Governor Howard Dean – Americans Must Comply With The Obligations Of Their Own Responsibility

A European-American Conference was convened on invitation of the Friends of Free Iran intergroup in the European Parliament on February 7, in relation to the current political situation in Iran and the region, and the necessity of protecting Ashraf residents, members of the Iranian opposition.

DEAN former US Presidential candidate and former Chairman of the Democratic National Convention: Thank you very much.  And thank you [no audio].  Let me thank first—got it?  Okay, double.  [laughter] Let me thank the European Union, it’s an honor to be here in the European Parliament.  The European Union and the Parliament is essentially now the moral conscience of the world.  If you look at most of the areas that necessitate regulation of human behaviors, the EU has the most progressive labor law in the world; the EU Has the most progressive environmental law in the world; the European Union has the most progressive financial laws in the world; and you have the most progressive human rights laws in the world.

So the European Union is a critical group that must play a role in this, even though this impending disaster was not of your making.  This impending disaster, which we have put off by getting the deadline extended, was caused in principle—the ingredients were caused, of course, by a dictator who’s masquerading as a democrat with a small D, and by an impetuous American government who I believe committed the largest foreign policy blunder in the history of the United States, including the Vietnam War.

So what do we have here now?  We have a country which had an election, and the person with the most votes did not get to be prime minister.  We have a prime minister who’s consolidating his power by becoming not only the prime minister, but holding interior and defense ministries for himself and not sharing them in the coalition agreement that he agreed with.  In short, the governance situation in Iraq is deteriorating very, very rapidly.  And I’m here in the European Union to appeal to your sense of human rights and human decency, which is the most finely held sense on the face of the earth right now, and has been for the last few decades.  There is a group, as you know, we’ve been speaking about it, 3,400 unarmed civilians who are at Camp Ashraf in Iraq.  Now we know something about these civilians.  When the American troops arrived at Ashraf in 2003, we disarmed the camp.  And we did so with their cooperation.  And in exchange for the cooperation that they gave the American troops when we disarmed them, we gave each one of the residents in Ashraf a piece of paper signed by the American military commander that said that we would make sure that no harm came to them.  We have violated that pledge in the United States.  These civilians have been unarmed for nearly nine years, or nearly ten years.  And not only did we disarm them and promise them we would protect them, we also had the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI counterterrorism team, interview every single resident in Ashraf one by one.  And the final report showed that there was no association and there were no terrorists in the camp.  These are truly civilians that have been judged by the American intelligence agency and American troops, not to have connections with terrorism, not to be terrorists themselves.  And each one of them has a piece of paper signed by the American representative that had promised that they would be protected.

So what we see now is a specter of a massacre, of genocide, the dictator Maliki against a group of people because they are Iranians.  And this of course is promulgated by the enormous influence that the mullahs had over the Iraqi government.  This situation of course the Iraqis have to take some responsibility for.  It’s their people that are committing these murders, 47 of them in all over the last three years.  But the United States has an enormous amount of responsibility, which they are pretending they don’t have.  The United States of America has responsibility for making sure that the 3,400 people in Ashraf are alive and are moved out of the country safely.  That is our responsibility.  The United Nations has a responsibility.  So the first thing I call upon member of the European Parliament to do is to put pressure not just on the Iraqi government but on the American government to do what they said they were going to do nine years ago.  This is an American responsibility but we need the extraordinary moral presence and the moral compass of the European Union in order to make it clear that the Americans must, must comply with the obligations of their own responsibility which they took willfully nine years ago.

The National Council of Resistance and the MEK have done their jobs.  You have heard Madame Rajavi say that they are ready to be transferred.  Even a relatively small number are ready to be transferred, although the camp is not ready.  The United States needs to adopt a plan where we will begin the transfer of Ashraf residents to Liberty, but before we transfer them all we must show our good faith to find them places to go.  The United States has indicated privately a willingness to take some Ashraf refugees, and it is important that the European Union countries do that too.  This is a difficult thing to do.  We see the tone of debate in the European countries, especially those getting ready for election, that single out groups, Muslims, immigrants.  The same thing is going on in the United States.  This is not helpful, in order to resettle the people who are at Ashraf.  But we must stand up against the base political instincts, that are used in elections, in order to do the right thing, both in the United States, and in the European Union.

It is true that Camp Liberty is not ready.  The fact of the matter is that not only are the conditions of the MOU been violated, but they do not have water in Camp Liberty.  The most basic human need is not available to Liberty, and supposedly is going to be brought in by contractors, which the Ashrafis, in the Iraqi government’s munificence, will be allowed to pay for the water if they can find a contractor that dares to brave the thugs of Maliki in order to get the water through to the camp.  We call upon the government of Iraq to get the camp ready so that we may begin the process immediately of moving the people at Ashraf out of Iraq to safety.  The government of the United States must use whatever leverage it takes in order to keep the government of Iraq to its word.

Finally, one of the biggest obstacles and the biggest excuses that governments use to stop the process of resettling the Iranian refugees in Ashraf is the unlawful listing of the MEK as a terrorist organization in the United States.  The truth is the European Union is not entirely blameless.  The reason that the MEK came off the terrorist list in the European Union is because a series of court battles went on in the UK and in France the French government and the British government lost every single court decision.  And finally the governments complied with what their courts were telling them to do and remove the MEK from the terrorist list.  In the United States there has already been one court decision which required that the MEK be reevaluated by the State Department because they had not been treated with due process.  And the State Department has ignored the rule of law in the United States.  Our government must obey the rule of law.  They have not yet done so.  The MEK must be delisted not just because it’s a democratic force for reforming Iran.  It must be delisted because it is incredibly difficult to locate people in other countries who are on the terrorist list in the United States of America.  So while the United States of America is telling us that they are willing to observe the humanitarian needs of the people of Ashraf, they are making it impossible for us to deliver on those needs because they maintain them on the list. They must be removed from the list right now in order that we relocate 3,400 innocent civilians.  And if the United States fails to do that then no proclamation by any government of the United States that we care about human rights will be taken seriously.

So, let me conclude by saying what I said at the opening.  This is a humanitarian crisis.  Thirty-four hundred lives are at stake.  The European Union has done a good job in putting pressure on the United States and the United Nations and the government of Iraq.  We need you to do more.  I conclude with what I always like to say when I come to groups and address them in Europe.  The Americans can be fairly accused of often acting without thinking.  But if there is a fault in Europe you sometimes think without acting.  The time now is for action because nothing but action will save 3,400 innocent lives in Ashraf.

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