Ed Rendell: United States and the UN should guarantee the security of the Ashraf residents

In an international conference held in Geneva on Thursday, September 22 by the Swiss Committee in Defense of Ashraf, prominent European and American dignitaries and personalities expressed their deep concerns about intentions of the Iranian regime and the Iraqi government against residents of Ashraf and especially the illegally set deadline of December 2011 for closing the camp.  The conference called on the UN Secretary General, the UN High Commission for Refugees and UN High Commission for Human Rights as well as the United States to take immediate measures to provide protection for Camp Ashraf and prevent repeat of similar massacres of the past and also press the Iraqi government to cancel the 2011 deadline until the resettlement to third countries of all residents is finalized.

Below is speech by Ed Rendell Governor of Pennsylvania (2003-2011:

Good afternoon everyone. Madam President, let me begin by saying, after seeing the performances from Camp Ashraf, and seeing talented men and talented women sitting right next to each other performing together, when the time comes, I think I speak for all the Americans here – we’ll take every single one of those 3,400 people.
You know, Mayor Giuliani spoke very eloquently about what America has stood for. And as young Americans, we are raised to believe that America is a special place. That America is the guardian of freedom and democracy. That America stands for the right values about life.
 
And for me, the most important thing as an American and as a Jew, the things that are most important to me is that America has always stood up to genocide. It has always said we’re going to be there when people are being slaughtered because of who they are, because of their political beliefs, because of their religious beliefs. We won’t let genocide happen. We did it once, we’ve learned and never again.
 
And, in fact, two of the most recent successes of American foreign policy, one by the Clinton administration and one by the Obama administration, occurred when America took action to prevent genocide. President Clinton was roundly criticized when he sent American airpower into Kossovo. But he said that America couldn’t stand by idly and let Milosevic slaughter a half a million Kosovar Muslims. And he prevented that genocide from happening. But that stopped, genocide didn’t occur. Milosevic was toppled.

And then, more recently, President Obama was also criticized for joining with NATO nations and having the same type of air power to support not only the Libyan rebels, but more importantly, to stop genocide that was going to happen to hundreds of thousands of Libyans in Benghazi. And despite the criticism, it worked. There was no genocide. No one was slaughtered. And I believe we acted in the best sense of American values and American ideals. And now it’s time for us to do the same at Ashraf.
 
And we have failed at Ashraf. America has turned its back on its basic values and the things we believe in. I was shown by members of your organization the individual documents that every citizen of Ashraf signed with the United States of America, saying that if they give up their weapons, we would guarantee their protection and their safety. That they would be protected by the Geneva Convention, and America would be the guarantor.

Well, we didn’t do such a very good job. We walked away twice. And we literally walked away. There were American troops poised to take action to stop that partial genocide that occurred at Ashraf in 2009 and in 2011. And what was the United States’ response? We took those troops out of Ashraf. We made them retreat despite our sworn obligation to the residents of Ashraf, we turned our backs on them. And the Maliki Government sent in Iraqi troops with American weapons and American vehicles, and those guns and those armoured vehicles were used to kill 36 people, including 8 women this year. And American troops weren’t there to stop them. American troops weren’t there to live up to their obligation.
 
You know, when I became Governor of Pennsylvania, when I ran for Governor in 2002, I knew that the Governor was technically the commander-in-chief of the Pennsylvania National Guard, but I assumed that my relationship with the Guard would be to send them in for floods or hurricanes or snowstorms to help our own citizens in Pennsylvania. And I had every reason to assume that. No Pennsylvania National Guardsmen had lost their life in foreign combat since World War II. 1943 was the last time a Pennsylvania Guardsmen had been killed in a foreign conflict.

Little did I know that the Pennsylvania Guard, International Guard, Army National Guard was going to go in great numbers to Iraq and Afghanistan. Little did I know that Pennsylvania would suffer the loss of more Guardsmen proportionally than any State in the Union. Over 40 died: 39 men and 1 woman. And little did I know that I’d have to speak to, and often attend the funerals of those Guardsmen.
 
