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Peter King's IRA Support Resurfaces as Lawmaker Probes Muslim Radicalism in U.S.

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As Rep. Peter King gets ready to open hearings Thursday on Muslim radicals in the U.S., the New York lawmaker is facing questions about his own past as an unapologetic supporter of the anti-British Irish Republican Army.

From his days as the elected Nassau County comptroller in the early 1980s, King has spoken out for the IRA, a nationalist group that waged a bloody bomb-and-bullet campaign for three decades in an effort to drive the British out of Northern Ireland. To King and other supporters, the IRA volunteers were freedom fighters. But to others, including many Irish Americans, the Provisionals (as the main IRA group was known) were terrorists.

In 1982, the New York Republican told a pro-IRA rally on Long Island, "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," according to an extensive account in the New York Times that traced King's IRA ties. A few years later, King said, "If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the IRA for it."

The IRA, which emerged in 1916 as the Irish Republican Brotherhood, did attack British military installations and soldiers, but also Protestant paramilitary members, Northern Irish police (the Royal Ulster Constabulary) and sometimes pubs and shops. In the 1980s, the IRA bought weapons from Libya's Moammar Gadhafi.

Yet King is also credited with playing a role in peace talks that brought together members of Sinn Fein -- the IRA's political wing -- Protestant political leaders, British government officials and representatives of the independent Republic of Ireland. King told CNN he helped bring peace about in the six counties in the north of Ireland. "This isn't me saying it, it's Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, among others." He even has a signed photo of former British Prime Minister Blair on his office wall.

King, 66, still insists the rebel army was a "legitimate force" in a "dirty war on both sides." Although the IRA Provisional command gave up its arsenal in the aftermath of the 1998 Good Friday Accord, one or two IRA splinter groups are still in existence.

King, son of a New York City police officer and grand-nephew of an IRA member, was profoundly affected by the 9/11 attacks on his hometown, New York City, and rejects any comparisons between the IRA and al-Qaeda. "I understand why people who are misinformed might see a parallel," he told the Times. "The fact is, the IRA never attacked the United States. And my loyalty is to the United States."

As the Homeland Security Committee he chairs opens hearings Thursday examining reports of radicalization in the American Muslim community, King has received a flurry of threats, including worrisome phone calls from abroad, according to The Hill. Extra security will be on hand at the hearing, although King said he had not requested it.

He has claimed that 85 percent of the leaders of American mosques have extremist views and that Muslims often do not cooperate with law enforcement. Critics of the hearings fear that they will spread blame for the acts of a few to the wider, law-abiding Muslim community. First-day witnesses include Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who is Muslim, and Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim physician and activist.

"This hearing is not focusing on the acts of a criminal fringe, but is broad-brushing an entire community," Muslim Public Affairs Council analyst Alejandro J. Beutel said to the Times.

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March 13 2011 at 3:24 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

I have always had a lot of respect for King but the fact is that the IRA was nothing but a gang of cowardly, murdering thugs who brought nothing to Ireland but immeasurable misery. And King consorted with and supported this organization while it was bombing & assassinating in Ireland & Britain. These criminals murdered women and children and King excused them. For that he should be held accountable. The IRA never attacked America but they viciously attacked our closest ally, trained with arab terrorists in Libya & bought weapons from them. King has no credibility and this reeks of bigotry..

March 13 2011 at 2:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jamie's comment

The British soldiers killed women and children and fired into crowds regularly. Britian was condemned by Amnesty International for their treatment of the Irish Catholics.

March 13 2011 at 10:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

King's worried about Muslims not cooperating with law enforcement? Does he think this hearing was the way to encourage it? REALLY?

