“I thought they were simply a group of Iranian exiles who were opposed to the regime in Tehran,” Page said. “I later found out they can be construed as a MEK front group, and I don’t think it’s worth it to my reputation to be perceived as a paid spokesman for any political cause.”
I love that “they can be construed as a MEK front group” line. That’s rather like saying that Sinn Fein could be “construed” as the IRA’s political wing, as if it were something up for debate or interpretation. It could be “construed” that way because that was the truth. Just look at the website of the organizing group. “Delist MEK” and “Camp Ashraf” are two tabs prominently displayed on the site. Who else would be so focused on these issues other than a front group for the MEK? How does someone agree to speak at an event sponsored by this group and not know that? Page deserves some credit for deciding to return the group’s money right away, but what was he doing at the event in the first place?
One of Page’s defenders isn’t helping him by highlighting what Page said in Paris. According to Achy Obejas, Page said the following:
* “Thanks for inviting me to speak up for values I believe we share: Freedom, democracy and respect for human rights for men and women across racial, ethnic and religious lines.
* “I believe we share a desire for regime change in Iran to a more fair and democratic society.
* “The historical record shows – and a variety of experts have told me – how the MEK has been America’s ally in our war against terrorists [bold mine-DL], but as former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card has said, the State Department appears to have been left behind with outdated information. Now a federal court has said the State Department should check its relevance.
* “You have allies to whom you should reach out in common cause as long as you advocate the values all decent human beings share. As long as you work for freedom, equality, human rights and democracy, you are not working alone.”
It is obvious from these remarks that Page was badly misinformed. Whoever offered him the “expertise” he cites here did him a disservice. These views are “pretty mainstream” in the sense that a lot of prominent former officials and politicians have made similar claims. One small problem with these views is that they are based on misinformation.
The MEK has been trying to reinvent itself over the last decade by claiming that it has embraced all of the principles Page mentions, but the reality is that the group’s beliefs are antithetical to liberal and democratic principles. The MEK’s reinvention as a “democratic” opposition group is a classic example of a revolutionary organization adopting the rhetoric of its would-be Western patron. Suffice it to say that a group that relied on the patronage and protection of Saddam Hussein for over two decades is not one interested in creating a “fair and democratic society.” The MEK has not been an “ally” in a war against terrorists, and any “experts” that told Page this were not telling him the truth.
Ray Takeyh testified about the MEK’s ideology last year:
As the organization has lost its Iraqi patron and finds itself without any reliable allies, it has somehow modulated its language and sought to moderate its anti-American tone. Such convenient posturing should not distract attention from its well-honed ideological animus to the United States.
Terror has always been a hallmark of MEK’s strategy for assuming power. Through much of its past, the party exulted violence as a heroic expression of legitimate dissent. One of the central precepts of the party is that a highly-dedicated group of militants could spark a mass revolution by bravely confronting superior power of the state and assaulting its authority. Once, the masses observe that the state is vulnerable to violence, than they will shed their inhibitions and join the protest, thus sparking the larger revolution. Thus, the most suitable means of affecting political change is necessarily violence. Although in its advocacy in Western capitals, the MEK emphasizes its commitment to democracy and free expression, in neither deed nor word has it forsworn it violent pedigree.
P.S. The point here isn’t that Page’s remarks are unusual, but rather that they are unfortunately entirely too “mainstream” nowadays. This episode reflects how extensive the pro-MEK lobbying effort has become, and it underscores the need to show that the lobbying effort is based on falsehoods and misrepresentations.