The anti-terror crusader who makes some exceptions

THE ANTI-TERROR CRUSADER WHO MAKES SOME EXCEPTIONS…. As if Homeland Security Committee Chairman Pete King (R-N.Y.) didn’t have enough problems, his anti-Muslim efforts have sparked renewed interest in his previous support for terrorist activities.

For Representative Peter T. King, as he seizes the national spotlight this week with a hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims, it is the most awkward of resume entries. Long before he became an outspoken voice in Congress about the threat from terrorism, he was a fervent supporter of a terrorist group, the Irish Republican Army.

“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,” Mr. King told a pro-I.R.A. rally on Long Island, where he was serving as Nassau County comptroller, in 1982. Three years later he declared, “If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the I.R.A. for it.”

As Mr. King, a Republican, rose as a Long Island politician in the 1980s, benefiting from strong Irish-American support, 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.

Putting aside the nature of the conflict in Ireland, King didn’t exactly leave any ambiguities about his sympathies at the time — the congressman who now claims to be anti-terrorism crusader offered explicit support for terrorism.

Don’t worry, though. King can explain.

Of comparisons between the terrorism of the I.R.A. and that of Al Qaeda and its affiliates, Mr. King said: “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’s not a bad spin, I suppose, for someone desperate to maintain some shred of credibility. But I have a quick follow-up question for King: Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood never attacked the United States, either. Is he comfortable with them, too?

To be sure, the differences between the IRA and al Qaeda are plentiful and important, and it’s absurd to equate the two. In a general sense, however, both are fairly described as terrorist organizations, and that’s relevant in the debate over King’s crusade because we’re left with a Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee who’s argued, publicly and repeatedly, that some terrorist activities are fine with him. King is anti-terror with an asterisk — it depends on whether he’s sympathetic to those doing the killing.

On a related note, it’s worth mentioning that the Republican from Long Island was on Fox News this morning, and said the New York Times was “biased” for reporting what he said and did in the 1980s.

I’m fairly certain that’s not what “bias” means.