Peter King's "terrorism" problem

New York Republican wants Obama to use the word more often, but has a troubling history on that score

Alex Koppelman
January 7, 2010 6:01AM (UTC)

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., knows exactly how to make America safer.

Asked, during a Wednesday appearance on "Good Morning America, "Name one other specific recommendation the president could implement right now to fix this," King responded, "I think one main thing would be to, just himself, to use the word terrorism more often."


In his defense, King did go on to offer some actual policy prescriptions. But that his first suggestion -- a "main thing," in his words -- was purely about language, well, that seems to speak volumes about the seriousness of his criticisms.

And despite King's tough-talking stance on calling terrorism terrorism (which, for the record, President Obama actually does quite often), he hasn't always been willing to do so himself. In fact, as the New Republic's Jonathan Chait and the Spectator's Alex Massie pointed out, back in the 1980's, King was very openly friendly with and supportive of some terrorists, specifically the Irish Republican Army. From a New York Sun article that Chait linked to:

He forged links with leaders of the IRA and Sinn Fein in Ireland, and in America he hooked up with Irish Northern Aid, known as Noraid, a New York based group that the American, British, and Irish governments often accused of funneling guns and money to the IRA. At a time when the IRA's murder of Lord Mountbatten and its fierce bombing campaign in Britain and Ireland persuaded most American politicians to shun IRA-support groups, Mr. King displayed no such inhibitions ....

King's support for the IRA was unequivocal. In 1982, for instance, he told a pro-IRA rally in Nassau County: "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."

By the mid-1980s, the authorities on both sides of the Atlantic were openly hostile to Mr. King. On one occasion, a judge threw him out of a Belfast courtroom during the murder trial of IRA men because, in the judge's view, "he was an obvious collaborator with the IRA." When he attended other trials, the police singled him out for thorough body searches.

Considering how vocal King is on terror policy in his role as ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, it's rather amazing this doesn't come up more often. Frankly, I didn't know about it before this. But it really should be part of any discussions involving his frequent criticisms and his stance on counterterrorism generally.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Alex Koppelman

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Barack Obama Terrorism War Room


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