A big rally gathered Saturday 22 October 2011 at the White House to demand that the closure of Camp Ashraf in Iraq be postponed, arguing that a massacre will occur when US troops leave.
Protestors demanding “protection for Camp Ashraf,” the demonstrators also called on US President Barack Obama to remove the MEK/PMOI from a FTO list.
Speakers to the rally, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance(By recored Video);Governor Tom Ridge the first US Secretary of Homeland Security (2003-2005); Ed Rendell Governor of Pennsylvania (2003-2011); Colonel Wesley Martin, former Coalition’s counter terrorism commander in Iraq and former U.S. security commander in Ashraf; Nontombi Tutu, human rights activist and the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and DR. REVEREND LOWRY.
Here speech by Secretary Tom Ridge:
Thank you very much for your warm welcome. It’s great to be back with all of you again today. We are joined. We are joined.
You know, I must tell you that when I was invited to speak today, I thought that all my years of public service. I have spent most of my life in public service, from the time I was a soldier in Vietnam to the time I had the opportunity to serve President Bush and his Cabinet– never, never did I ever think, did I ever imagine that there would be a day where my beliefs, my values — I never imagined that there would be a day where my beliefs, my values, the liberty and freedoms that I cherish would put me in front of 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue pleading for my country and my President to do the right thing, to delist the MEK, to provide them with protection, and give them the opportunity to assemble at some future time, to give them the opportunity at some future time in the streets of Tehran, to do the same thing that they’re doing in the streets of Washington, D.C.,democratic protest.
I’m here to join several other speakers with whom I’m honored to be joined in this noble cause and literally dozens of others. And we’re talking about Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, military and diplomatic leaders who served in Republican and Democrat Administrations.
You know,this is not a town where there’s much bipartisan collaboration going on, but this is an issue that is apolitical for each and every one of us.
There is a legitimate democratic opposition group in Iran. Iran is the number-one
terrorist state in the world, probably the most responsible for destabilizing the Middle East, the one that we have most to gain with the Arab Spring.
There’s one major democratic opposition group, and that’s the MEK. They need to get off the Foreign Terrorist Organization list so they can do what they need to do.
Now, we gather here in a very peaceful demonstration, because we’re concerned that if we don’t do the right thing, the 3,400 unarmed residents,men and women, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, whom the United States of America pledged to protect when they surrendered their weapons back in 2004, if we don’t do the right thing by them, we know that there will be a third incursion by the Maliki government in American-owned, American-sponsored, or American-purchased vehicles with American weapons to kill more innocent, defenseless Iranians. It’s time for us to do the right thing. It’s time for us to follow the law.
Much has been said about the President’slegal education as a Constitutional lawyer, much has been written about the quality of his legal education, and so I would simply ask my President — and he is my President — to follow the law. This is a country founded on a Constitution. This is a country followed on the rule of law. It’s not about politics, Mr. President. It’s about looking at the statute. And if you look at it clearly and look at the evidence, this is not a group that should be on the Foreign Terrorist Organization list. The only group that should be on the list is the country of Iran itself under the rule of the Mullahs.
I say to my President that the law is clear. The obligation is equally clear, Mr. President. We made a commitment. We signed promises to these residents that we would provide protection for them, and our United States military did that until the change in Status of Forces Agreement when we gave that responsibility to the Maliki government. They have failed to live up to their responsibility. And in doing so, we have failed to live up to our commitment to the people of Camp Ashraf.
It is undeniably morally bankrupt for us as a country to make a promise to keep people safe and secure and then fail to deliver on that promise. The obligation is clear, Mr. President. We must, we must delist the MEK, call for the Security Council of the United Nations to provide the protection that they need, call on the Maliki government to extend beyond the December 31st deadline the opportunity for these
individuals to continue to live in Camp Ashraf until they can be repatriated.
Mr. President, you need to know this — you need to know this, Mr. President — the failure of this country for 15 years to negotiate some kind of arrangement with Iran is known to the world.
This has not worked as a ploy. The notion that somehow by putting 3,400 people at risk to improve our bargaining position with the government of Iran has failed miserably.
