Thursday, May 10, 2007

Crazy Dana & the Taliban

(Cross-posted at Ditch Crazy Dana)

(Photo courtesy of OC Weekly)

Yes, you heard me right: Dana Rohrabacher has had a VERY LONG HISTORY of being a little too close to Islamist extremists in the Middle East. Now why should this worry us? Perhaps because Dana Rohrabacher can't really determine who are our real friends and who are our enemies? Perhaps because Dana Rohrabacher shouldn't be making important foreign policy decisions on our behalf in Washington if he can't even tell right from wrong?

Don't believe me?

Here's an oldie-but-goodie from the November/December 1996 issue of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs:

The potential rise to power of the Taliban does not alarm Rohrabacher, because the Taliban could provide stability in an area where chaos was creating a real threat to the U.S. Rohrabacher says that under the previous situation Afghanistan was becoming a major source of drugs and a haven for terrorists “an anarchistic state of narco-terrorism.” In contrast, the Taliban leaders have already shown that they intend to establish a disciplined, moral society.

Rohrabacher calls the sensational media reporting of the “harsh” imposition of strict Islamic behavior, with the underlying implication that this somehow threatens the West, “nonsense.” He says the Taliban are devout traditionalists, not terrorists or revolutionaries, and, in contrast to the Iranians, they do not seem intent on exporting their beliefs. Rohrabacher would have preferred to see a negotiated compromise among the various factions (but with no role for Gulbuddin Hekmatyar) rather than a bloody confrontation. But in the absence of such a compromise, he believes a Taliban takeover would be a positive development.

Still don't believe me? Crazy Dana probably violated the law to meet with Taliban officials in Qatar in 2001. Here's an oldie-but-REALLY-goodie from Talking Points Memo from August 2002:

[...] In April 2001, Rohrabacher travelled to Doha, Qatar to attend a conference on "Free Markets and Democracy." While there, he met with a Taliban delegation led by Muttawakil. Al Jazeera reported that the two discussed Osama bin Laden, the situation of women and civil liberties. Rohrabacher told Agence France Presse that the conversation was "frank and open." And he told the Associated Press that Muttawakil's response to his plan was "thoughtful and inquisitive."

Now the Logan Act prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments. But that's a rather technical matter. So let's pass over that for the moment.

It turns out there's more. The Muttawakil meeting was attended by several members of the United States Congress, according to AP and AFP reports. Who those other members of Congress were is not clear. They don't seem to be jumping forward. Who are they? I'd like to know.

Still more interesting are the two groups who sponsored Rohrabacher's trip: the Egypt International Forum and the Islamic Institute. Those who follow Republican politics will recognize the Islamic Institute as the group Republican power broker Grover Norquist established to help corral American Muslims into the Republican party. Norquist has been a close friend and political ally of Karl Rove for a couple decades and he is now a close advisor to President Bush.

OK, so you still don't believe me? Check out this scary story from OC Weekly. And what makes this so scary is that it's all true.

As a speechwriter and special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, Rohrabacher played a key role in the late 1980s getting money and arms, including U.S.-made Stinger missiles, to Afghan holy warriors, then at war with the Soviet Union. He once bragged of being "certainly a major player" in a coalition inside the White House that supported anyone "opposing Communist domination around the world." In November 1988, he even visited the Afghan front lines during a five-day hike with an armed mujahideen patrol in eastern Afghanistan. Among those fighters he encountered, he later recalled, were "Saudi Arabians under a crazy commander named bin Laden." [...]

A veteran U.S. foreign-policy expert told the Weekly, "If Dana's right-wing fans knew the truth about his actual, working relationship with the Taliban and its representatives in the Middle East and in the United States, they wouldn't be so happy." [...]

Evidence of Rohrabacher's attempts to conduct his own foreign policy became public on April 10, 2001, not in the U.S., but in the Middle East. On that day, ignoring his own lack of official authority, Rohrabacher opened negotiations with the Taliban at the Sheraton Hotel in Doha, Qatar, ostensibly for a "Free Markets and Democracy" conference. There, Rohrabacher secretly met with Taliban Foreign Minister Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, an advisor to Mullah Omar. Diplomatic sources claim Muttawakil sought the congressman's assistance in increasing U.S. aid—already more than $100 million annually—to Afghanistan and indicated that the Taliban would not hand over bin Laden, wanted by the Clinton administration for the fatal bombings of two American embassies in Africa and the USS Cole. For his part, Rohrabacher handed Muttawakil his unsolicited plans for war-torn Afghanistan. "We examined a peace plan," he laconically told reporters in Qatar.

To this day, the congressman has refused to divulge the contents of his plan. However, several diplomatic sources say it's likely he asked the extremists to let former Afghan King Zahir Shah return as the figurehead of a new coalition government. In numerous speeches before and after Sept. 11, Rohrabacher has claimed the move would help stabilize Afghanistan for an important purpose: the construction of an oil pipeline there. In return, the plan would reportedly have allowed the Taliban to maintain power until "free" elections could be called.

The idea was outlandish and even provocative. Though he is a member of the same ethnic tribe as the Taliban leadership, the 87-year-old exiled former king—who lost his throne in 1973—is known not for his appreciation of democracy, but for his coziness to Western corporate interests. With good reason, he was considered a U.S. puppet by the Taliban.

Actually, why should ANY OF US be happy with the fact that our member of Congress has had such a close working relationship with CRAZED TERRORISTS?! Why should any of us be happy with the fact that Crazy Dana Rohrabacher would agree to give more aid to a government harboring known terrorists? Why should any of us be happy with the fact that Crazy Dana was once comfortable with the Taliban continuing to hide Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan? Why should we be happy with the fact that Crazy Dana had once felt all that sympathy for the Taliban for so long, yet he now simply tries to deny that any of this ever happened?

This should trouble all of us. Dana Rohrabacher tried to unilaterally alter US foreign policy in order to make a deal with a government known to harbor terrorists. Dana Rohrabacher just could not give up his own old sympathies for his old mujahideen buddies, even after everyone else had realized that they were never really the "freedom fighters" that they had claimed to be. And if Dana Rohrabacher still can't deal with this mistake now, then how can we expect him to learn from other grave mistakes?

Shouldn't we be at least a little concerned about Crazy Dana and his very scary friends?

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