GOVERNOR RENDELL – We Have to Live Up to Our Promise

Washington DC – February 3, 2012 – US Congress conference – Uphold Justice enable peaceful resettlement of Camp Ashraf  residents

Good afternoon.  I want to start out by saying I have come to many of these things.  I have come to too many.  It’s not that I don’t like you.  You are a wonderful people.  As Alan Dershowitz said, this has a feel of a civil rights movement.

I have been told how much myself and our other officials have helped this cause.  But I look at where we are and I’m not sure that all of our speaking out, all of our rallies in front of the White House, Geneva, Paris and Brussels, here in Washington and in the Cannon Building, I’m not sure we have accomplished much.

And it is terribly frustrating to me.  I want to stop coming to these meetings.  I want to see you all in Teheran someday. (Applause)

We talk about how difficult it is to be at the end of the row speakers.  So much has been said that we want to say ourselves.  And today it’s been said in resoundingly good fashion. Senator D’Amato talked about the fact that what our country has done here is a disgrace.  And I echo those sediments.  When I first got involved with this issue and started learning about Ashraf and learning about the fact the United States Government in general, United State’s forces contracted with each and every one of the residents of Ashraf, if they relinquished their weapons, we promised them we would protect them.

Have we lived up to our promise? Absolutely not.  Maybe until 2009 we did a pretty good job thanks to General Phillips and Colonel Martin, who is not with us today, we did a fine job of protecting them.

But all of a sudden in 2009, when we turned it over to the Iraqis, all responsibility for military action and police action was turned over to the Iraqis we essentially washed our hands on that promise. And yes, Senator D’Amato is right.  In 2009 and in 2011, not only did this attack occur with the use of vehicles and weapons that had been given to the Iraqi police by the United States of America, but United States forces in both instances were withdrawn from the immediate area so they could not do anything to stop the carnage.

Is that what the promise was?  Of course not.  It’s diametrically opposed to the promise we made.  And that General was speaking for the United States of America and for all 300 million of our citizens.

Subsequent to that have we stood by the residents of Ashraf.  Did we take a stand and say, wait.  Why can’t we do this right here in Ashraf?  Why does it have to be a closure of the camp.  To what purpose?  Iraqi Government, tell me the purpose, legitimate purpose, Iraqi security or anything else that is going to be served by closing down Ashraf. Well, the only excuse we ever heard was the belief that there’s intimidation in Ashraf and the individuals could not be free to speak their will about where they wanted to go.

Well, that would have been an easy problem to solve.  Just set up, the General can tell me where, set up something outside the gates where individual residents one by one can talk freely right there.

There was no need to clause Ashraf in the beginning.  And the United States Government should have stood by and residents, stood by our promise and said, no.

And then how are we go to ensure protection of the residents?  Well, it’s my belief that we should have done one of two things; one, we should have left a small number of United States Marines to protect the residents of Ashraf. (Applause)

We agreed to leave.  Well, we agreed to leave South Korea.  And, General, am I right, are there still U.S. military personnel in Korea.  And how many years has that been?  About 40. So we could have easily done that and lived up to our responsibilities.  One of my proudest moments was when the President said, we aren’t going to let the residents of Benghazi be subject to genocide.

And U.S. military power and NATO power is going to stop that from happening.  And we did.  We toppled one of the worst dictators. We never contracted with the people in Benghazi.  We never promised them anything.  But we as America, we believed it was our right to do so and we did.  We signed a contract with these residents.  They are much better position to expect our help and protection than the residents of Benghazi were. One of the things the director will tell you is we get on almost weekly calls with Ambassador Freeh that was handling this for the State Department. It is stunning to me that the United States Government wants to disengage here.

They didn’t want to be part of signing of the MOU.  They reluctantly agreed to, after pressure from us, to send the U.S. observers into so-called Camp Liberty, although it’s not clear when they are coming.

They can’t come unannounced. We have disengaged.  We wiped our hands of an issue where we gave our word.  So, yes, it’s time for the U.S. to stand up.  It’s time for us to fulfill our responsibility.  It’s time to not only fulfill our obligation to the resident of Ashraf.  It’s time to fulfill our obligation to 4,000 plus United State’s soldiers who died in Iraq.

You have heard me say as Governor of Pennsylvania I was the commander in chief Pennsylvania National Guard.  No national guard in the country lost more men and women in Iraq than Pennsylvania did.

