The Politics of "Colorado Tom" Tancredo
Rep. Tom Tancredo, the leading voice of the immigration restrictionist movement, believes that the United States should wall in our borders, launch a massive deportation of immigrant workers, and fully engage in what he regards as an intensifying clash of civilizations.
Founder of the House Immigration Reform Caucus in 1999, Tancredo has succeeded in his mission of reframing the immigration policy debate as an issue of national security and U.S. cultural preservation. Tancredo, a social conservative and Christian Right activist from a district with a mainly white middle-class and affluent population in Colorado, situates the immigration issue in the broader context of a global culture war.
A cultural warrior on the international front, Tancredo is an enthusiastic supporter of the Bush administration’s war on terror, including the war in Iraq. Tancredo, who is a consistent supporter of the Pentagon and U.S. defense industries, has become a leading spokesperson in the House for an Iran regime change strategy in which the People’s Freedom Fighters (MEK) would be the vanguard organization supported by the United States.
Multiculturalism and Immigration as Threats to Civilization
Describing himself as a "devotee" of Samuel Huntington and the thesis of his Clash of Civilizations treatise, Tancredo, like many on the right-from social conservatives to neoconservatives-bases his restrictionism less on economic reasons than on cultural and racial ones. "The threat to the United States comes from two things: the act of immigration combined with the cult of multiculturalism," argues Tancredo. "We will never be able to win in the clash of civilizations if we don’t know who we are. If Western civilization succumbs to the siren song of multiculturalism, I believe we are finished."
In an interview with the Right Wing News, he said, "I have to tell you that we are facing a situation, where if we don’t control immigration, legal and illegal, we will eventually reach the point where it won’t be what kind of a nation we are, balkanized or united, we will actually have to face the fact that we are no longer a nation at all. That is the honest to God eventual outcome of this kind of massive immigration combined with the cult of multiculturalism that permeates our society The fact is, that won’t occur in a legal way, it will occur in a de facto way."
Concerning the war on terrorism, Tancredo stated: "I believe that what we are fighting here is not just a small group of people who have hijacked a religion, but it is a civilization bent on destroying ours. Radical Islam has been the foe of Christiandom for centuries. The most serious foe of Christiandom. The battle ebbs and flows, peaks and becomes less intense, but it has been going on for centuries. We have never really been bothered by it, because the world was a place in which you could not really attack the United States physically. There were oceans separating us and if you did come, what were you going to come with? A gun, a rock, an arrow? But today it has all changed; it has taken on a different dimension."
"This combination, massive immigration and radical multiculturalism," warned Tancredo, "is a prescription for our own demise."
Violent Regime Change in Iran by Freedom Fighters
Tancredo advocates U.S. support for the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a cult-like group that is cultivating a broad base of support among Iranian expatriates around the world. Mujahedin e-Khalq means "people’s freedom fighters." MEK affiliates are the Iraq-based National Liberation Army of Iran and the National Council of Resistance in Iran. MEK calls itself the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). The public face of the MEK is Maryam Rajavi, who has been designated by the MEK as the president-elect of Iran’s government in exile.
Although identified as a terrorist organization by the State Department and accused of a pattern of human rights abuses, Tancredo says "We should be aiding them, instead of restricting their activities. We can use the MEK, they are in fact warriors. Where we need to use that kind of force, we can use them."
Together with Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), Tancredo in 2005 formed the Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus.
On April 6, 2005 the caucus convened a briefing on Capitol Hill organized by the Iran Policy Committee, the most prominent policy institute dedicated to advancing a U.S. government-supported regime change strategy that relies on the MEK as the main instrument of a violent revolution. At that briefing, Tancredo called for the Bush administration to remove MEK from the list of terrorist organizations. According to Tancredo, MEK was designated not because it was involved in terrorist activities, but because the Clinton administration sought to curry favor with the Iranian regime.
Tancredo describes Maryam Rejavi as "very charismatic, she believes in women’s rights, she believes in democracy in Iran I do support their efforts. I understand that the United States characterizes them as a terrorist organization, but what you have to understand is that they were identified as such only after the Clinton administration agreed to mollify the regime in Iran. They wanted to reach some kind of detente with Iran, with the mullahs. The mullahs had only one demand, and that was that we put the Mujahedin-e Khalq on the terrorist list and so it was done for political reasons, not because they posed any threat to the United States."
On May 10, 2005 Tancredo organized another Capitol Hill briefing through the Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus that featured a variety of witnesses who spoke favorably of the MEK, including at least two U.S. military officials who had worked with the MEK in Iraq. On May 18, 2005 Tancredo took his support of MEK to the House floor when he asked that excerpts of the briefing be included in the congressional record. In his statement, Tancredo said that 65 political groups in Iraq had organized a petition signed by 2.8 million Iraqis that criticized Iran-sponsored "Islamic fundamentalism’s stealthy domination" of Iraq and strongly supported the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran. Tancredo called the organization the "main Iranian opposition group." Describing the petition, Tancredo said its supporters demanded that "the PMOI should be recognized in Iraq as ‘a legitimate political movement’"-which is also one of the demands of the Iran Policy Committee.
Tancredo and Filner, the co-chairs of the Iran caucus, offered their support to a pro-MEK rally in Washington on January 19, 2006. In a letter to the rally organizers, the Council for Democratic Change in Iran, the co-chairs of the House caucus, said, "We believe a possible alternative to the current government can be achieved through supporting the people of Iran and the Iranian resistance We extend our solidarity to you and to the Iranian people and their defiance against tyranny."
The pro-MEK rally was endorsed by two U.S. Senators: Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), and by four individual congressional representatives: Christopher Shays (R-CT), Ed Towns (D-NY), Bob Filner (D-CA), and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX).
By publicly supporting the MEK and the Iran Policy Committee, Tancredo has positioned himself with the most radical wing in the intensifying debate about how the U.S. government should pursue an Iran "regime change" strategy. All sides that favor such a strategy agree that the U.S. government should be working more closely with Iranian dissidents both inside and outside Iran.
Tancredo continues to be an enthusiastic supporter of the U.S. war in Iraq. In a section on his official website on Iraq, Tancredo says: "The United States did not invade Iraq to conquer it, but rather to set it free. The United States does not stand to gain territory, oil, or any other spoils of war. We all should be proud of that sacrifice."
Concerning the war on terrorism, Tancredo states: "Ultimately, I believe that the leadership of President Bush and the determination of the American people will result in the needed investments in technology, people, and weapons systems to combat, deter, and respond to future acts of brutality and terror by our enemies."
TOM BARRY is policy director of the International Relations Center, online at www.irc-online.org, and author or editor of several books on U.S. foreign policy.