March 10 2011 at 5:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

it is true that most muslims are not terrorists. it is also true that most christians and jews are peace loving too. a third truth is that most terrorists are muslim, therefor it is the duty of all peace loving people to do something about it. if you are muslim, jewish, or christian and have knowledge of any violent sub-culture in your religion and do nothing or say nothing to any authority figure, then you are as guilty as the perpetrator(s) of any violent acts committed by them, and the blood of the victims is staining your hands also. the answer?...there will be no easy solution to this problem, and it will not just go away....but i forsee another 'crusade' someday in the future where it may be possible that an entire religion is wiped out to ferret out these extremists. after some terrorists nuke an american city, or some other large modern city (london, paris, moscow, new york...ect) it might be time to look at mecca during the annual pilgrimage and perhaps solve the problem that way. i dont endorse violence, but it is coming, and it is brought on by the extremists and terrorists themselves.

March 10 2011 at 11:10 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dwmert's comment

Hey, I think that is exactly the point. Peter King knew that the IRA was a terrorist organisation that killed civilians when he gave it political support. He has no problem with terrorism as such. He didn't stand up against terror when it came from his community.

March 16 2011 at 7:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

King is not the right guy for this. Ireland (IRA) and Lybia can be compared and please include the US break from Britian or the civil war. It is a fight for your country. Terrorism has no borders and the enemy will hide in a hole or with women and children. Most terrorist kill others who are muslim but not for their own country. Blair did make an apology in 1997 for something long ago. Has it changed much since then Tony? Sounds like good ol' Peter wants more money for NYC. Hey Peter, if you cant plow the snow, how do you chase bad guys. Another guy with his hand out!!! Maybe the Government can build a fence around Islam like down in Mexico. I'm sure Cheney has a freind and can get us a real good deal. (with illegal aliens as labor) I suggest we use the money this guy gets paid and bribe people. They join to be terrorist because they have no future. Couple of grand and some new goats then nobody wants to blow themselves up.

March 10 2011 at 11:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When did the IRA ever strike buildings in NYC with planes? When did the IRA ever insist it would take over the world??? Someone has to tell me. The IRA came about as the Irish Catholics were sick and tired of the centuries of British meddling in their nation- the religious persecution the Brits inflicted in Irish Catholics- in northern Ireland if you were not Protestant you did not work....The Brits inflicted poverty on the Irish Catholics as they are biggoted against Catholicism.

March 10 2011 at 10:14 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to robinadair1951's comment

Did you ever think Al Queda had similar motivations. The west has been meddling in the affairs of the middle east for centuries. Does this justify acts of violence? No, and neitheri s killing of civilians by the IRA justified.

March 10 2011 at 2:34 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to buckethead's comment

After the British army finally took down the O'Connell St Post Office, the headquarters of the Irish fighting in the Easter Rebellion in 1916, and executed the Irish leaders, having to tie one man to a chair to shoot him because he was to wounded to sit upright, Lloyd George offered the Irish a vote for home rule IF THE IRISH WOULD FIGHT AGAINST THE KAISER IN WW1. The vote was held the end of 1921 with 96% of the country voting for home rule. England refused to give up Belfast shipyard (where the Titanic was built) and the linen industry, so they "plantationed" in thousands of Scots & English hose homes had been destroyed by German bombs, using the British army to forcibly evict the Irish from their homes which were given to these Scots & British families. England took a head count and they were still in the minority in Ulster but if they gerrymandered off six of Ulster's nine counties, they were roughly 52% majority. England then took another vote and those six counties by 52% voted to remain part of England while the remaining 26 counties were given home rule. Religion is used as misinformation propaganda so people will think it's just Irish Catholics and Protestants fighting. While most of the Scots & English were Protestant and most Irish were Catholic, the fight has always been a political-nationalistic-economic battle; The majority of men and women involved in the armed struggle hold no allegiance to the Church, partly because the Church goes where the money is and only a few Parish priests voice their outrage on England's treatment of the Irish and their presence in Ireland. For years the British government has subsidized Catholic schools to keep the children of the Scots and English living in the six occupied counties separated from the Irish children. Those involved in the armed struggle know the Church could care less about what's just and moral. Just as in Ireland, many Irish Americans too are "in recovery" from being raised Catholic. I believe that all organized religions are just a dirty joke played on people to control them and get their money.