Look what happened a couple of weeks ago or less than ten days ago. We found an audacious plan from the Iranian government, probably going to the highest levels in the government, to assassinate a foreign ambassador in the United States in Washington restaurant, not only killing the ambassador but killing American citizens. You cannot negotiate with Iran.
I wish I had The Washington Post article with me this morning. On the front page, it says we will withdraw our troops from Iraq by the end of the year, and that article lists, Mr. President, that you make a commitment on a promise you made during the
But during the course of our service over there, as we sent probably nearly a million men and women over almost an eight-year period to rid them of Saddam Hussein and to give that country an opportunity to become a self-determining Democrat, we’ve lost 4,400 men and women.
There are a lot of gold-star mothers and gold-star fathers out there who mourn the loss of their sons and their daughters, as all of America should. There’s even thousands more that come home with unspeakable injuries given the nature and the violence of this particular war.
But the one consolation that I believe and I hope in my heart as a former soldier myself that the mothers and fathers of the dead and the wounded can take is some kind of measure to believe that their sons’ and daughters’ sacrifice was not in vein; was that their presence during this perilous time in the country of Iraq enabled the emergence of a peaceful, democratic, self-governing country; some consolation in the fact that their sons and daughters and those who were injured did not die in vein or were not injured in vein.
But somehow after that effort, after that sacrifice, after that commitment that there would be a country there who would embrace the values of this country, the values of the men and women who fought to build that country. That would be some form of consolation.
And I expect in future years, as he’s done in the past, the President will go to the VFW national conventions and go to all these military conventions and talk about the courage and the sacrifice and what they’ve done.
But at the same time as we recognize the service, the sacrifice, and the courage, and we hope that that has brought Iraq to a place in the community of nations where there is respect for other nations and respect for our value system, there is one glaring, horrible, unspeakable picture in Camp Ashraf north of Baghdad with the same government that we’ve sent thousands to die for and spent trillions of dollars has not lived up to the promise of America and not lived up to the promise that we’ve been committed to these people at Camp Ashraf.
How can we possibly as a country look a mother and father in the eye who has lost a son or a daughter in that country and say their sacrifice was worthwhile when we let this government, the Maliki government, on two occasions go in to kill 36 innocent, defenseless people with the promise of a third or fourth incursion at the end of the day?
If we do not act, there will probably be a massacre of 3,400 unarmed civilians inconsistent with this country’s value systems, inconsistent with the promise we made, and inconsistent for the purpose that we sent our brave men and women over to Iran.
Mr. President, it’s time to act.Delist the MEK. Give them the protection we promised, and do it now. Time is running out.
You know, ladies and gentlemen, as Secretary of Homeland Security, every day I used to go to work, and before I got to the White House they gave us a list of threats. I must tell you in my experience as both the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and as first Secretary, not on one occasion — and there were hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands, of threats directed at the United States of America — did I ever see a threat directed to the United States from the people of Camp Ashraf,from the People’s Mojahedin of Iran, not once.
Remember also this: In 2004, our FBI and our Department of Justice went and interrogated every man and woman at Camp Ashraf. And remember this: They concluded unequivocally without hesitation none of those individuals had been involved in a terrorist act. They saw no evidence whatsoever that their desire, intonation, attitude, aptitude, or anything else was related to disrupting America,attacking America or American citizens. No terrorist activity.
And even further, the European Union and the United Kingdom assembled jurists — and here I’m calling on my President, who is a lawyer — and they said let’s take a look at this, let’s take a look at the evidence. They both concluded that the MEK is not a terrorist organization. As a matter of fact, the U.K. said even keeping this group on the terroristlist is perverse.
And then our own court right here in Washington, D.C. in the Court of Appeals said there’s nothing in the record — nothing in the record – to keep these men and women on the terrorist list. The terrorists are in Tehran. They’re the Mullahs.They’re Ahmadinejad.
You know, as amazing to me as it is to my colleagues in public service who have joined your cause, it’s very difficult to look for us — and we’ve all met the parents of some of those who have died in Tehran. There’s thousands and thousands and thousands of people who are kidnapped, tortured, and murdered, just taken off the streets never to be seen again by their families.
