Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
So Michele Bachmann, Louie Gohmert and Steve King go to the Middle East.... Sounds like the opening line of a joke. Unfortunately, their recent venture to the region is no laughing matter.
The three-member congressional delegation (no other colleagues wanted their company?) dropped by Lebanon, Egypt, and Libya, and showed their true colors at each stop.
In Lebanon, they met with Samir Geagea, a militia head who was implicated in some vile stuff during Lebanon's civil war.
Geagea was "a hard-line Lebanese Christian militia leader back in the nasty old days when those militias were slaughtering one another and assassinating rival leaders," writes The Washington Post. "Geagea had been linked in the media to a number of civil-war-era killings, including those of a pro-Syrian prime minister and a prominent Christian politician."
The Egypt stop was no less troubling. The three members of Congress met with the military junta in a show of support. Their Egypt sojourn was a follow-up of sorts to a September trip in the aftermath of the military's takeover, during which they gave their approval to the move. (Bachmann also implied in a video then that the Muslim Brotherhood was responsible for 9/11. )
And in Libya, they focused on the right's favorite foreign policy obsession: Benghazi.
"I believe that [Benghazi is] a lot bigger than Watergate, and if you link Watergate and Iran-Contra together and multiply it times maybe ten or so, you're going to get in the zone where Benghazi is," King has previously said.
The congressional sojourn has been quite hush-hush, with nary a peep from their offices.
"One assumes [the visit] has something to do with Benghazi conspiracy theories, but even that's unclear -- none of the three even issued a press release about their trip," the International Business Times wrote. "But when these three travel abroad, claiming to represent the U.S. Congress, it's rather alarming, isn't it?"
Not just alarming, but astonishing, given the xenophobia and Muslim-bashing these three have displayed in the past.
Bachmann and Gohmert last year accused Huma Abedin, a close Hillary Clinton aide, of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, and asked the State Department to investigate her. Gohmert in the aftermath of the Boston bombings saw it fit to target both Latinos and Muslims, claiming that Al Qaeda camps in Mexico are training people to "act like Hispanic."
Gohmert also believes that birthright citizenship should be ended since radical Islamist mothers are arriving in this country to give birth to jihadists, and has implied on the House floor that President Obama's real allegiance is to Muslim countries.
King has also made nasty anti-immigrant statements, such as an assertion earlier this year that many immigrant youth have "calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling seventy-five pounds of marijuana across the desert" (and has publicly endorsed Bachmann's and Gohmert's allegations against Abedin).
The ulterior motives of their trip were not lost on some commentators in the countries they visited.
"These three Congressmembers do not care about Libya," Libyan columnist M. Elashhab wrote. "They have used 'Benghazi' as a political buzzword to try and drive down President Obama's approval ratings, stir fake outrage and push forward their failed political agenda."
Obsessing about Benghazi, meeting with an unsavory militia leader, and endorsing a military coup -- nothing funny about any of this.