And the hardest thing I did as Governor – and it was a tough eight years as Governor during a couple of recessions – but, the hardest thing I did as Governor was talk to the parents or the spouses of those Guardsmen. Because they would always ask me one question. I recall to offer my condolences and my sympathy, and almost invariably they’d ask me a question. And the question was: “Why, Governor? Why did John have to die thousands of miles away from home?”

And I think I’m a pretty good talker. But that’s a painfully hard question to answer. And the best I could do was I said, “look, he died because he was preventing the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people. Saddam Hussein and the Taliban slaughtered their own people, and we came in to protect those people and to stop the slaughter from happening.”
 
And we came in to some day hope that both Iraq and Afghanistan would have free democracies. Democracies where human rights were protected. And I believe that. But after seeing what the Maliki Government did at Ashraf, I’m glad I’m not Governor anymore because I don’t think I could say the same thing.
 
Mayor Giuliani said he was ashamed that America stood by idly and did nothing during the uprising. Well I can’t tell you – as I’ve learned about this – and when I was first contacted by the MEK, I didn’t even know that Ashraf existed! But I put a lot of time in reading. And when I learned about it, and when I learned that American troops, notwithstanding our sworn obligation, turned their backs – were ordered to turn their backs – and walked away and let that slaughter happen, I felt ashamed.

So, Mayor Giuliani is right. All of us should speak with one voice. Americans, European Union countries. Swiss. All freedom-loving and human rights-loving peoples in this world should speak with one voice to the UN and say, “send the monitors in”. And let’s get the blue helmet in, too. And if the blue helmets are in Ashraf, there will be no more deaths.

And I think the Americans here can send a message to the President. And that message is yes, the UN should send monitors in. And yes there should be a UN peace-keeping force to protect them. But if there isn’t, the United States of America gave its word on 3,400 separate individual pages. And if it takes US troops to be in Ashraf to protect those monitors, we should send in US troops. If not the United Nations, then it’s time for the United States to live up to the pledge that it made to the residents of Camp Ashraf.

Now, the Mayor said, and the President said that there is a key link between what’s happened at Ashraf twice before and the listing of the MEK as a terrorist organization. And there’s no question about that. It’s the justification. The so-called moral justification, or the legal justification for acts of terror to be committed against the residents of Ashraf.
 
So, we need to de-list. The US Court of Appeals has ordered the State Department to review the decision and ordered the State Department to make a decision. And we’re long past the time that the Court has ordered the State Department to make that decision.

Well, we’re here today to ask the State Department and the President to make that decision on two criteria. One, on the merits of the case. Not on a political deal. Not as a bargaining tool. We all want those American hikers, those innocent people who this Iranian Government has kept for two years – we want them back home. We want them back home. But we want them back home for the right reasons, not for the wrong reasons.

We cannot appease a leadership like there is in Iran. If you appease them once, you have to appease them twice. And if you appease them twice, you have to appease them three time. You cannot appease a terrorist regime. Make this decision on the merits of the case. On no other factor.
 
Secondly, we want… (applause) and let’s take a look. You know, I was a prosecutor. I was a district attorney. Mr Sottas didn’t read my whole background. I was Mayor for eight years, district attorney for eight years of Philadelphia, and then Governor. And of course Mayor Giuliani was one of the most famous prosecutors in the history of the United States of America.
 
And we can tell you that the merits of this case – when you look at the case, it’s overwhelming for the MEK to be de-listed. There are several types of evidence in the American justice system. The first is expert witnesses. Expert witnesses are people who have special reason to give an opinion about something. And they are qualified as experts to give that opinion.

