All of this does put Rep. King in a somewhat difficult position, as his detractors realize. And Rep. King, in my opinion, has not helped his cause by his response to the attacks. Reporter Scott Shane is correct when he writes that in the 1980s, when King began his political career:
the I.R.A. was carrying out a bloody campaign of bombing and sniping, targeting the British Army, Protestant paramilitaries and sometimes pubs and other civilian gathering spots. His statements, along with his close ties to key figures in the military and political wings of the I.R.A., drew the attention of British and American authorities.
At the time, King had said in a speech to an IRA rally in 1982, “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.” The problem is that King will not apologize for his past positions. He gave the Times this explanation:
“I understand why people who are misinformed might see a parallel. The fact is, the I.R.A. never attacked the United States. And my loyalty is to the United States.”
That simply will not wash. He was wrong in the 1980s, and was engaging in the same kind of support for the IRA that supporters of radical Islam engage in today when they make innocuous speeches claiming only that they are using speech to defend Islam against attacks from those who seek to smear a religion in the name of opposing terrorism. The IRA in fact was allied with America’s enemies, and its actions hurt America’s allies abroad, and helped its enemies.
King also compared the IRA favorably to the African National Congress battle against apartheid and the Irgun’s battle against the British in mandate Palestine before 1948. One must recall, however, that at the time the ANC was aligned with the South African Communist Party and its international activities were pro-Soviet and pro-Cuban; as for the Irgun, the mainstream Zionists condemned it as a “fascist” splinter group and called its leaders terrorists. Eventually the Haganah even took military action against it. Thus King’s analogies do not exactly help his case.
It would be far better if King could look critically at his own past, and say something like this: “In the past, my ancestral ties to Ireland and my belief in Irish independence blinded me to the tactics, politics and associations of the IRA, which I unfortunately supported years ago. Would I be able to go back in time, knowing what I do in the present, I would never have backed fund-raising campaigns that I learned helped fund IRA attacks in Britain, against civilian targets. I regret my actions. That is why I seek to help my country and the broad Muslim community stand firm today against those who would use Islam as a way to gain support for dangerous radicals who speak in its name.”
That he is doing the opposite will only hurt what he is trying to accomplish with the hearings that start today.