HUFF POST – Lord Maginnis Member of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom Friday 11 May 2012
The Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) was blacklisted by the Clinton administration to placate the Iranian mullahs in 1997. In 2012 the fallacy of that approach is self-evident. While it may be difficult to understand the U.S. Government’s decision to label as terrorists a group of Iranian dissidents exiled in Iraq its recent perversion of the truth is most alarming.
This week, at a federal court hearing about the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, we witnessed the State Department turn Justice on its head. Despite the public testimony of their own military commanders it was prepared to employ a brazen and blatant lie in order to keep the MEK listed as a foreign terror group (FTO).
Throughout the hearing at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Robert Loeb, the lawyer who represented Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, referred to the dissidents’ home at Camp Ashraf as a “paramilitary base”. He went further by saying the U.S. government has no way of knowing that the MEK is not a terror group since its members have never allowed a thorough inspection of the 15-square-mile Camp Ashraf. “They say that they have turned over a new leaf, but that has never been verified by the US military,” Mr Loeb said.
This claim is so far from the truth that it undermines the very concept of Justice. That because, sitting in the very courtroom were at least two US military chiefs who had done exactly that – inspected Camp Ashraf, searched it with a fine tooth comb, and concluded that its people were not terrorists.
Brig. Gen. David Phillips and Col. Wesley Martin, who took charge of Ashraf after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, could only look at each other in disbelief. For years they have testified to the real truth of the MEK.
Brig. Gen. Phillips personally oversaw the voluntarily disarmament of the dissidents in 2003, accepted by MEK in return for a solemn guarantee of American protection. He was in charge of the in-depth identification and investigation of every single man, and woman at Ashraf. Each one was interviewed by a Joint Interagency Task Force, and a board of officers adjudicated each case. Not a single shred of evidence was found that any of them were linked to terrorism, or indeed any form of criminality.
As a result, it fell to Brig Gen Phillips to inform the MEK leadership that they were classified as protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention, and that his unit was charged with their safety and security. Nor is he the only authority on the matter.
In June 2003, then-Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno announced that the MEK “have been completely disarmed. We have taken all small arms and all heavy equipment.”
And in July 2006, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV described Camp Ashraf as “a secure military facility that the coalition forces guard on a 24/7 basis. [The residents are] under continuous surveillance and control.”
In total, 21 individuals – including more Ashraf commanders like Col. Martin and Lt. Col. Leo McCloskey – have signed an amicus brief attesting to the fact that U.S. forces had complete access to all buildings and personnel at the camp and repeatedly conducted unannounced inspections.
Moreover the U.S. Government also knows that in April 2009, as part of the handover of control over the Camp to Iraqi forces, the incoming ‘guardians’ thoroughly searched Ashraf, using bomb-sniffing dogs, and provided a written certification that they had found neither weapons nor ammunition.
So how could Mr. Loeb have the bare-faced effrontery to stand before the court and make such a blatantly false statement? No such claim had ever been part of the Government’s declared position regarding Ashraf, nor was such an allegation made even in the discredited 2009 decision denying a delisting petition.
What is clear here is that the State Department, in an election year, are continuing to procrastinate – and to adopt any excuse possible means to defend their lack of action. But such indifference to a group of dissidents has very serious consequences.
A year ago, Iraq forces, acting on the behest of the Iranian regime, entered Ashraf and massacred 36 innocent, defenceless residents. To this day, as the dissidents move to another base, ironically called “Camp Liberty”, they are subject to ritual humiliation, bullying and intimidation from Iraqi forces.
In the federal court, Judge Stephen Williams accepted that the Iraqi government justifies its actions against the MEK partly due to the fact that the U.S. continues to designate them as a foreign terror organization.
Viet Dinh, who represented the MEK at the hearing, accused Mrs Clinton of “indifference and lassitude” toward the group and said that every day the dissidents remains on the FTO listing is a violation of its Rights.
It cannot be otherwise and lives of thousands of innocent people, to whom America had given its guarantee of protection, depend on it. Election year or not, such procrastination and selfish indifference must end and the MEK should be delisted. The U.S. demeans itself by its legal manipulation of the known facts and by its callous disregard for others – in this instance the MEK.