|Governor Ed Rendell – Blue Helmets Wherever Ashraf Residents Are|
|Tuesday, 14 February 2012 12:57|
RECEH: We are delighted that you are with us. And we will now give the floor to Governor Ed Rendell. He served as the 45th governor of Pennsylvania, and also as the chairman of the National Governors Association. [applause]
Ed RENDELL: Good afternoon. That was a very upbeat presentation by the former prime minister. And I don’t mean to throw cold water on the enthusiasm, but I’ve been coming, I’ve been involved in this movement since July, almost eight months ago. And I joined because it was clearly to me a humanitarian cause and it was necessary for all of us, my country, the world community, the United Nations, to stand up and do the right thing. I’ve been to Paris four times. I’ve been to Geneva twice. I’ve been to Washington more times than I can count. We’ve had rallies in front of the White House. We’ve had rallies in the Congress of the United States, in the building itself, in the Capitol, and we’ve had rallies here and in other places abroad. [applause]
And what other speakers have said is true. You have been incredibly faithful, determined, focused and dedicated supporters of your cause and your people. Each time I come there’s a different array of impressive speakers from the United States, from Europe, from countries all over the world. People who have accomplished much. People who speak with great authority. People who are moral and political leaders. And yet very little changes. Madame Rajavi has been kind enough to say that the work that we Americans have done has helped product results. And maybe it has made a bad situation slightly better, but it hasn’t changed the eventual outcome. And I stand here eight months into this movement, I am absolutely confounded by the fact with all this international support, with the leaders of countries that come here and speak, with current elected officials—not ex-elected officials like me—representing cities and towns and counties and countries, that we haven’t been able to product any results. This is a humanitarian cause, and to resolve it there has to be movement on both sides. And Madame Rajavi has been brilliantly cooperative. She has tried to make this work in every way that she can. She has shown real leadership. A real leader has to be strong, and has to stand up. But a real leader has to know when to move and when to try to bring about results. And she has done all of that. And we have failed her. We have failed her. [applause]
Make no mistake about it, I don’t mean to personalize this, and Mr. Douste-Blazy comes here and he’s an official of the United Nations. Anybody here think the United Nations has done the right thing in regards to the residents of Camp Ashraf? Of course not. It’s been words. Words, “we’re concerned,” “we‘re upset,” “we want to ensure.” But when it comes to saying, “No, this is not going to happen unless blue helmets are stationed inside whatever place the residents of Ashraf are located in,” everyone heads for the hills. Nobody’s willing to dig in and say no. Nobody’s willing to ask why, why did—and that goes for the U.S. too. And I’m going to talk about the U.S. in a second. Why did we have to leave Ashraf in the first place? The only excuse we heard was, well, there’s intimidation going on in Ashraf, and the residents who want to go back to Iran can’t go back to Iran if we did the interview process in Ashraf. Well, do the same thing as we’re going to do in Liberty. Have those residents taken outside. General Phillips and I have discussed this before, and he tells me it was easy to find a location outside the gates where they could have been interviewed without any undue influence or pressure. This whole emigration process should have taken place in Ashraf. How was Ashraf a threat to the security of the Iraqi government? Can anybody explain that to me? I’ve been asking that question over and over and over again and I haven’t got an answer.
And yet the U.S. and the UN stood by and let this agreement go forward that residents were going to move into a camp that a the worst is a prison camp, at the best is a refugee camp, but a refugee camp without freedom of movement that every other refugee camp has. Where were the UN officials? Where are the European community? Where’s the international community? And where is the United States of America in standing up to these issues? Well, Madame Rajavi and the MEK have been willing to work, willing to move their residence, despite what they’ve established at Camp Ashraf. Despite the fact that it would be so easy to do the emigration process there, they didn’t say, “No.” They said, “We’ll work with you. We’ll try to make this work.” But as the process has unfolded, the only people who’ve given, the only people who have done the right thing are the MEK.
What they’ve put together at Camp Liberty is nothing more than a prison camp. Why didn’t the UN and the U.S. say no? What hold does the Iraqi government and its puppet masters in Tehran have over the U.S. and the UN? [applause] Why didn’t the international community, the UN and the U.S. say, “No, no police inside the camp”? It’s a secure camp. If you’re worried about it and you’re not going to give freedom of movement you can station police outside the gate to make sure nobody leaves. But if you put police inside the gate you’re just asking for harassment and a confrontation. Why didn’t the international community, the UN and the U.S., say no to the Iraqis? Because we didn’t have the power, because they’re a sovereign nation? Because the Iraqis aren’t interested in the weaponry that the United States is going to give them? Why didn’t we say no? Why didn’t we stand up and say the MOU is being violated? The same MOU that the UN put together the UN won’t even enforce. The UN won’t even enforce the MOU that Ambassador Kobler signed. It’s already been violated in regards to personal property and automobiles. Where is the backbone of the UN? Why doesn’t it say to the Iraqi government, “Uh-uh, you signed this, those automobiles and the personal property is coming into Camp Liberty, period. Period.” [applause] The UNHCR says freedom of movement is essential. They produced a document about ten days ago saying freedom of movement is essential to any refugee camp. And yet the Iraqi government said no freedom of movement, and the UN and the United States folded like an accordion. They had no backbone. They didn’t say, “Uh-uh, freedom of movement is essential to all refugee camps.”
