A bi-partisan panel of members of U.S. Congress and senior former public officials and national security experts entitled “U.S. Policy, Iran and Camp Ashraf: The panel, held at the U.S. House of Representatives to make it the policy of the United States to “prevent the forcible relocation of Camp Ashraf residents inside Iraq and facilitate the robust presence of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq in Camp Ashraf.”
The House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL); Rep. Bob Filner, (D-CA), Co-Chair, Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus; Representatives “Judge” Ted Poe (R-TX); Judy Chu (D-CA); Dan Lungren (R-CA); Trent Franks (R-AZ); Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX); and Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) were joined by John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Andrew Card, former White House Chief of Staff; Michael Mukasey, former Attorney General of the United States; John Sano, former Deputy Director of CIA for National Clandestine Service; Robert Torricelli, former United States Senator; and Professor Steven Schneebaum, Counsel for U.S. families of Camp Ashraf Residents.
Below is an excerpt of the speech by Hon. Andrew Card. Mr.Card was President George W.Bush’s Chief of Staff from 2001 to 2006. He is the longest-serving White House Chief of Staff in the last 50 years, and was at President Bush’s side on September 11, 2001.
Thank you very much, Senator. You know, you’re in a building that has become increasingly political and yet it was built on politics and you’re in a room where policy is debated.
This is an unusual opportunity for us to be here not as partisans, really not even as people who are arguing about policy. We’re here to talk about something that’s even much more than partisanship or policy. We’re talking about people. And these are Iranian people who are members of the MEK who have stood very, very tall, very, very tall, as allies in the war on terror; they stood very, very tall in saying that secular leadership can make a difference for people that are being led.
The MEK has demonstrated that they know how to build a government that works, and it’s working in Camp Ashraf. They’ve demonstrated that they understand that an Iran that is free will be best for the Iranian people. An Iran that does not aspire to have nuclear weapons would be best for the Iranian people.
The United States entered into an agreement with the people of the MEK. It was a strained agreement. I don’t think either side knew each other. But as the United States was building up to deal with a menace, Saddam Hussein, questioned arised about the MEK.
The people of the MEK and their outstanding leaders demonstrated that the people of the MEK could be trusted to be allies in the war on terror. They could be trusted to keep their word, lay down their arms, turn over their arms, and be a constructive force in dealing with Iranian regimes or as an example to the Arab world about what good leadership means for the people.
I was blessed to serve in a fabulous position as chief of staff to a President of the United States and I watched as America’s word was given. It was an important word that was given. It’s important that we keep that word.
The word that was given was that we would protect the people of Camp Ashraf. We promised that they would not only be protected by the United States, that we would work with the United Nations to make sure that they were designated a protected people. We kept our word.
When the reins of responsibility were passed from U.S. forces and our diplomatic corp to leaders of Iraq, that word was to be kept, America’s word was to be kept by the Iraqi leadership. They did not keep it and I am embarrassed.
I stand here today as someone who is very proud to be an American. I’m very proud that all that is the foundation of our democracy. I’m proud to be able to express my views. I’m proud to be able to petition government to address the grievances that I think are there. I’m proud to stand with you because your concerns aren’t being addressed the way they should be.
The MEK is not a terrorist organization. It should not carry that label. It would be an easy thing for the Executive Branch of the United States Government to take the MEK off the list that they shouldn’t have been put on in the first place.
Time has clearly demonstrated that the MEK is not a terrorist organization. The MEK are people stuck in Camp Ashraf are spread around the world, but with a common vision, a vision that sees a people of Iran that could live in a secular country practicing their faith, living for dreams and actually having those dreams.
The United States should see the people of the MEK as allies for the American dream that could become the Iranian dream, and we should demonstrate that by saying the MEK is the right place to see what can happen in Iran.
The MEK is the right place to see what good leadership can do. By the way, the leadership of the MEK it’s women, empowered, strong, responsible, competent, respected and they do make a difference.
The United States has an obligation. Our word was given by our government. We have an obligation to keep our government’s word, but even greater than that, we have an obligation to help the people of the MEK who are stranded in Camp Ashraf.
We have an obligation to protect them. We have an obligation to make sure that when they stand and call for attention the world listens and does not find an excuse to ignore only because the MEK is on an archaic list that they shouldn’t have been put on in the first place.
So I stand proudly before you saying it’s time for the people of the MEK in Camp Ashraf to be able to be people of the world. They shouldn’t be captives to a camp that they have made very nice on their own without the assistance of the world, but they want to be world citizens, not just citizens of Camp Ashraf.
They want to be Iranian citizens in a free Iran. They wanted to be world citizens. They call attention to good secular leadership with faith can be practiced, where nuclear weapons are not a desire, and where hopes can be realized.
So the time has come, Washington can act. You in this audience know the answer to the question. Why don’t the people at the State Department see the answer to the question and provide the right answer right now. Thank you.