A bi-partisan panel of members of U.S. Congress and senior former public officials and national security experts entitled “U.S. Policy, Iran and Camp Ashraf: The panel, held at the U.S. House of Representatives to make it the policy of the United States to “prevent the forcible relocation of Camp Ashraf residents inside Iraq and facilitate the robust presence of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq in Camp Ashraf.”
The House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL); Rep. Bob Filner, (D-CA), Co-Chair, Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus; Representatives “Judge” Ted Poe (R-TX); Judy Chu (D-CA); Dan Lungren (R-CA); Trent Franks (R-AZ); Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX); and Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) were joined by John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Andrew Card, former White House Chief of Staff; Michael Mukasey, former Attorney General of the United States; John Sano, former Deputy Director of CIA for National Clandestine Service; Robert Torricelli, former United States Senator; and Professor Steven Schneebaum, Counsel for U.S. families of Camp Ashraf Residents.
Below is an excerpt of the speech by Judge Poe. Judge Poe Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004 to represent the Second Congressional District of Texas. He became one of the youngest judges ever appointed in Texas. Judge Poe was elected six times over twenty plus years on the bench and heard more than 20,000 of the worst criminal cases:
Good morning. My name suppressing Ted Poe and I represent the great state of Texas in the House of Representatives and I’m glad to be here with you today along with our very, very distinguished panel of freedom fighters, as I call them.
Freedom fighters similar to the ones that we have here in the audience. Similar to the freedom fighters that we have halfway around the world in Camp Ashraf. You know, throughout the histories of people’s every
person that has ever lived has always had deep down in their soul the desire to be free. We’re all made that way. No matter where we’re from or what we look like or what part in history we have lived, we are made that way. Unfortunately, most of the people’sthat have ever lived have not lived with freedom. They have been under the oppression of some ruler. The battle for freedom never ends. Only the enemies change, and we are engaged upon a great battle for freedom today with our friends, compatriots, and family members to some of you in Camp Ashraf.
The Foreign Affairs Committee to which I serve last week dealt with many issues regarding foreign relations. One of the things that the Foreign Affairs Committee did that I think was outstanding was pass an amendment to H.R. 2583. That amendment suppressing over here on the wall. It passed by voice vote unanimously in the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
I want to commend the Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from Florida and all of the members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee both republicans and democrats who made a stand and voted for that amendment.
It is important for several reasons because it sets the tone, it sets a marker for where the United States stands in dealing with the issue of Camp Ashraf.
First of all, the United States suppressing committed to preserving and making sure that the residence of Camp Ashraf are safe.
Second, the Foreign Affairs Committee through this amendment state that the camp, the people in Camp Ashraf are not to be relocated somewhere else in Iraq. They are to stay where they are.
And, thirdly, the amendment states that UNAMI, the UN, overseeing the safety of Camp Ashraf will be located in Camp Ashraf. All in the name of preserving the peace and the safety of those residents there. Freedom fighters, as I call them.
Recently myself and other members of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House we went to Iraq for several reasons, but one of those reasons was to go to Camp Ashraf and see the conditions firsthand because of the reports that we have heard about what’s taking place in that camp and how the Iraqi government is suppressing freedom in that camp.
So we met with Maliki in a meeting that lasted almost two hours and in the discussion that we had with Mr. Maliki we wanted to hear the Iraqi side of the story about the invasion into Camp Ashraf in April where over 30 people were murdered.
So Mr. Maliki gave us the official Iraqi position basically stating it was the fault of the residents of Camp Ashraf, that’s why they all died, those over 30 or more and others were wounded.
After the conclusion of his presentation we asked him, well, let us go to Camp Ashraf and get the other side of the story. I used to be a judge for a long time and there’s always two sides to anything.
So we suggested, okay, you’ve made your presentation, let us hear what the residents that survived have to say about the April invasion.
That’s not going to happen he says. You’re not going to Camp Ashraf. Why not? Was Mr. Maliki afraid of the truth? Was he afraid that we would learn the truth? What was his reason for not letting members of Congress go to the camp to see firsthand what took place not only in April but as long as that camp has been in existence what’s taking place there now. He refused to let us go.
It seems to me truth is always the first casualty of an oppressive regime. So we didn’t go to Camp Ashraf. We didn’t get to hear the other side of the story, although we know, I believe, what took place there. So the safety of those residents is paramount. We have an obligation, the United States does, to make sure that those residents remain safe regardless of whether Mr. Maliki likes it or not.
I am truly concerned about the influence of Iran and that little fellow from the desert, Ahmadinejad, as I like to call him, in his influence on the Maliki government about how Camp Ashraf is to be treated. It would seem to me if the Iranians wanted the camp relocated we would automatically be opposed to that because Ahmadinejad is not a friend of the United States. He’s an oppressive dictator of his own people and now he wants to oppress people, Iranians in a foreign country of Iraq.
So why do we not want to be proactive? So this resolution, this amendment to the House Foreign Affairs bill will protect the safety of those residents. I think it is also paramount and important that the United States step forward and delist the MEK from the foreign terrorist organizations. The State Department doesn’t want to do that. I have seen everything that they have to offer and I am not convinced that the MEK should stay on the foreign terrorist organization list.
So I introduced a resolution, along with about 80 members, cosponsors, republicans and democrats to delist the MEK. It’s time to do that because as long as the MEK is designated as an FTO it will be harder to preserve freedom for those people in Camp Ashraf and Mr. Maliki and his government and the Iranian government both use that designation by the United States as a reason to oppress those residents. We don’t need to continue to allow them to have that reason.
So I commend you that are here. I commend you that have family and friends in Camp Ashraf that you are concerned about them and you’re concerned about their safety. And to them I say that there are many of us here in Washington, D.C. that are aware of their plight and want them to have what all of us desire deep down in our soul, that ability to actually be free. That ability to control their own destiny and that ability to live in freedom wherever they choose, and if they choose to be back in Iran some day that that country will be in the control of the people of Iran not the little fellow from the desert, Ahmadinejad.