Well let me just go over a quick list – and you’re going to hear from some of them today – of the experts who have first-hand knowledge of the MEK, first-hand knowledge of Camp Ashraf, first-hand knowledge of what went on in Iran and Iraq, who have testified and said loud and clear, publicly, that the MEK should be de-listed.

Let’s start with Louis Freeh, the head of the FBI. The head of the FBI in the Clinton administration and the Bush administration. Director Freeh was tasked with having the FBI look at all of the residents of Camp Ashraf and determine whether they were terrorists. He found none. The FBI found none. The director will talk about that.
 
Judge Mukasey, a wonderful Circuit Court of Appeal judge who later became Attorney-General – one of his basic tasks was to root out terrorism. He got reports on a daily basis. And he’s spoken out for, and will speak out again today that the MEK is not a terrorist organization.
 
Three United States generals – one of which we have with us today, General Conway, the Commandant of the Marine Corps – who were stationed in Iraq, have testified clearly that the MEK is not a terrorist organization.
 
Colonel Wesley Martin, who couldn’t be with us today, but who is the Commandant, the American Commandant at Iraq during the time we had the responsibility for protecting it, who got to know a lot of those residents personally has said that it’s laughable to consider them terrorists, or the MEK a terrorist organization.

The European Union, the United Kingdom, countries who once listed the MEK a terrorist organization have taken affirmative steps to de-list. Members – high-ranking members – of the CIA, the NSA – that’s the National Security Administration, DHS – that’s the Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department – we have Ambassador Rees with us today – they all have come out and said the MEK is not a terrorist organization.

And the Court of Appeals itself directed Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, to re-review it because the Court of Appeals said that the finding that the MEK was a terrorist organization in 2009, and I’m quoting from the Court’s opinion, “did not meet the standard for listing as a terrorist organization”. So, the expert testimony is overwhelming.
 
The second thing we have is something called circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence isn’t direct evidence or eyewitnesses. But circumstantial evidence occurs from conclusions you can draw from something not happening. And let the record show, since 2001, and Mayor Giuliani referred to this, since 2001 – for a decade – not a single, open-sourced terrorist or terrorism database has recorded one incident of violence committed by the MEK against the United States or its allies. And there are thousands of these terrorism database organizations. Not one in 10 years has found one incident. That is strong, overwhelming circumstantial evidence that the MEK is not now and hasn’t been, for at least a decade, a terrorist organization, and it’s time for the US to do what the European Union did, to do what the United Kingdom did, and de-list the MEK.

Next, we have character witnesses, and those are people who testify as to the good repute of an organization or an individual, and we have the United States Congress. I’m not implying that the United States Congress are characters. They’re character witnesses here. But there’s a House resolution. House resolution 60 that has 94 sponsors, Democrats and Republicans alike urging the de-listing of the MEK.

And remember, it’s a bi-partisan resolution. There are tens of Democrats, tens and tens of Democrats, tens and tens of Republicans. And you don’t know how unusual that is. To get Democrats and Republicans. It would be hard to get Democrats and Republicans in the Congress to agree that today was Thursday.  And yet we have this strong resolution with more than 1 out of 5 Congressmen saying de-list the MEK.

So, we know that the terrorist list is a valuable tool for the United States. It can deny a terrorist organization the ability to operate freely in the US. It’s an important and valuable tool.
 
President Obama is a lawyer. And he’s a good lawyer. Secretary Clinton is a lawyer, and she’s a very good lawyer. The evidence is overwhelming. If we decide this case on the merits, if we adhere to American justice and the ideals of the American justice system, if we don’t use this as a bargaining tool or make a political deal, if we decide on the merits, the MEK should be de-listed. The United States and the UN should guarantee the security of the Ashraf residents. And as Mayor Giuliani said, the time is now. The clock is ticking. We don’t know what could happen. Every day that we don’t protect Ashraf, everyday that the MEK remains on the terrorist list is a potential danger. In the name of the American democracy, in the name of human rights, in the name of protecting people from genocide, the time to act is now.

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