March 10 2011 at 1:55 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
scott stiff

"The IRA never attacked the United States" . . . That's right, of course they didn't, for the same reason that Al Qaeda don't attack Yemen . . . they don't want to bite the hand that feeds them. Hate to break it to you Peter, but the IRA killed plenty of innocent people, and this was financed and supported by morons like you. I guess it's not terrorism unless America is attacked, right? Oops, the IRA did kill an American though, didn't they? The hypocrisy is astounding- an IRA supporter taking a tough anti-terrorism stance. Maybe David Duke can speak out against racism next. Before anyone starts with the poor downtrodden Irish and the imperialist Brits, I'm not saying the IRA's objectives were necessarily wrong. What I am saying, and what I think any reasonable person would say, is that blowing up a pub or a shop full of innocent civilians to achieve those objectives, is wrong. Peter King doesn't think so. He would like to have one rule for the terrorists he likes or shares an ancestry with, and another for those who target America. Sorry Peter, but you can't just pick and choose like that- the intentional premeditated murder of innocents for political objectives is wrong. It was wrong on 911 and it was wrong when the IRA killed a 3 year old and a 12 year old by bombing a crowded shopping center in Warrington, England.

March 10 2011 at 1:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to scott stiff's comment

I understand your point. It's a double edged sword. I know people who had their uncles murdered by British soliders whilst they were walking with them down the street- holding their uncles hand. Also, the child murdered in Ireland by a soldier. The child was coming home with a pint of milk.

Both sides were wrong. I still don't think it compares to Al Queda. The agenda's are different. And really, all this IRA stuff is a diversion. We are in a war.

March 10 2011 at 10:50 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to yappie7's comment

You're correct that lots of bad things happened in Ireland - north and south - and it's time to move on. Unfortunately, Rep King isn't moving on.

If Rep. King believes all this IRA stuff is a diversion, all he has to do is issue an unequivocal apology for what he did in the past. Something like "I still believe in a united Ireland and think that the Irish suffered a lot of historical injustices. However, with the benefit of hindsight and direct experience of terrorism after 9/11, it was foolish of me to associate with the modern IRA when they in turn were associating with anti-American groups like FARC and the PLO. Innocent civilians were killed on both sides, but to the extent that NORAID funds were used to kill people I was wrong to support the perpetuation of the cycle of violence. As an American, it was wrong of me to applaud attempts to murder America's greatest supporter in the cold war, Margaret Thatcher, and I'm sorry for that too."

Plenty of other people with a lot more at stake in Ireland have made unequivocal and previously unthinkable changes as part of the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent apologies.

Just one act of humility from Rep King and this whole goes away. But as long as he equivocates then people like me who know victims of IRA terrorism (in my case, the Birmingham pub bombs) will feel free to call him out.

March 10 2011 at 11:28 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down

Terrorism is terrorism.

March 13 2011 at 6:25 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down
Carroll Casey

I support Rep. King on his efforts to uncover any hidden terrorist groups....Islamic or otherwise..... We are under the constant threat to have our local, state and Constituional Laws replaced with Sharia law and there appears to be no one in the present Administration willing to undertake the task. Aside from Sharia Law, our population is under constant threat from terrorists to kill and maim innocent people here in the U.S. to make their point. They lack the guts to build their own country into an economic success where freedoms are cherished as we have here in America. Good Luck in your pursut of terrorists Representative King !!!

March 09 2011 at 10:37 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Hello Len & Marg

I strongly support what Rep King is doing. He is not concerned about Muslims who are not terrorists He and I am concerned about Muslims who are terrorists. Lets find out who and where they are and deal with them before it is too late. I am a veteran who faught in three wars for our country. Let us stop it before it begins not like it was done during the Hitler era. Please support Rep King.

March 09 2011 at 9:17 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

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