I used to comfort the families, try to comfort the families, by telling them their sons or in one case their daughter, had died creating democracy and making Iraq a better place.  I don’t know what I will say to them now knowing what I know about what is happening here.

So it’s time for us to act.  What should that action be?  First and foremost we should not let Camp Liberty be turned into a prison.  We should not. That’s Job 1 for the United States.  Job 1 for the UN.

Freedom of movement was essential.  Everyone says this is a refugee camp.  It’s meeting the standards of a refugee camp.  What is the difference between the normal refugee camp and what is proposed in Camp Liberty?

The difference is the residents of the normal refugee camp can leave.  They can go if they have t ability, if there’s a park or river down the road, they can go to the river, and bathe, swim, they can go to the park, if they have money, they can go to the local market.

They have freedom of movement.  That makes a huge difference when you are talking about what goes on in a camp.  Here the Iraqis have made it clear, as long as their position holds, freedom of movement, the people are going to be inside the small area forever. We should insist that, the U.S. should insist there be freedom of movement.  We should insist the MOU be enforced.  There is not one resident of Ashraf over there yet and the MOU is being put aside.  The MOU clearly says the residents can take personal property and vehicles.  The Iraqis say now say that’s not the case.

It is time for us, the United States, to join the UN and be heard loud and clear, whatever the leverage is, I agree with Ambassador Ginsberg, we have got to have leverage, and we should enforce it.  It’s time to be heard.  Time to say no one is going.  No on is leaving. (Applause)

And next it is time to de-list.  If you have been coming to these regularly, you have heard me say I think we should put de-listing on the back burner.  And the most important thing is the safety of the residents.

But I don’t believe that anymore.  Let me tell you why.  I was sent me Forest News Agency release.  The Iranian Ambassador, and let me read you a couple of quotes from this release. The Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iraq stress that the representatives in Iraq in meetings they have had repeatedly stressed that the UN considers the MEK a terrorist group and will not support it under any circumstances.

It goes on.  Referred to U.S. officials support for the terrorist group.  He referred to us and said, the terrorist MEK group in the past few years has been constantly supported by the U.S. and western elements.  But it is interesting now that the U.S. Government has announced it’s not prepared to accept even one member of this terrorist organization and under no circumstances will allow them onto its soil. It goes further.  It said the members of the terrorist group by the Government of Iran will not include and the amnesty will include individuals whose hands are not tainted in blood.  Meaning that this idea that we relocate all the residents of Ashraf to Liberty and there will be no rest.  He’s given fair warning here.

What was our response?  We brought all this up for his response.  His response was, oh, the Iranians they exaggerate all the time.  They don’t really tell the truth.  You can’t believe anything they say.

That’s not engagement.  That is not us living up to our responsibility.  It is time to de-list just because of these statements.(Applause)

We have sent a message.  We think it’s time to act.  It is time to stand up.  If the State Department won’t de-list as it should voluntarily, it’s time to go back to court.  It’s time to say to the

Court we want you to mandamus. That’s a legal term in which the court requires an agency or an individual to do what they are statutorily required to do.  The Court gave an order to the State Department to come back and show evidence why the MEK should not be de-listed.  The Court can issue a mandamus to say to them come in here within 30 days and show us why the MEK should not be de-listed.

Now some people say, don’t issue, don’t go seek a mandamus.  That means the State Department will say we are not de-listing them.  If they say that, then the Court is asked to review the evidence.  When they reviewed the evidence in 2008, when the Secretary Rice refused to de-list, they found there wasn’t any evidence.

If they review the evidence in 2012 — guess what?  No evidence.  So it’s time to stand up and say, this is not a terrorist organization.  No evidence to the contrary.

In the last decade no open source terrorist database, and they are all over the internet, has listed one single act by the MEK or any members of terrorism.  And the statute says terrorist acts against the United States America.  That hasn’t happened. Never going to happen.

So let’s de-list.  Let’s give all the Congressmen who came in here and they have spoken up, they have passed resolutions.  Those are all good things.  Those are all increased pressure.  But it is time — Senator D’Amato was saying there would be a bill along lines of what Ambassador Ginsberg said, the only way to hit them is to hit them where it counts.

No military planes or any other equipment to the Iraqi Government until boom, boom, boom.  Don’t say we are not a party to this.  We were a party to stopping the slaughter in Benghazi.  We never promised we would.

We are a party to this because, number one, we promised.  And number two, because we are the United States of America.

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