To look them in the eye, to try to explain what kind of favor, what kind of country would after 15 years maintain this group of patriots who want a peaceful, non-nuclear Iran, to keep this group on a Foreign Terrorist Organization list, it’s unspeakable. We cannot explain it to you, and we’renot going to try, but we are going to try to undo the wrong that has been done by convincing this President to take the MEK off the list.
Now, a couple of final things I think we need to say publicly in Washington, D.C. As you look at the Arab Spring and you see all this unrest, this chaos, this desire to break away from the reigns in those oppressive governments, there’s been extraordinary media coverage. It’s amazing.
Some of the YouTube incidents have gone viral, but they actually allow reporters in those countries. The reporters have been embedded with the troops on the streets.
You notice there’s one country there that nobody has paid attention to. There was a Persian Spring. There had been a couple of them when thousands of students had taken to the streets, and nobody is paying attention. There are many reasons for that, and I’m not going to be critical, but one of the facts is that you can’t get into Iran. There is no press availability. They can cannot be embedded in Iran.
Mr. President, you know, because you get those threats every day, you see what I see in much greater scale, I’m sure, the terrorist organization most responsible for destabilizing that entire region is the government of Iran. Think about it, Mr. President. Think about it Mr. President. They are supporting Syria, who has already killed 3,000 innocent civilians. They’re probably at the heart of a lot of the unrest in that region, but think about it, Mr. President. They support Hamas.
And, by the way, Mr. President, among those 4,400 Americans, brave men and women who we sent to free the people of Iraq, not to allow their prime minister and their President and their leaders to ignore the reality of Camp Ashraf, they are complicit.
They are complicit, because they have been working with Iran, and Iran has killed those 4,400. Iran is responsible for supporting the militia who have killed some of those same men and women that we’re so very proud of and grateful for in this country.
Mr. President, the facts are clear. The obligation is clear. The consequences of a failure to act are clear. Delist the MEK. Make sure the Security Council puts some blue hats on and gets into that Camp Ashraf to protect them, and extend the deadline before they close Camp Ashraf. If not, the consequences are unspeakable, and we as a country would be appropriately held accountable for those unspeakable consequences. Delist the MEK.
You know, there have been a few events in the past ten days that hopefully will bring our appeal to our President to focus. The first was the audacious plot to kill a Saudi ambassador here in Washington and obviously American citizens, the second was the violent death of the Libyan leader, and the third was the decision to bring home our troops.
What they all speak to is an incredible period of change and unrest and peril in a very important region of the world, in the Middle East and North Africa.
As you take a look at the countries that have thrown off the yolk of repression and violence, because much of the overthrow has been violent certainly in Libya, but if you take a look at that — and we’re all wishful, we’re all hopeful, we all aspire, and I suspect even pray, that the evolution from what existed to the future will be peaceful, will be democratic, will be meaningful, that the countries will be tolerant and respectful of human rights, tolerant of differences of religion, will embrace the freedom of speech, and the freedom of religion, and the freedom of press.
But if you look across those countries, you say to yourself, where is that one leader? Where is that single figure out there around whom the country and the opposition can coalesce? Where is the Nelson Mandela? And in none of those countries has one of these leaders emerged.
But Iran, again, is different. There has been a leader of the MEK for years and years and years, and many of us have had the privilege to get to know her and spend considerable time with her. Many of us know that she’s lost four very close relatives fighting for freedom and liberty and a democratic regime in Iran. She’s a really rather remarkable woman, but more importantly than her gender is that she is a remarkable, committed, charismatic, inspirational leader: Maryam Rajavi.
One of these days — one of these days, Mr. President — one of these days, Mr. President, I would like to be with the crowd that’s assembled here and literally hundreds of thousands probably from around the world who would assemble here if she was afforded the same opportunity to come to the United States and speak to the aspirations and hopes and goals of the Iranian people.
Every year we tolerate Ahmadinejad coming in and denying 9/11 and denying the holocaust with its anti-Western, anti-American, anti-freedom, anti-liberty, anti-Bill of Rights. We know that toxic message.
But one of these days, ladies and gentlemen, it is my hope, and I know it’s your hope, that we can stand together proudly with as much enthusiasm and applause as we can possibly muster in our hearts to welcome not on television and not on loudspeaker the absolute presence of this charismatic,inspirational leader of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, Maryam Rajavi.