Kennedy clan on wrong side of Moroccan human-rights battle

Richard Miniter Author, "Leading from Behind"
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Two scions of the Kennedy clan went to Morocco recently and came away with a breathless tale of police brutality against separatists. The problem? The separatists represent the Polisario Front, a brutal rebel group linked to al-Qaida and drug smugglers.

Their first-hand account, which was published by The Huffington Post, doesn’t mention that their radical chic tour continued to the Polisario Front’s remote Saharan camps in Southern Algeria, where the rebels used the naïve Kennedy women for all the propaganda value they could wring out of them.

Kerry Kennedy is the seventh child, out of 11, of former Senator Robert F. Kennedy, but she has worked the hardest to invoke her father’s name for fame and glory. (Sen. Kennedy was slain by a Palestinian gunman, Sirhan Sirhan, in 1968 while campaigning for president.)

She served as executive director of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial until a 1995 dispute ended her involvement, and as honorary president of the Robert F. Kennedy Foundation of Europe. But Kerry Kennedy is best known for running the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights, which she launched in 1988.

She and the RFK Center seem to specialize in documenting the human rights abuses of America’s allies, ranging from El Salvador and South Korea to the first nation in the world to recognize America’s independence, Morocco. Ms. Kennedy has done some good work documenting genuine abuses in Sudan, China and Burma. But now America’s allies from the Cold War and the war on terror seem to be of particular interest.

Even if Kennedy’s stories need to be exaggerated a little.

Mariah Kennedy-Cuomo, age 17, was the other Kennedy on the Morocco trip. Mariah’s mother, Kerry, was married to Andrew Cuomo from 1990 to 2005.

The Huffington Post story is a first-person narrative of this mother-daughter team bravely taking on Morocco’s fearsome security state. It doesn’t seem like much.

Through a car window, Mariah was snapping photos of a separatist demonstration when a man reached into the vehicle to block her lens. This is big drama.

The two Kennedys claim, without offering any evidence, that the man was a plainclothes police officer. He may as easily have been a rude onlooker.

Then an anti-government activist claimed to have recognized another man as an officer in Morocco’s “secret police.” Again, no evidence is offered — except the word of an activist who seeks to divide Morocco into two states, like Korea.

Limousine liberals have been posing with, and propagandizing for, shadowy rebel groups for decades. But the Kennedys were chumming around with a group credibly linked to terrorists who are at war with the United States, and consorting with drug smugglers who are essentially at war with all civilized peoples.

Morocco is a frontline state in America’s war against “Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb” (AQIM), a branch of the late Osama bin Laden’s terror network. This is the group that plotted to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Bamako, Mali. It schemed to kidnap drivers on the Paris-Dakar road race. It has held for ransom more than a score of Europeans.

AQIM also plots to kidnap or kill American diplomats all across North Africa. Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected government, so undermining it hurts a vital U.S. ally in both the war on terror and the war on drugs.

Both the terrorists and the drug lords have been repeatedly linked to the Polisario Front — the same anti-Moroccan rebel group that hosted the Kennedy women.

Polisario Front elements have provided weapons, training and safe haven to AQIM, according to Moroccan and international reports. Polisario fighters have also joined an AQIM splinter group in raiding a large swath of Northeastern Mali.

The Polisario camps are a textbook case of human rights abuses. I know: I visited those same camps near Tindouf, Algeria in December 2010.

I met with an artist who said he was tortured — repeatedly sodomized with a glass bottle — in the Polisario’s Rabumi Prison.

I met with the relatives of Sidi Mouloud, who was charged with treason for telling a Moroccan news outlet that he favored the amnesty and autonomy plans offered by that nation’s king. He, too, disappeared into the Polisario prison system.

I met with Muhammad bin Abdelaziz, the president of the Polisario Front. He wins election very easily because no one ever runs against him. In a wide-ranging conversation, he said he admired the authoritarian policies of the Algerian government, the second-most repressive regime in the Arab world — after Syria.

If the Kennedys want to worry about human rights, they should start with their hosts.

Richard Miniter is the author of Leading From Behind and other books.