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Ron Kirk, Texas Race-Baiter By: Philip Magness
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, September 26, 2002

When U.S. Senate candidate from Texas Ron Kirk came under fire last week for a multitude of wavering positions on national defense and policy toward Iraq, the ex-mayor of Dallas lambasted his critics. "[Q]uestioning my patriotism, I'm insulted by that," exclaimed the Democrat as he carefully claimed support for a regime change in Iraq, albeit in the most general of terms. Then again, with over two thirds of the public supporting such a move Kirk has little choice but to go along.

One has cause to wonder about Kirk's irritation over accusations of weakness on defense and Middle East issues. Aside from campaign pledges, Kirk's record is covered with a string of embarrassments in the area. They cross several years and include employing a political friend of John Walker Lindh, holding fundraisers with radical anti-military leftists, and a campaign donor with felony charges in an anti-terrorism investigation.

Despite this embarrassing record, expressions of outrage characterize the Democrat's recent responses to critics of his foreign policy positions. It's a classic tactic of the left: deflect attention from one's own flaws by blaming the opposition. "[M]y opponent has attempted to distort my position on the War on Terrorism, my support of President Bush and our troops, and my support of a strong national defense" insists a seemingly annoyed Kirk as he tries to shed an image of being soft on defense, terrorism, and Iraq. Always absent is the role his own actions and statements have played in creating that image.

The most recent controversy erupted in the wake of comments by the Democrat on Iraq. Kirk recently expressed an interest in reevaluating several aspects of taking action against Saddam Hussein — but not for the normal reasons of tactical issues, diplomacy, or national security. Kirk wishes to examine our Iraq policy over issues of racial and class composition among the ranks of American troops.

Kirk injected race into his stance on Iraq at a September 13 speech. "Look who would be doing the fighting. They're disproportionately ethnic, they're disproportionately minority," he told a Democrat audience. Kirk latter added class into his position as he questioned whether or not proponents of ousting Saddam would be supportive of military action "if I get to the United States Senate, and I put forth a resolution that says the next time we go to war the first 500,000 kids have to come from families who earn a million dollars or more." Evidently Kirk is unaware that our voluntarily joined military has more important things to worry about than organizing itself into racial and class quotas at the request of liberal politicians.

The speeches ignited a firestorm of controversy from conservatives who rightly hammered Kirk for racial pandering at the expense of a vitally important national defense issue. Realizing the political implications of his comments, Kirk attempted to dismiss the controversy he created as simply showing "concern" for the people "on the front lines."

Indignant attacks on his critics followed as the Democrat purported shock that any Republican would dare question his priorities on the Iraq issue. After all, Kirk only asked in the plainest of language that racial and income class quotas weigh in on a major decision of national security. Kirk only mentioned the possibility of going to the Senate and putting forth a proposal to impose class divisions in the military. Now he wonders how anyone could dare criticize his priorities on national defense. Call it the Combat-Ready Affirmative Action Plan with a sponsor bailout corollary in case the public responds negatively.

Barely a week passed before Kirk again came under fire for weakness on national defense and Middle East affairs. Though he never apologized for injecting race and class into the Iraq debate a week prior, Kirk continued to present himself as the more experienced candidate on defense issues. The claim was based on an internship with Senator Lloyd Bentsen two decades earlier. Amidst his claims, Kirk left for San Francisco for a campaign fundraiser hosted by Rep. Barbara Lee.

The latter's name should spark familiarity with good reason. Lee was the only member of Congress to vote "no" on the authorization of military force against Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Osama bin Laden after September 11. This same unapologetic radical is accurately described as a leader of the "blame America first" faction in Congress. Lee is a former Black Panther activist who served as a top aide to Rep. Ron Dellums during the radical congressman's notorious courting of Granada's Marxists. Her recent activities include traveling to communist Cuba with Maxine Waters during the Elian Gonzales dispute and, most recently, putting together a coalition of Congressmen opposed to action in Iraq.

Lee also shares in Kirk's opposition to a missile defense system. Kirk, who publicly stated "I oppose deployment of a national missile defense," recently lashed out at Republicans for implying this further demonstrated his weakness on defense issues. Not surprisingly this stance has earned him support from a radical anti-military, anti-missile defense lobby group that has strong ties to Lee, the Council for a Livable World (CLW). According to the group's website Kirk says he is "honored to have the council's support." The group also solicits donations to Kirk through its website, an action it says is "authorized by the Kirk for Senate campaign."

Sadly, affiliations with radicals such as Lee and the CLW are nothing new for Kirk. The Senate hopeful received embarrassing publicity last June when the Austin Review revealed the Kirk campaign's employment of a radical anti-Israel activist with ties to militant Islamic figures such as American-Taliban John Walker Lindh. Kirk employed Steven L. Hyland, a former University of Texas Middle Eastern Studies student, on his campaign payroll through mid June of this year.

