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In a 6 to 3 decision last week, the Supreme Court upheld a federal law that makes it a crime for Americans to provide “material support” of any kind – be it in the form of cash, weaponry, training, personnel, services, or “expert advice or assistance” – to a foreign terrorist organization, even if that support is for ostensibly peaceful purposes. At issue in the case, known as Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, was the question of whether this restriction violates Americans’ First Amendment rights of free speech and association. Writing the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said that “even seemingly benign support” for such an entity “bolsters the terrorist activities of that organization”; “frees up other resources within the organization that may be put to violent ends”; “helps lend legitimacy to foreign terrorist groups”; and strains “the United States’ relationships with its allies.” As to the specific issue of free speech, Roberts pointed out that people “may say anything they wish on any topic”; that they “may speak and write freely about” any organization of their choice; and that they are even free to become members of whatever group they wish to join. Roberts was backed in his decision by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and the soon-to-be-retiring John Paul Stevens. Dissenting from the majority decision were Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor, who saw the “material support” restriction as a violation of the First Amendment.
A lead plaintiff in the case was the longtime civil-rights attorney Ralph Fertig, whose professed desire is to help the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) find peaceful ways of advancing its goal: the creation of an independent Kurdish state in southeast Turkey, northern Iraq, and parts of Iran and Syria. Because PKK’s history is replete with bombings, kidnappings, and a violent insurgency responsible for some 22,000 deaths, the U.S. government has designated it as a terrorist organization. Notwithstanding this bloody track record, Fertig and his fellow plaintiffs maintained that with a proper blend of persuasion and education, PKK could be convinced to renounce its violent tactics and to work, instead, within the framework of “various representative bodies such as the United Nations for relief.” By Fertig’s reckoning, the ban against giving aid to PKK and other terrorist groups is “more dangerous than McCarthyism” ever was. After the Court announced its decision last week, a dejected Fertig said: “This is a very dark day in the history of the human rights struggle to assist groups overseas that are being oppressed.”
A look at Fertig’s background and affiliations will help place his disappointment in proper perspective. First and foremost, Fertig is president of the Humanitarian Law Project (HLP), an organization created by Los Angeles real estate magnate Aris Anagnos, who since the early 1970s has bankrolled Marxist causes around the globe — including the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, the Marxist rebels in Chiapas, and the regime of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Over the years, HLP has consistently sided with America’s Marxist adversaries in international disputes; has accused the U.S. of committing “atrocities” in both Iraq wars; has called for the United States to be prosecuted for its alleged war crimes by the World Court; and has identified American disarmament as a chief prerequisite for peace around the world.
Fertig also serves as a supporting member of the Campaign Against Criminalizing Communities (CACC), which complains that the war on terror was concocted by warmongering conservatives to “promot[e] a racist culture of suspicion towards migrant and Muslim communities”; to “generat[e] and manipulat[e] public fears [that will] justify a perpetual state of war”; to plac[e] entire communities under suspicion of associating with such ‘terrorism’”; to “us[e] ‘intelligence’ obtained by torturing detainees abroad”; and to “wag[e] psychological warfare through disinformation and mass-media scares about ‘al Qaeda cells.’” (All scare quotes were in CACC’s original literature.)
Fertig also endorsed World Can’t Wait (WCW), a project of the Revolutionary Communist Party – a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist group calling for the overthrow of the U.S. government and its replacement with a Communist dictatorship. WCW sought to “halt” the Bush administration’s alleged pursuit of “endless wars,” its routine use of “torture,” its indifference to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and its quest to transform the United States into a Christian “theocracy.”
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