the context of a centuries-long struggle for independence.    “The British government is a murder machine,” King said. He described the IRA, which mastered the car bomb as an instrument of urban terror, as a “legitimate force.” And he compared Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, the IRA’s political wing, to George Washington.  ...  “My problem with him is the hypocrisy,” said Tom Parker, a counter-terrorism specialist at Amnesty International who was injured by an IRA bomb that struck a birthday party at a military hall in London in 1990. “If you say that terrorist violence is acceptable in one setting because you happen to agree with the cause, then you lose the authority to condemn it in another setting.”

The Peter Finn article makes one statement that I find particularly interesting in the context of attempting to understand how young people can become radicalizedThree of King’s grandparents came from Ireland, but apart from a grand-uncle who fought for Irish independence in the early part of the last century, he was not from a family with any commitment to revolutionary politics in Ireland. When violence first broke out in Northern Ireland, King dismissed the IRA as “a bunch of crazy people.”   Finn then discusses King’s visits to Ireland, time spent with former IRA prisoners, his clashes with fellow Irish-Americans who condemned IRA violence (Kennedy & Moynihan, e.g.).  It would be interesting to ask Rep. King just how he was radicalized.

As James Ridgeway notes  Peter King is, in one sense, uniquely qualified to hold hearings on the “radicalization” of young men to a terrorist cause: He may be the only member of the United States Congress to have undergone the process himself, at the hands of the Irish Republican Army.

And, Ben Smith makes a particularly cogent point about the hypocrisy of all of this: The IRA’s connections in the Arab and Muslim world were not exactly its most appealing feature. The Libyan government, in fact, agreed last year to pay compensation to the civilian victims of IRA bombings conducted with explosives Qaddafi had supplied to the republicans. The IRA also worked with the PLO in its most violent terrorist phase.    Which is to say both that King’s sympathy for the armed struggle in Northern Ireland took in some very uncomfortable alliances, and that his stated understanding of the difference between violent nationalist resistance and transnational terror groups isn’t necessarily just about Ireland, or the examples he invokes to the Times, the Irgun and the ANC.

Ed Moloney has reported that King once called the IRA “the legitimate voice of occupied Ireland,” he (King) was banned from the BBC by British censors for his pro-IRA views, and he refused to denounce the IRA when one of its mortar bombs killed nine Northern Irish police officers. But Mr. King is now one of America’s most outspoken foes of terrorism.

One statement by Rep. King’s should be of special concern:  “If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the I.R.A. for it.”

L.S. Carbonell has a list of IRA terrorist acts during the time King was actively supporting the IRA and sums up the list with That’s a total of 84 killed (86 if you include the pre-born twins), 888 injured during Peter King’s active involvement in the IRA. Of these attacks, only 14 dead and 40 injured were military personnel, 6 were police officers. That’s 64 innocent civilians who weren’t anywhere near a “military installation” when they were killed, 848 who were nowhere near a military installation when they were maimed.  ...  The British government would be within its rights to demand that King be removed from any leadership position in our government because of his involvement with the IRA while they were plotting to assassinate Prince Charles and Princess Diana. If his support of the IRA goes back to 1979, he is culpable in the murder of three members of the Royal family -Lord Louis Mountbatten, his 14-year-old grandson Nicholas Knatchbull and Nicholas’s paternal grandmother the Baroness Brabourne, along with 15-year-old Paul Maxwell aboard Lord Mountbatten’s boat on August 27, 1979. Lord Mountbatten was the great-grandson of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Rep. King might be interested to know that in 2010 there were at least 3 bombings carried out by the IRA in Ireland.  He might also want to check out our article collection Claim that all terrorists are Muslims ignores history which has a number of entries on the IRA.  It would be very interesting to know what his current position is on the IRA.

King is not the only government representative who appears to be unaware of who is and is not a terrorist, and who has had questionable connections with terrorist groups. 

Tim Murphy reports: King isn’t the only conservative who says one thing and does another when it comes to material support. Last month, a panel of Bush-era luminaries—Rudy Giuliani, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey—traveled to Paris to speak at a conference in support of Mujahideen-e-Khalq, an Iranian Marxist group that’s opposed to the Ahmadinejad regime but has landed on the State Department terror list (the designation cannot be challenged in court). Because the event’s organizer, the French Committee for a Democratic Iran, was formed to build support for the MEK, Cole says the trio’s advocacy constituted a clear breach of federal law.

It would seem that not only Rep. Peter King should be investigated.  Watch this video of Jon Stewart asking how Hamas is different from the IRA.  Includes a clip of King defending his stand on IRA by saying “they never attacked the U.S.”   King said First of all the IRA never attacked the United States. The IRA did not target civilians.

Justin Elliott notes It may be that the IRA never attacked inside the United States. But it’s not true that the group never claimed any American victims in attacks targeting civilians. In the notorious December 1983 strike on Harrods in London, for example, an IRA car bomb was set outside the department store in the early afternoon during the busy Christmas shopping season.  The bomb killed six people—including an American citizen—and injured another 90.

Perhaps such connections, and such fuzzy thinking about what does and does not constitute terrorism explain why King refuses to widen the scope of these hearings.



Rep. Peter King’s hearing “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.” took place on March 10, 2011. 

TAM has an article The American Muslim Community and Rep. Peter King’s “Islamic” Radicalization Hearings which has a great deal of background on Peter King and these hearings, and an extensive article collection.  We also have a series of articles breaking down various aspects of the hearings:
Peter King’s Hearing: What Was the Point? discussing the content of the hearings, with a collection of articles written after the hearing ended. 
Peter King’s Civics Lesson for American Muslims which has a collection of anti-Muslim statements by elected representatives and government officials made during and before the hearings. 
Existing reports and studies on radicalization in the American Muslim Community and Polls, Surveys, and Statistics Relating to Islam and Muslims  with actual hard evidence so lacking in the hearing. 
Response of Civic Organizations and Interfaith Community to “Muslim Radicalization” Hearings  
Elected Representatives & Government Officials Who HAVE Questioned Islamophobia with quotes from elected representives and government officials attempting to counter the bias of this hearing both during and before the hearing. 
- Peter King’s hearing: witness testimonies - allegations but no facts
- Zuhdi Jasser and AIFD - Identified by Rep. King as the Ideal American Muslim Leadership
- Does Rep. King’s IRA/Terrorist Connection Matter?
Answers to Peter King’s Claims About the American Muslim Community which lays out all of his claims and allegations and provides detailed answers to each.  (e.g. Do Muslims cooperate with law enforcement?  Do Muslims speak out against terrorism and extremism?  Are most Muslims terrorists?  Are 80 to 85% of mosques run by radicals?  Have American Muslim organizations responded to the issue of radicalization?  Are mosques the source of radicalization?  etc.)
- The scope of Rep. Kings Hearings Creates Homeland “in"Security

All of these articles will be updated as further information comes in, and there will be more articles in this series.