Commentary Magazine


Bachmann and the Mujahideen e-Khalq

While I welcome Rep. Michele Bachmann’s presence in the presidential debate, I am agnostic on her candidacy. Certainly, she has a compelling personal story. Because I believe in small government, prioritize individual liberty and freedom, and am libertarian on most social issues, I also sympathize with the Tea Party movement, and I certainly also value a strong national defense. That said, I also believe the science supporting the theory of evolution is compelling and that science, rather than religion, should form the basis of science classes, and so I am somewhat put off by Bachmann’s apparent support of intelligent design. When push comes to shove, however, national security is my key issue.

I was disappointed, therefore, to see Bachmann’s uncritical support (see 3:25) for the Mujahideen e-Khalq Organization (MKO), which the State Department defines as a terror group. While I agree the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Islamic Republic against MKO members–including the infamous purge of political prisoners–is inexcusable, and I also welcome the debate on whether the MKO is a terrorist group or not (I believe it is), there are certain incontrovertible facts: (1) the MKO has targeted Americans in past terrorist attacks; (2) they have embraced Saddam; (3) they operate as a cult which remains hostile to freedom, liberty, and democracy; and (4), they have very little if any support among Iranians in Iran.

If any presidential candidate wishes to embrace freedom and liberty in Iran, great.  Iranians have suffered disproportionately in their history and deserve a real chance at freedom and democracy. Should the regime fall in Tehran, Iran could become as much a force for stability as it is now a catalyst for instability, After all, the Iranian people will have been immunized against the disease of populism and the misuse of religion for political purposes.

However, support for the MKO is the best way to preserve the Islamic Republic. Iranians recognize while what they have is bad, embrace of Masoud and Maryam Rajavi’s cult would be analogous to embrace of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. The only thing that can make Iranians rally around their current leadership is American outreach to the MKO. Having lived and traveled in Iran, the best analogy to understand how Iranians feel about the MKO is to imagine how Americans would react if, in a misguided attempt to show solidarity with Americans, some outside force promoted John Walker Lindh as a force for freedom. The logic of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” does not always hold true. If Bachmann wants to be serious on Iran, she should repudiate Obama’s naive outreach, but she shouldn’t accept the propaganda of an equally undemocratic cult.