|Governor Howard Dean – United States of America is not only morally but legally responsible for what happens to the 3,400 unarmed civilians in Ashraf|
|Sunday, 08 January 2012 22:27|
In the international conference held in Paris on Friday, December 6, 2012 in defense of Ashraf, the former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a former candidate for the presidency of the United States, Governor Howard Dean made the following remarks:
Thank you, Ambassador. Thank you, President-Elect Rajavi for your wonderful speech. I’m sorry I have to follow it. [laughter] I want to say that Paris is one of my favorite cities in the world. And I was walking around this morning and I came across Tehran Avenue, and I thought how nice it would be to be in the real Tehran Avenue. [applause] And we are a little closer to that today after all this work that we’ve put in for the last year, but not so much closer. Many of you know that I’m a physician by training and physicians only measure one thing and that’s the results at the end. Diplomats believe that talk is progress. I think talk is nice but there are still 3,400 people in Ashraf and they are not out of Iraq yet so I will not say there has been progress. There has been talk. There have been nice words. But until 3,400 unarmed Iranians are out of Iraq, there is not progress. [applause]
I want to speak first about an issue that comes up in the discussions that we are having now with the United States Government. Let me make it clear as we have in our discussions, that the United States of America is not only morally but legally responsible for what happens to the 3,400 unarmed civilians in Ashraf. [applause] Each one of those civilians has a signed piece of paper by the Commander of the United States Armed Forces which disarmed them in exchange for that piece of paper which says that we will guarantee their safety. And the fact that the United States Government has dithered for 12 months and not kept their word does not absolve them from the moral and the legal responsibility that they have for the lives of these unarmed civilians in Ashraf. [applause] When the Iraqi troops in 2009, and again in 2011, attacked the unarmed civilians in Ashraf they killed a total of 47 unarmed people. Those people were murdered with United States weapons and by troops who were trained by United States trainers. We have a moral and legal obligation. The United States Government and this administration has a moral and legal obligation to get these 3,400 people out of Iraq now. [applause]
Secondly, I leave this to the smart lawyers on this panel, and there are fortunately many, but I believe that we have a legal obligation as defined by not only the courts in the United Kingdom and France and in Europe which they recently gave yet another decision, but by courts in the United States of America to delist the MEK and take them off the terrorist list. Now why does this matter? This is simply not a matter of resistance to the Mullahs. I have talked to a number of people in a number of governments and so have a lot of other people on this panel about who might take the 3,400 unarmed Iranian civilians who are trapped in Iraq as refugees. And one of the issues that comes up is that they are on the terrorist list of the United States. There is no legal basis for them to be on the terror list for the United States. Our court, the District of Columbia federal appeals court has said so. And the State Department has done nothing for 18 months to give clarification to that order. I always believed that the United States was a nation of laws. Where is the rule of law in the United States if our own State Department refuses to abide by the court decisions of the United States of America? [applause] Now we are in the middle of talking about sanctions on Iran and I applaud President Obama for the very tough sanctions. And I applaud Prime Minister Cameron for the very tough sanctions they put on the government of the Mullahs. But the United States ironically, if harm comes to the people of Ashraf at the hands of the Iraqi government, may have to consider sanctions against the Iraqi government because the United States does not sanction mass murder and we have seen two instances of that already and we do not want a third.
Finally, let me speak about the situation on the ground in Iraq. There has been talk and there are a number of us who are on the conference call on a weekly and sometimes even twice a week with a special representative that Secretary of State Clinton has appointed to deal with the situation in Ashraf. And the talks are cordial, sometimes heated, as they should be, but the fact of the matter is that nothing has been done on the ground. That the conditions at Camp Liberty are not satisfactory by all accounts, by the United Nations Ambassador Kobler, their special representative, by the UNHCR, by the United States, by all accounts. We cannot afford a delay anymore. As Madame Rajavi said, we delayed five months. Fortunately we were able to extend the deadline, the execution deadline that was given by Prime Minister Maliki. I don’t want to be in that situation when this deadline expires which is the end of April. And so I now call on the United States and the United Nations to begin processing refugees in Camp Ashraf so there’s no further delay by the Iraqi government. [applause] We must get the 3,400 unarmed Iranian civilians out of Iraq and we must do it as soon as we can. We cannot rely on the deadline being extended again and we have a moral obligation in the United States to make sure that happens. The refugees must be processed now so that we can begin the work of sending them to countries where they will be treated fairly under the rule of law, and the refugees must be delisted now so that we have a better opportunity to talk to Western governments about placing them. The only other country that we share the ignominy of having this group of Iranian dissidents and the resistance on the terrorist list is the government of Iran. Surely there cannot be agreement, of all things, on the notion that unarmed civilians ought to be put on the terrorist list of the United States government and the Iranian government. We know why the Iranian government has them on the terrorist list, because in fact the Iranian government is a terrorist government—which hopefully will be removed by democratic means and by the kinds of Iranian spring that we’ve seen in Egypt and Tunisia and other places. But until that day comes, we have an obligation, a signed solemn obligation to make sure that no harm comes to the people who disarmed themselves voluntarily to our forces.
I want to thank you for the opportunity to have worked with you for this year. The stakes have never been higher. We can feel good about the accomplishments in the last year. But my physician training said until every single Ashrafi is safe the accomplishments are not enough. Thank you. [applause]
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