|General David Phillips – Ashraf Residents Will Not Bow Down To Tyranny|
|Tuesday, 14 February 2012 12:41|
RICEH: We will now give the floor to General David Phillips. [applause] He will probably soon qualify as an honorary citizen of Ashraf. Welcome, General Phillips.
PHILLIPS: Thank you. [Persian speech] Distinguished guests, family members and friends of the Iranian resistance, I’m honored to be with you once again. I’m David Phillips and I served in Iraq in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008. The other years I wish I could say I was at home, but I was in another country on the other side of Iran. During that time I had either direct or indirect involvement with the 3,400 men and women who are at Camp Ashraf. We all know that this organization was falsely branded as terrorists in appeasement to the mullahs. We also know that they voluntarily disarmed in return for American protection. I was there. They submitted to in-depth identification and investigations, and we know that not one of them was discovered to have participated in any terrorist act or even any criminal wrongdoing. [applause] We know that they endured six years of protective custody by the U.S. forces of whom I was in charge of for the first two, three years.
I could tell you many firsthand experiences which could have went terribly wrong but remained nonviolent, not because of me or my forces, but because of the tolerance, the flexibility and understanding of the residents of Camp Ashraf. Early on in the war we were charged with searching for Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. I was given an order, forcibly seize a chemical truck at Camp Ashraf. I was prepared for violence and kinetic operations as we secured the vehicle. The residents of Camp Ashraf objected. They were appalled, stating that it was only a water truck needed for irrigation and providing water to the 3,400 residents. Well, after a very contentious standoff, and I felt pretty good coming in there with my weapons—they were unarmed—we took that truck. We sent it off for inspection. And do you know what was discovered? It was a water truck. [applause] We returned it to the residents, and to say that I was embarrassed was an understatement. But you know none of the 3,400 ever looked at me or any of my soldiers accusingly. They never said, “We told you so.” You know what they said? They invited me and the soldiers that conducted the operation to dinner. [applause]
There was another incident which helps define who the residents are at Camp Ashraf, especially to those that have never been there. I received word that a young woman, and I’ll only use her first name because some of her family may still be back in Iran. But I received word that this young woman named (Homa) was Madame Rajavi’s daughter. I was instructed to seize her, transport her to Baghdad for interrogation. Well, with the recent disaster of the water truck incident I could only imagine how the residents were going to react should I try to seize a young woman at gunpoint. I found out that the direct approach worked best with the people at Ashraf, so I asked them bluntly. I went to one of the residents that I really respect, a man named (Hosein Mandanani) and some of you know him. I explained to him our beliefs, and that I needed to take this woman to Baghdad. His unusually frank reply was, “Over my dead body.” He was serious. That was a red line. [applause] And he exemplifies the 3,400 other residents. They will not give up or forsake their human dignity even at the cost of their own lives. As it turned out, (Homa) was not Madame Rajavi’s daughter. But even if she was, it would not have been different; for any member they would stand up that way.
I was not going to force the residents at that time into a situation I knew I would regret. Yet, the Iraqis didn’t learn that lesson. They forced indignity upon the residents, and now they have the blood of over 40 men and women on their hands. For what? In understanding who the residents of Camp Ashraf are, they persevered even as we broke our promise and abandoned them to the Al-Maliki regime. They’ve suffered abuses and violence at the hand of their Iraqi captors. They’ve been denied even basic human rights by being persecuted and imprisoned on an ever-shrinking desert facility called Camp Ashraf for nine long years. What makes them persevere? Why don’t they quit? It’s because they will never accept defeat. I lived at Camp Ashraf. I commanded the American forces who provided protection at Camp Ashraf. But let’s be frank on that, we didn’t only provide protection, we kept them detailed. And that detention was not a set sentence for some crime, it was an indefinite sentence, which means it can last forever, because of a label. The label of being a terrorist. Even suffering such humiliating detention at the ends of me and my forces, they never wavered once, not even once, in their commitment of bringing freedom to Iran.
