A group of prominent former officials say they refuse to abandon their support for the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK) and their efforts to have the group removed from the State Department’s terrorist list, despite indirect warnings from the Treasury Department that their support for the group could constitute a crime.
Judg Michael Mukasey: Washington D.C., April 6, 2012 – Thank you, Ambassador Reiss. Thank you for the sponsoring of the event. Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen, for being here.
You know, President Franklin Roosevelt was invited to address the daughters of the American Revolution here in Washington. And that organization at the time was very anti-immigrant. They looked down the noses of anybody who couldn’t trace their roots back to the origin of the country. He couldn’t attend but he did send a telegram, a greeting, as he felt he was obligated to do. The salutation, the beginning of the telegram was, “my fellow immigrants.” In that spirit, I suppose I should address you as my fellow potential criminals and supporters of terrorism. (Laughter.)
It seems that we have come together many times to talk about the desperate plight of the MEK and particularly the residents of Ashraf and so far the desperation has remained constant. Only the geography has changed.
It was the desperation in Ashraf, now it’s the desperation not only in Ashraf but in Camp Liberty. As you know that’s not how it was supposed to be.
In 2003 when coalition forces invaded Iraq and encountered the residents of Ashraf, they willingly surrendered any means of self-defense they had. In return for an assurance signed by a United States General on behalf of the coalition forces in 2004 that they would be treated as protected persons under the 4th Geneva convention. Even received cards that carried the telephone number of military police commanded by another U.S. general.
As I’m sure you know, heard the story many times, they were originally put on the list in the Clinton administration in the belief that that would enable engagement with the Iranians. We have seen the fruits of engagement.
They were kept on it readily during the administration in which I served because it was believed if they were taken off that would be a provocation. The Iranians might do something like send IED’s into Iraq which of course they did any way.
The FBI went into Camp Ashraf to vet each of the people there, found in each case that none had any terrorist connections.
So where are we today? Where we are today is that under pressure from the Iraqi government, the residents of Ashraf have been told that they have to leave, that they have to move to an abandoned U.S. military base that has been looted by the Iraqis such that it is uninhabitable
And they have. They’ve agreed to move. They were persuaded not only by the State Department, but by many of the people who have addressed you at these meetings at the request of State Department officials, the folks who addressed have acted to try to persuade the residents of Ashraf to go along with the program
Camp Liberty was supposed to be a place where the residents of Ashraf would be safe and the Iraqi forces that had run over them with Humvees and shot them with automatic weapons and killed the people whose pictures you see up there. It was supposed to be a place where U.N. personnel would conduct interviews so they could be resettled in other countries.
This form of military outpost as I said is uninhabitable. Electric generators have been stripped of the few parts that they need to operate. And even when they can operate, fuel has to be trucked in at the cost of literally millions of dollars
The sewage systems are broken down. There is no potable water.
Why do I go into details like that? Because conditions like that are meant to break people, not to offer them hope. And it has become increasingly clear that the agenda of the Iraqi government is to take them to Camp Liberty not so they can survive, so they can be broken and eliminated at the behest of the Iranian regime.
Camp Liberty is guarded by the same Iraqi forces that attacked and murdered the people of Ashraf.
How has the United States and how has the United Nations responded to this stark reality?
They’ve responded with a flutter of euphemisms and understatements and double talk. They go into great detail when they talk about small accommodations, the moving of a wall, the change of a guard post that the Iraqi government has done in response to protests and as far as the uninhabitable conditions, well, they call that some shortcomings, some shortcomings.
Those kinds of words are intended to fall like snow to obscure the harsh outlines of what is going on at Camp Liberty and to obscure the harsh outlines of what you saw in that video a few moments ago.
But all of those snowstorms that can be generated by the combined talents of the State Department and the United Nations cannot obscure what you saw on that video and can’t obscure what is going on in Camp Liberty.
And the people here are not going to let those words obscure it. Because we are going to talk, unlike our adversaries, in plain English.
The barrier here is clearly that MEK continues to be listed as a terrorist organization. You heard a few moments ago that the MEK got tired of waiting and finally went back to court and asked the court to direct the State Department, just make up your minds, give us a ruling.
The state waived off, they said, you shouldn’t even consider this application. You should dismiss it out of hand.
The court wasn’t having any of it. They directed that the state department respond by March 26th. March 26th came and the State Department’s response was, in part as you heard, the Secretary is too busy, notwithstanding the tens of thousands of people she has to help her.
It was also, and this is particularly remarkable to me as a former judge, it was also that this is none of the business of the court, that this is about foreign relations.
Well, folks, the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations is not about the authority of the State Department or the president to conduct foreign relations. That authority derives from a law, the authority to create that list derives from a law and the law prescribes standards and those standards have to be adhered to.
The State Department can do all the conduct in foreign relations that it wants, but it can’t put anybody on the list or keep anybody on the list unless they qualify. And I think, as a piece of friendly advice, it is ill-advised to tell a court that it is none of their business. I suggest to you that they will find out soon enough that it is the business of a court. (Applause.)
I don’t consider myself a blind optimist. But I still believe in this country. The truth will get out and right will eventually prevail. Sometimes it takes a court to do it. But eventually it happens. And I believe it will happen in this case.
I believe that that odious designation that was never appropriate, that was never proper to continue will be removed and that that will provide the beginning of a way out for the people of Ashraf and the people of Camp Liberty who will no longer encounter the objections of the rest of the world that say, well, we’d love to take these folks, and they have been removed from the list in UK and EU, but you still have them. That excuse will be removed and that will provide a way out for those people. And of course that’s only the beginning of the way out for the people of Iran.
But it is a beginning and it’s a beginning toward an end that will eventually result in us meeting in a free, democratic, non-nuclear, equal Iran. Thank you very much.