|General Conway - Terrorists who write letters to the grieving families|
|Sunday, 08 January 2012 17:54|
In the international conference held in Paris on Friday, December 6 2012 in defense of Ashraf former commanding General of the 1st Marine Division in Iraq, and the 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps. General James Conway made the following remarks:
Madam Rajavi, distinguished panel, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to be with you here today. I’ve got to comment on the remarkable nature of this audience. That you could sustain your enthusiasm through this barrage of speakers is little short of incredible. Your minds must be numb. As well as perhaps some other body parts. But deal with this, we’re almost done, and then we can go on about our business. Madame Rajavi, I too want to salute you for your efforts over these last weeks and months. Your ability, and that of your organization, to marshal the support that you have in Europe and in the United States I’m absolutely convinced has saved lives of your countrymen in Iraq. So, from a military man’s perspective, you take your wins where you can find them. You still have, in the words of an American 19th century poet, many miles to go before you sleep. But your efforts to date have been remarkable and we respect that.
I will talk today about just two brief subjects. The first, the people of Ashraf. Each of us has our association with them and each will vary. Mine goes back to 2004 when I took the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force back to Iraq and into the province of Anbar in the west of Iraq. There was at that time a small satellite camp inhabited by MEK or person who would eventually go to Ashraf. My intelligence officer reported to me that we’re facing several thousand insurgents, but we also have a terrorist camp in the middle of our sector. As it turns out when we investigated that nothing of course could have been further from the truth. When I became commandant, in my period we sent three rotations of Marines to guard Camp Ashraf. I visited them and what I found there reflected some of the same things we had seen outside Fallujah. These were warm and engaging people, as you saw on a video, very talented people, and in no way what we would consider terrorists. During their time there we lost two Marines in a firefight down in Baghdad. Some of the women at Ashraf approached my commander and said, “Can we write letters?” Ladies and gentlemen, terrorists don’t write letters to the grieving families of Marines killed in battle. There can be no doubt.
Over the last three years it’s been my observation that the people at the camp have become political pawns. There I think are four players at this table. Of course Iraq, Iran, the United States, and the Europeans as represented by the European Union and the UN. Each has a different sort of perspective. You probably noted that the American speakers today are reluctant to go overseas and be hypercritical of our nation. They will certainly speak frankly and tell the truth. But I will follow that pattern and say that at least my perspective of the U.S. approach is least understandable of all of those at the table. It makes absolutely no sense to me on the one hand to continue to list the MEK as a terrorist organization and yet most frequently for our secretary of state to employ two ambassadors and their staff to do all that they can to look after their concern and their welfare. Tribute here to the Europeans. We have observed for decades their increasing concern for human rights and human dignity. They have already done the right thing with regard to delisting, and now they are putting, I think, an appropriate amount of focus on trying to take care of things in Iraq to the best of their abilities to do so. I think of Americans who have fought and served in Iraq, we see the Iraqi government as continuing an approach of accommodation to the Iranian government. That is not what we thought we were creating, that is not what we thought we were fighting for. And yet it appears on an increasing scale based on what we’re seeing today. The Iranian government, on their part I think, is happy to see the amount of influence that they can bring to bear on Iraqi government. How much will they be able to fold them under their domain is certainly yet remains to be seen. But again, the trend lines are not good.
Though nations will claim otherwise, 3,500 people, 3,400, 3,500 people, half of them women, do not constitute a national threat to Iran. They do not constitute a threat to Iraqi sovereignty. What they do represent, I believe, is an idea, a passion, a powerful belief that first had voice in America and then in France, most recently on the streets of Tehran and in Arab countries, that says that free people everywhere ought to have a say in how they are governed. Ladies and gentlemen, ladies in particular, pardon my French, but that scares the hell out of the ayatollahs and increasingly, I fear, the government in Iraq. To the degree I’m not sure that they will want to settle this situation as soon as we would like. I’m afraid it could play out for political gain on the part of both of those nations, and in fact if it does, we and the rest of the world owe protection and concern for the people of Camp Ashraf.
I think there are several things that must be done. First, of course, and you’ve heard it from virtually every speaker, we have to delist. The United States of America has to start with that. That’s the catalyst for everything else that will take place, to include eventual relocation. Secondly, although I think it’s very commendable that we have seen the UN and the EU issue mandates, I think they have to put teeth into what they’re talking about here with the eventual arrival of either blue helmets or U.S. troops on deck to ensure the protection of these people in what is increasingly becoming a hostile environment. These people are just that, they are thinking, feeling, talented human beings. They need to be involved as a part of what’s taking place. Right now I fear they’re being treated like livestock and herded from location to location. We cannot allow for that to continue.
Second topic, I’ll have to move quickly, I fear there was a collision on the horizon between us, the United States, and Iran over development of Iranian nuclear weapons. We have had a checkered past. We both have had miscalculations. But this development of nuclear weapons overshadows virtually everything else. The U.S. position is that nuclear weapons by Iran are unacceptable. Iran has tried to mask it. They have said, “Well, we need to develop nuclear power.” Iran has oil reserves equal to that of the greatest nations on earth. To say that they need to augment their petroleum with nuclear power is like saying that Eskimos need to invest in freezers. It is just not necessary. After Iran declares the nuclear capability there are options there, but none of them are really very tasteful. We can blink and say that we will approach it from a diplomatic perspective, attempt containment. But the fact is, what that will likely result in is simply arms race in the Middle East with Turkey and Saudi Arabia being the principal participants. We can attack, either in a limited fashion or in a full-out fashion. Limited attack, on the analysis of most involved, will only delay. It will not eliminate the program. Full-out attack would be very difficult. Tehran’s a long way from the beach. It is difficult terrain. And unfortunately thousands of Iranians and U.S. troops and civilians would die.
There is perhaps a third good option, and that is from within. In fact it’s ironic but the solution to both points I’ve talked to you about have commonality. The opportunity for the people of Ashraf to eventually go home, the opportunity to avoid serious conflict between the U.S. and Iran, both could result from change from within to change out the Iranian regime. There are storm clouds on the horizon, but they don’t have to affect us. We need an Iran that does not seek nuclear weapons, that does not support international terrorism, and that does not kill its own citizens on the streets, rather one that encourages individual freedoms, provides representative government to its people and seeks international and regional relationships. Ladies and gentlemen, we need an Iran that if you listen to her closely is the one that is envisioned by Madam Rajavi. Thank you very much.
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