They are a very proud resilient and intelligent group of people, highly educated. They knew what they were forsaking when they went to that desert outpost. Who are they? They’re your sons and daughters, your fathers and mothers, your aunts and uncles, your friends, your countrymen. They’re teenagers, young adults, middle aged and older people, who are bound together in a cause. And it’s the most noble cause of of all: freedom. One of the young female members told me some years ago she was denied the right to even be born in her own country. That statement caused me to really think, to try to understand what makes the people tick. They are not, by any means, weak. In fact they’re some of the strongest people and most principled people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. They would rather die than give in to the mullahs. They will give up their life without a second thought if they believe it will cause freedom in their country. Looking back, before we disarmed them, before they voluntarily disarmed, they had some well-maintained tanks, artillery, mechanized vehicles and small arms, and they were trained in their use. I am so thankful now that they voluntarily disarmed, because I don’t even want to think about the idea of having to try to forcibly have disarmed them. I had to smile about the recent news talking about American women in combat. Shoot, the mujahidin women have been fighting as infantry for decades. [applause]
These men and women may be fighters, but they also provide and create some of the most best artwork I’ve ever seen. They perform in concerts, symphonies, choirs. They sing, they act in theater, drama, acrobats. The people of Camp Ashraf are very talented. And you know with extreme talent there is usually an individual dedication, a determination and drive like a wrestler, a wrestler who makes it to the Olympics. It’s an inner constitution, an unending determination. Well, one of my battle captains, who happened to be female, asked one of the women at unit seven at Camp Ashraf, “Why are you here? Shouldn’t you be pledging a sorority someplace or going to college?” The female member of Unit Seven smiled and stated simply, “I was in a sorority at Florida State. But I left to bring freedom to my country.” [applause] We were all stunned speechless. She gave up parties, college, everything a young woman could possibly desire and gave it up to go to a desert camp knowing that it would be under harsh conditions. Well, I bet her sorority sisters back at Florida State are very proud of their mujahidin sister who is persevering to do something so special, so noble to bring freedom to her country.
Make no doubt though, the residents of Camp Ashraf are determined, and no amount of Iraqi or Iranian influence is going to force them to give up their quest. These people will forfeit their lives before they will ever submit. They will not bow down to tyranny. They will not give up, even though they’ve been falsely labeled, detained for nearly a decade, without any due process. They’ve been promised protection. I was there part of that promise, only to see that promise broken. They’ve been tormented daily by their Iraqi captors. They’ve been run down in vehicles and gunned down. But do you see them leaving? No, they’re standing strong.
Well, Camp Liberty. I lived at Camp Liberty, but not under the concentration like conditions that the residents are being forced into now. Ambassador Kobler, you haven’t answered any of my phone calls. You have not replied to my e-mails. I volunteered at my cost to help you by coming over there. You ignore me. What are you helping the Iraqis hide behind those 18 foot concrete walls? [applause]
An American patriot stated before he was being executed during our American Revolution, “I only regret that I nave but one life to give for my country.” Make no doubt that every resident at Camp Ashraf believes in that, and they will give up their life before submitting and leaving their people, the people of Iran, to the tyranny of the murderous mullahs. [applause] I do not even want to imagine a world without people like the residents of Camp Ashraf. Principled people who stand up for the rights of others. Think about it. The residents of Camp Ashraf are people living in exile, under detention, some of the most harsh and extreme conditions possible, opposing a murderous regime, determined to bring freedom to their people. And we call them terrorists? What’s wrong with that?
We need to live up to our promise to protect the people at Camp Ashraf. Now is the time to delist the MEK and free them form their binds and let them make a difference in Iran. [applause] If given a chance to be anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would I choose? Camp Ashraf. [applause] [chanting] I think that’s a good place for me to end. But let me say one thing. I wouldn’t be there alone. I’d be there with 3,400 patriots and my own family would be there too. [applause] Thank you.
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