|Alan Dershowitz: promises made by our government must be kept|
|Friday, 06 April 2012 00:00|
Washington D.C., April 6, 2012 - Thank you, Mr. Ambassador and distinguished guests. It's a great privilege to be here today with such distinguished colleagues on the podium and with some such distinguished guests in the audience.
I'm here today in our Capitol in the shadow of the Supreme Court of the Capitol and of the White House to speak on behalf of our Constitution. Our constitution provides for the right to petition our government for the redress of grievances and we have grievances. It guarantees us the right to exercise our freedom of speech which our government is now trying to abridge. We have the right to appeal to the press to exercise its freedom to publicize a humanitarian crisis that we can help to prevent. And we have the right as we are doing here today to peaceably assemble to assure that our government keeps its promises.
Our government as we heard today made a sacred contract in our name, in the name of all the citizens of this country with the residents of Camp Ashraf who have completely fulfilled all of their contractual obligations and nobody disputes that fact. Now it's time for our government to fulfill its contractual obligations. Fulfillment of contractual obligations was so important to the framers of our constitution that they prohibited even the states from, quote, impairing the obligation of contracts and required the government to satisfy all debts contracted and engaged into even before our constitution was ratified. That's how important the framers believed contractual obligations of the United States were.
Alexander Hamilton insisted, we could not become a great nation unless we had the highest standard in the world in terms of fulfilling contractual obligations.
The provisions that Hamilton is referring to and that Madison helped to draft were referring to contracts involving money and property, how much more sacred is a contract involving life and liberty.
Our constitution places life and liberty before property when it orders the rights contained in that great and enduring document. (Applause.)
Several moments ago I had the privilege of speaking to the Congress of the United States about these matters and I reminded the people there, including congressmen, that Congress has the power under our institution, quote, to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying execution the powers vested in the government or its offices.
Congress has the power to make our government keep its promise, to satisfy its contractual obligations to the residents of Camp Ashraf and Congress should be doing more than it's now doing. We're very, very pleased that so many individual members of Congress have supported the people of Camp Ashraf. Now it's time for Congress as a body to pass legislation to be signed by the president which helps to solve this humanitarian Congress.
And the president under our constitution must enforce the laws and obligations of the United States. These obligations include contractual obligations made on behalf not only of the executive branch of the government but of the entire government and all the people of the United States.
As General Mukasey reminded us, the judiciary is the ultimate guarantor that the government must comply with the due process of law and other constitutional provisions including the contract provisions of the Constitution.
As you may know there's a case pending before the courts of this district mandamusing the government and particularly the Secretary of State, we've heard about how busy she is, to de-list the organization with which the residents of Ashraf are associated.
I have the high honor of representing a group of some of the most distinguished American in history who have asked me to file a friend of the court brief supporting the de-listing. (Applause.)
My clients, I am proud to say, this group may represent the greatest assortment of distinguished Americans ever to sign an amicus brief, to paraphrase an old statement, since Thomas Jefferson signed one alone, but this is a very, very distinguished group. Including, the former Attorney General of the United States, the former head of the FBI, the former Secretary of Homeland Security, the former mayor of New York, numerous generals, admirals and others who have not only served our country with distinction, but in many instances have risked their lives for our country.
Would anybody impugn their honor, integrity? Would anybody impugn their good faith? And yet there are those who suggest that perhaps their good faith can be impugned.
I agree with General Mukasey that I don't think the court will accept any of those characterizations and will do the right thing and will do justice.
It's a tragedy that we have had to place our own sacred honor at risk by supporting this humanitarian cause, the saving of innocent lives and obligation of our government to keep its commitments.
I never thought I would live to see the day when my own country, a country I love, a country my grandparents and great grandparents chose to come to and bring up their children, I never thought I would see the day when my country threatens its own citizens who speak up on behalf of law, justice and humanitarian obligations of the United States and I hope that will not come to pass.
We love our country. We have no choice but to speak up on behalf of this cause because we love liberty, we love our constitution -- we love liberty, not Camp Liberty -- but the real liberty and we believe that promises made by our government must be kept. (Applause.)
As a constitutional scholar and experienced appellate advocate, I am confident we are on the right side of this lawsuit even though some of my dear friends are on the other side.