A June 23, 1995 editorial by Hyland in UT's Daily Texan newspaper reveals the radical extent of this individual's beliefs. In an editorial about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Hyland wrote "The U.S. government labels Hizbollah and Islamic Jihad as terrorist organizations, but they are really freedom fighters defending their rights in Lebanon and Palestine." Elsewhere Hyland described Israel's policies as "Nazi-like" and blamed them, not Palestinian terrorist organizations, for suicide bombings in Jerusalem. The Review further reports that Hyland is a personal friend of American-Taliban John Walker Lindh. He befriended Lindh in 1998 while studying abroad in Yemen and was interviewed by the media regularly during the latter's recent court proceedings.

Before publication in June, reporters from the Review attempted to contact Kirk's office to determine what role Hyland played in the campaign, including the shaping of their positions on the Middle East and the War on Terror. One call was even transferred to Hyland, who immediately hung up the phone. Kirk's campaign never replied to requests for a statement. Several weeks later the Austin American Statesman quoted portions of an email sent by Kirk fundraiser Lane Luskey in response to complaints over Hyland. Despite Kirk's unresponsiveness to interview requests by the Review, Luskey dismissed the Hyland story as a "smear campaign." His email told supporters that Hyland had been asked to leave the campaign. This however was not true. According to the Statesman, "Hyland quit and was not fired." A Kirk spokesman eventually conceded that Luskey's email had not been "factually accurate" about Hyland, though the campaign never gave an explanation about the radical Israel-hater's employment. Amazingly Kirk still wonders how anyone could dare question his strength on defense issues!

Embarrassing affiliations with radicals such as Lee, Hyland and the CLW, rather than chance incidents, appear to be an ongoing pattern with the Democrat. The Austin Review reported that the former Dallas official took multiple donations to his 1995 mayoral bid from persons affiliated with radical Islamic organizations. Several Kirk donors are involved with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a radical organization that protested a Los Angeles billboard criticizing Osama bin Laden after the 1998 U.S. embassy attacks. One CAIR official hosted an August 1995 dinner in Kirk's honor along side former Democrat congressman and ex-Holy Land Foundation (HLF) lobbyist John Bryant.

The Review also reported, and ethics reports confirm, Kirk's receipt of a $500 donation from 'Ishan Elashyi' dated April 24, 1995. For the past year Elashyi has been at the center of a federal investigations involving the illegal export of computer equipment to terrorist states. The Bureau of Export Administration (BXA), which enforces national security and anti-terrorism related export controls, placed an export ban against the Richardson-based Infocom and Tetrabal corporations. Elashyi, who was specifically named in the order, runs Tetrabal and works for Infocom. According to Attorney General John Ashcroft at a press conference on the investigation, "Infocom, like the Holy Land Foundation, received much of its early money from Mousa Abu Marzook, a top Hamas official who, the U.S. courts have determined, was directly involved in terrorism."

For the record, the HLF is a U.S. based non-profit organization run by Elashyi's brother. The government shut it down for terrorist connections last December. President Bush stated that funds raised through the HLF were "used by Hamas to support schools and indoctrinate children to grow up into suicide bombers."

The BXA banned Infocom and Elashyi from exporting after anti-terrorism investigations found evidence of the company's illegal shipment of computer electronics by way of Malta to Libya in 1997 and directly to Syria in 1999 and 2000. The United States has designated both Libya and Syria as "state sponsors of terrorism." Exports to the two countries are prohibited for anti-terrorism reasons. Elashyi continued making shipments of computer equipment to the Middle East in violation of the export denial order last September, leading to his indictment on multiple felony charges. He pled guilty to the charges last June and, according to the Justice Department, faces sentencing of up to 50 years in prison.

While candidates cannot be expected to keep past donors on the right side of the law, that Kirk attracts such donors is consistent with positions he has enunciated in his campaign for the U.S. Senate. By comparison the Democrats rarely forgo an opportunity to berate GOP candidate John Cornyn for receiving Enron contributions years ago. Such tactics leave little ground to dispute the careful examination of Kirk's Cynthia McKinney-esque contributor list from his days as mayor of Dallas.

Though a lengthy pattern of embarrassing behavior and radical affiliations follows Ron Kirk around, Kirk's only visible response is to blast Republicans for questioning his priorities on defense and Middle East issues while purporting the strength of his support for national defense. What remains to be seen in Kirk's candidacy is the result of the test it imposes upon the ability of Texans to see through pledges of support for President Bush in the Middle East when a candidate's behavior pattern of radical affiliations and positions is wholly inconsistent with that pledge.

Philip Magness is the political editor of the Houston Review (www.houstonreview.com), a conservative student monthly.

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