CNN December 13, 2011
Moderator: Should America allow the drone just to sit in there, in Iranian hands?
Howard Dean: That is what happened in Iraq. To go and blow everything apart and it is a mess. I am glad we are leaving Iraq because I don’t think we should have gone in there in the first place. But the truth is we are leaving a mess behind. We are leaving a prime minister who has basically participated in war crimes and has been investigated for that, we have 3400 unarmed Iranian dissidents who the United States promised we would keep out of harms way who are likely to be massacred when we leave. This is a very messy withdrawal. I am delighted we are leaving but I don’t think that the American people are going to be very happy when they see what we have left behind.
Moderator: I was going to ask you specifically Governor Ridge about Camp Ashraf which I know you are both concerned about. This is effectively a kind of ghettoized area in Iraq and is full of Iranians who are supporting the opposition party in Iran and are being severely mistreated. What can you tell me about that?
Tom Ridge: Well the 3400 men and women in Camp Ashraf which is about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad surrendered their means of self protection to the US army in 2003 and 2004. When I mean they surrendered their means of self-protection they were a democrat resistance group, they have been a thorn in the Mullah and Ahmadinejad’s side for a long, long time. They surrendered tanks and anti-aircraft and artillery pieces thousands and thousands of small weapons to defend themselves. We made, the US government promised individually every one of them, after they were vetted, after we determined they were not terrorists, and by the way since that time the United Kingdom, the EU and a court in Washington D.C. concluded they are not terrorists. We promised to provide for their protection, their security and their safety. It was fine until we withdrew. Since that time, the Iraqi government, under the direction of the prime minister Maliki, with a strong vocal public support of the Iranian regime, has attacked that camp twice, have killed over 40 people, wounded hundreds and it has set a date that they are going to close that camp at the end of this month, ironically or coincidentally, the date our last soldiers to be withdrawn and then they are going to relocate them. Let me tell you this, I think Howard and I agree this is a precursor to, relocation is a precursor to a human rights genocide the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time. They will relocate them either to Iran because a third of them are dissidents who are already in Iranian prisons, 25% of them are women and its just a… This administration unfortunately for whatever reason has chosen to ignore that plight. It’s our integrity, it’s our word, and it’s our bond, it’s our credibility. We ignore it.
Howard Dean: Let me just add to that. The FBI screened all these people; the FBI counter-terrorist folks screened all these people in 2006. Not one of them is a terrorist according to our FBI. This is outrageous what is going on. It is an outrageous behavior by the State Department and frankly the administration has direct responsibility for making sure that the promises were kept. We kept one promise; that is we kept George Bush’s promise to get out by the end of 2011. We need to keep the promise to people of Ashraf. We ought not to be complicit in human rights massacres.
Moderator: There is a sense that the President is being not weak but certainly not that strong with Iran; holding back a bit. We see that incident with the drone. We see what is happening with this camp.
Howard Dean: I think that is unfair. We don’t know. It is also possible we might have had something to do with blowing up the solid fuel facility. So we don’t really know what is going on behind the scenes in Iran and I am willing to give the President the benefit of the doubt. I am not willing to give anybody the benefit of a doubt if 3400 people are murdered who are unarmed, whom we promised to defend them and welched on our commitment. That I will not forgive.
Moderator: Let me just give the final word Governor Ridge to Iran. In simple terms, how should the President deal with Iran?
Tom Ridge: Every time we go to the UN to try to get a sanction, they end up building a couple of more centrifuges. This is the single greatest terrorist organization in the world. They support Hamas, Hezbollah.
They are responsible for killing our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. You need to delist these men and women in Camp Ashraf are on our foreign terrorist organization list. The President by picking up the phone calling Secretary Clinton: “Take them off that list. Go to the UN. Get blue helmets to protect them and tell Maliki you are not closing the camp until the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has a chance to review them all. They are all protected under the Geneva convention. They are all looking to be resettled to outside of Camp Ashraf. The President has to make it happen.
Moderator: Thank you governor, I think we got the point loud and clear. Thank you both very much.