If one reads the briefs that were filed in this court and in this case no one should doubt what the outcome should be. The briefs filed on our side of the case have been vastly superior in terms of constitutional law, in terms of logic, common sense and morality than the very questionable briefs filed on the other side.
We hope and expect that the courts will demand that our government provide due process and apply the law and if they do, we know what the result will be.
We must demand quick action in responding to this petition to de-list because in general justice delayed is justice denied. But in this particular situation, justice delayed can mean life and liberty denied.
As soon as the de-listing occurs, and we hope it will occur very quickly, the free nations of the world, which do not include Iran and tragically do not include Iraq today, because Iraq is under the thumb of Iran increasingly, but the free nations of the world will be more willing to accept the residents of Ashraf as refugees. But our nation, our nation, must lead by example. We must be the first to accept refugees. We must be the first to accept numerous refugees. (Applause.)
And as I've emphasized before this is a no-brainer, this is a win-win situation. The Iranian people who have come to the shores of this country have been model citizens. They have contributed disproportionately to the welfare, to wealth, the success of our country.
They have been model immigrants, model citizens. We benefit by bringing the people from Camp Ashraf to live in our neighborhoods among our people. I would welcome anyone from Camp Ashraf as my neighbor. (Applause.)
I have seen what these people built out of nothing and what they did, they created a community. Can you imagine what they would do to neighborhoods and areas around this country if given an opportunity to live and thrive here as Americans? Ultimately with the hope of perhaps returning to their native country when their native country returns to some a semblance of democracy.
Now I've been in contact with representatives of the State Department and with high officials of the executive branch who have asked our assistance in helping the transition the residents of Ashraf to safe havens outside of Iraq. We have done our part. We will continue to do our part.
Now the government and the United States must do its part. There must be a joint effort.
Now some news, while I was up here today, I was checking my e-mail because I wanted to see if there was any news about what was going on in this situation, and sure enough just a few hours ago Seymour Hirsch posted on-line in the New Yorker an article. Don't know whether it's accurate or not, but Seymour Hirsch has won Pulitzer prizes, in which he says that beginning in 2005, several years after the MEK was listed as a terrorist group, the joint special operations command of the United States military conducted training, I'm quoting, conducted training for members of the MEK in Nevada and worked closely with them.
He does say that they laundered, they washed , the identification of the people they were training by -- through the Department of Energy and using some other subterfuges ;but the United States Government cannot with one hand work closely with an organization and with the other hand slap it down and insist that it be listed as a terrorist group.
Is the United States Government now working with terrorists? Are we fomenting terrorism? No, we're not. We have to come to recognize that. But the hypocrisy on the one hand training people and on the other hand calling them terrorists. On the one hand asking us to help this group of people and then on the other hand threatening if we do help these people, this kind of hypocrisy is simply not acceptable by a great nation. We cannot fail. (Applause.)
The stakes are simply too high. If we were to fail, there would be a humanitarian disaster which was easily preventable and every time I speak to somebody in the State Department or in the executive I tell them, look, there are humanitarian disasters we couldn't prevent. People we couldn't stop; the Holocaust. But here's a situation where it is totally and completely 100 percent within our control. We can prevent humanitarian disaster.
As somebody who has fought the human rights for 50 years, I rarely get the opportunity to prevent. Usually human rights are bringing people to account for what they've done.
Here we have an opportunity to save lives and prevent. As I said in the past, the Muslim tradition and Christian and Jewish tradition all share in common the concept, to save the human life is as if to save the whole world because one human being can bring in to being so many other human beings. (Applause.)
How can we refuse to help even if helping creates risks for us, we cannot refuse to help. Elie Wiesel, my friend, cautioned, always believe the threats of your enemies more than the promises of your friends.
We know the threats of the Iranians and Iraqis are real. It's time for America to keep its promise. Our nation complains loudly and obviously when other countries try to sensor or intimidate critics of governmental policies. It must apply the same principle to itself. We must continue to petition our government for a redress of grievances, to apply due process of law and to do justice in the interest of saving lives.
My prayer and my hope for is that soon you will be able to celebrate your holiday of exodus in which the people of Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty are allowed to have their exodus. We must repeat the cry of Moses in the Bible, let my people go. (Applause.)
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