And we could go on and on and on. Why didn’t we object when the original camp was supposed to be literally ten, 15 times bigger than the area in this camp. Why didn’t we object to the fact that there’s no recreation, no facilities for women, no facilities for the disabled, no facilities for the sick? How dare they say that this camp meets basic standards. This is a humanitarian issue. And by the way this is always referred to as a temporary transfer station. I love the way they use the word temporary. While at the same time they admit that the emigration process for some of the residents of Ashraf may take up to two years. Anybody here think two years sounds temporary? And yet that’s the excuse they give for the low standards. “Well, it’s only a temporary camp. Nobody’s going to have to live in here very long.” Two years is very long.
What’s wrong with letter 23 former U.S. officials, governors, secretaries, generals, former CIA, former FBI people—we were willing to go over at our own expense, and I want to emphasize that because the other side makes a big deal about the fact that we get paid speakers’ fees—all 23 of us were willing to go over, we told Madame Rajavi, at our own expense to look at the camp. [applause] [laughs] Don’t thank—don’t thank us yet, we haven’t gone. And the reason we haven’t gone is because the Iraqi government said no. Well, where is the UN and the U.S.? What were we going to do? Were we going to be subversive? Were we going to somehow undermine the security of the Iraqi government by going over and looking to see if the camp had basic minimum standards? Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a joke. They said we have to be out of there by 12/31, December 31st, and yet nothing was ready by December 31st. And now only one out of seven sections is ready. We should call—sometimes in politics, in government, if you have a plan and the plan’s clearly not working you call it off. We should call this off and let everybody stay at Ashraf. [applause]
And lastly—and you can tell I feel like violating my ten minutes today, but I won’t—lastly I want to talk about the U.S. In a teleconference, Ambassador Daniel Fried—he’s the ambassador in the State Department who’s been given the responsibility of trying to work this compromise out. And he hasn’t done a bad job. And he’s worked with us, we have a weekly phone call with him, several elected officials and the FBI Director Freeh and General Mukasey. We have a weekly phone call with him in which we get briefed and we disseminate information and we take information back to Madame Rajavi. And I don’t mean to attack Ambassador Fried. I think in many ways he’s doing the best job that he can. But he said in this teleconference on February 7th, and I want to quote it for you, “the United States is not the sovereign in Iraq. Iraq is the sovereign.” Well, that’s the mindset that our government has had from the beginning.
Well, that makes no sense. I want to ask you a historical question. Was the United States the sovereign in Kosovo? [recording problem] Of course we weren’t the sovereign in Kosovo. Was the United States the sovereign in Benghazi and Libya when President Obama organized the NATO air strikes that tumbled the Libyan government and saved hundreds of thousands of Benghazi residents from genocide? No, we weren’t the sovereign there. But we acted. We showed strength. We showed backbone. We showed courage. We did the right thing. And yes we may technically not be the sovereign, but the case for the United States standing up and saying no, and enforcing a decent—if we’re going to move to Camp Liberty, making sure that basic rights are protected at Camp Liberty and no one gets hurt and slaughtered again. The United States has a responsibility above and beyond what it had in Kosovo and Benghazi. Because there we acted in the best tradition of the United States of America, trying to protect the freedom and liberty and basic human rights of individuals anywhere in this world. It’s what has always made me in my entire life proud to be an American. We acted in that tradition. But here we have a different level of moral and legal responsibility, because when the residents of Ashraf surrounded their weapons, and General Phillips tells me that they were excellent fighters and people who could have used those weapons to defend themselves big time, when they surrendered their weapons to the United States military, each one of them got a signed contract from the United States saying that we would protect them. I used to, I still am a lawyer, I used to be a practicing lawyer, and I was a pretty good one. That contract didn’t end when the United States turned over sovereignty in 2009 to the Iraqi military and the Iraqi police. That contract, that promise, legally is in force and morally remains in force. So if we acted in Benghazi, if we acted in Kosovo, we need to act in Ashraf. [applause]
We need the United States to be what we’ve always been, the protectors of freedom, democracy and human dignity and rights all over the world. It’s time. It’s time. And I love seeing you. I love coming to Paris. I love having the ability to talk directly to Madame Rajavi, which we don’t have in the United States. It’s a wonderful process. But it’s time for the talking to end. It’s time for the UN and the U.S. to show some backbone or else, or else [applause] or else the international community, the UN and the United States are going to have to face the responsibility for the slaughter of decent, honorable human beings. And I don’t want to hear them condemn the slaughter if it happens after it happens. That’s what we did in 2009. Oh, the UN and the U.S. condemned what happened at Ashraf. And then in April of 2011 a horrible—carried out with United States weapons and United States vehicles—a horrible slaughter, death of 36 people including eight women, and we all condemned it. The State Department issued a very strong statement condemning it. But nothing changed. And if we stand by and let it happen again, shame on us. [applause]
[end of audio]
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