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Off The Reservation: A Hearing Fit for A King

Congressman Peter KingI should like to organize a hearing to examine the radicalization of Congressman Peter King. Yes, I should like that very much. I wouldn’t want to host it, mind you. Not because it wouldn’t be a gas, but because our pugilist representative could and would quite handily kick my ass.

An open investigation into his own personal link to terrorism might provide an interesting look into the mind of Peter King. A recent article published in Mother Jones delves into his early career as “one of the nation’s most outspoken supporters of the Irish Republican Army and a prolific fundraiser for the Irish Northern Aid Committee (NorAid), allegedly the IRA’s American fundraising arm.” King would be undoubtedly truculent in his response to accusations that he gave financial assistance to what some consider a terrorist organization. So, too, would he undoubtedly miss the irony in his calling for hearings regarding the radicalization of American Muslims, slated to begin March 10.

The querulous King has often said that 80 percent of mosques in the nation are run by extremists. He asserts that Muslim extremists pose more of a threat to society than other radical elements. To place this assertion in context it’s helpful to understand who else King believes to be a threat to the nation. This is his comment on a Fox News clip, which he’s obviously very proud of because it’s on his website: “We’ve always had radicals here or there. We’ve had Neo-Nazis, we’ve had environmentalists.”


(Chokes, gasps, does spit take:) I’m sorry, did he just lump environmentalists together with Neo-Nazis?

That’s for another column. Let’s move on. The real question here is: What does the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee expect these hearings to produce? Does King expect American Muslims to take the stand and collapse under his glare, profess their allegiance to Allah and try to massacre everyone in the room? The “war on terror” conducted by the United States is a legitimate, and by my count, successful endeavor that in the past 10 years has resulted in several foiled plots, kept our enemies on the run, and prevented another major attack on our soil. That’s not to say we’re out of the woods, but this fight belongs in covert operations and intelligence circles. Pernicious public hearings isolating Muslims in America is like putting Islam on trial as far as our enemies around the world are concerned and will only serve to agitate them further and provide real fodder for their own propaganda.

Read closely, all of those who would accuse me of extreme liberalism. There is a formula to beating terrorists, and it’s not pretty. It pushes against the boundaries of our civil liberties and makes us wince when we catch a glimpse of the real dirty work we do abroad. Wire-tapping works. So does undercover shit from spy movies. No need to air out our grievances in public, Pete. Big Brother is already listening. These hearings are the worst kind of political theater by a man who should know better than to throw gasoline on the fire of anti-American hatred. At a time when democracy is bursting around the globe, he embarks upon the most near-sighted and dim-witted undertaking possible to tweak the hard-liners who hate us most.

Holding this hearing is like battling cancer with Tylenol. It ignores the root cause of radical extremism, which is fairly obvious and proven. A lifetime spent in poverty or under the thumb of an oppressive regime is what can breed fundamentalism. In this sense America has been instrumental in fostering these circumstances by supporting foreign dictatorships who have strategic economic importance to our hunger for fossil fuels and ignoring nations that hold none.

Here again I return to my oft-beaten drum-warning of the evils of oil speculation in the financial markets. The steady, determined increase of commodity prices is directly correlated to the conditions of poverty around the globe. The lack of regulation on the commodities exchanges has allowed prices to skyrocket, endangering the global recovery (Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s words, not mine) and made access to food increasingly difficult for those who need it most.

But the majority of news outlets, to my eye, are ignoring market fundamentals by propagating the myth that tensions in the Middle East and Northern Africa are responsible for the spike in commodities pricing, oil in particular. If ever there was an argument for the price of oil being linked directly to speculation and not actual market forces, this is it. We are not experiencing a true oil crisis like the one in the 1970s because this is not a supply-and-demand issue. If $90 per barrel is the true baseline of oil pricing, can you imagine what it would be if demand was pressuring supply? I have also repeatedly heard the argument that the price of oil is related to the weak dollar, not speculation. And yet, inherent in this reasoning is the very definition of speculation! Commodities are a more lucrative, albeit risky, place to park money when the dollar is weak.

The opaque exchanges that govern the commodities market provide cover for those pressing their bets and lining the pockets of oil companies and dictators alike, thereby putting an artificial lid on economic growth and keeping food out of reach for impoverished nations. These are the seeds that grow into terrorism. This is the hearing that needs to be held.

Peter King is a fighter, literally. As a boxer he should understand that brawlers don’t always win and in this case he’s not even squaring off against the correct opponent. I believe Peter King is a patriot, no matter how misguided he sometimes is. He is also my congressman. For both reasons, I’m in his corner. But I urge him to throw in the towel and pass on this fight because in this one he is in the wrong weight class.

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