|General David Phillips - We did what the Mullah regime could not do|
|Saturday, 19 May 2012 19:53|
Washington D.C., May 15, 2012 - Thank you. Thank you. Distinguished guests, thank you for the opportunity to come here today and address this group.
I'd also like to thank those freedom loving people who believe in a democratic Iran. And the Mujahedin-e Khalq, the 3,400 members that are spread out between Camp Ashraf or confined at Camp Liberty.
You've endured much during the nine years of captivity, but I want to take you back a little bit. I want to go to those days following the ground invasion in 2003.
The MeK, Mujahedin-e Khalq, were dispersed over dozens of locations. Many of you know they were not just at Camp Ashraf. They were at Basra, Thalill, Fallujah, and Baghdad. Camp Ashraf happened to be the facility that we consolidated them at because it was north of Baghdad in the desert area of Diyala.
It was a tactical decision. Get them all at one location to where we can go through disarming process.
As they abandoned their other bases and facility, which they put a lot of work into, overnight they were looted and vandalized.
I personally went down to the Baghdad facility, which was a six-story office building, pretty much administrative. Within 24 hours of us removing the Mujahedin from that location it was a vacant, total wrecked facility. Even the windows were ripped out of their borders.
I can only imagine how the Mullahs laughed as we forced the MeK to consolidate at Camp Ashraf, along with all their armored vehicles, their artillery pieces, their large arms, their automatic weapons and their small arms.
We did what the Mullah regime could not do. We eliminated the military threat of the Iranian resistance.
They, the MeK, voluntarily, turned over all of their offensive and defensive weapons. Leaving them vulnerable to the insurgents -- yes, there were insurgents in Iraq -- and infiltrators from the current Iranian regime.
Once we had them there, I was showing several of the senior leaders what Camp Ashraf was because it was an anomaly. It was separate from the rest of what was going on in Iran. Probably why they pushed it over to the military police. Let them handle it. They'll handle anything.
Well, I took an Air Force general officer around and he pointed out to me, those look like high frequency antennas. So we checked and sure enough they were. The MeK were broadcasting into Iran.
I had my Farsi speaking linguist listen in. It was much like the voice of America. It broadcast the news, radio shows and music. It was a cultural-type station.
But, no, I had to shut it down. I had to not only shut it down, I had to seize the equipment so it could not go back on the air. It was unfortunate. Because what the Iranian jammers couldn't do, we did for them. We shut down that voice of hope.
And, simultaneously, in November of '03 when we supposedly never searched Camp Ashraf in its entirety, we started Phase I of an operation.
During this phase, we systematically searched every square kilometer of that 36-square kilometer facility, simultaneously while we were taking the 3,400 members, including many Iranian-Americans….
While we were doing that and searching the facility, the MeK loaned us their buses so that we could transport their people off of Camp Ashraf to a facility up north to where we could do bio-metrics on them.
This phase ended on the 13th of January where we had DNA, retinal scans and some of the most cutting edge technology, technological ways of identifying them.
Phase II of the operation, which apparently some people don't know ever took place, commenced on the 2nd of March. It was completed on the 4th of May where each and every member was individually interviewed off of the Camp Ashraf grounds by the FBI and multiple other U.S. agencies, including our intelligence agencies.
During this phase, I was physically walking the ground of Camp Ashraf. We offered each member the opportunity to leave. And a few did. There was no barring them. They could leave.
They were provided also their personal property and given some funds by a leadership of the MeK.
Well on the 10th of May 2004, we started the MeK review board. It concluded on the 4th of June. Yes, I have all these dates because I have all of the reports.
Each individual was reviewed and an adjudication was made that there were no terrorists, not even wanted criminals among the 3,400 individuals.
So the other governmental agencies departed. Leaving it to the U.S. Army, specifically a reserve unit out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the 336 MP battalion that worked for me. I was the commander at 89th MP brigade.
This job was passed from MP unit to MP unit culminating with the departure of U.S. forces in 2009 from Camp Ashraf.
During that time the military police are proud to report there were no deaths or serious injuries of any member of the MeK.
They were turned over to the Iraqis for protection. Their tally is a little bit different. Almost 50 deaths and hundreds wounded. Interesting figures for a protection mission.
Okay, anyway. That's not the real focus of what I want to talk about. That's what keeps me up at night.
The most troublesome current issue is the factually incorrect assertions made by the government attorney last week at the court hearing on the Writ of Mandamus.
The attorney stated in court that we, referring to the U.S., have never completely searched the entirety of Camp Ashraf, therefore they may still have a means to harm the United States.
Have you ever been in the middle of Diyala? It is a long ways from the middle of the United States.
Also he added that the MeK never gave us open access to the entire camp.
I take great offense to those comments because of the dedication and hard work done over a year long period from 2003 to the end of 2004 where my forces conducted operations, inspections, raids to find any contraband, looking for weapons, explosives, other armaments possibly hidden someplace on the facility and around the facility. We didn't stay confined to the facility.
First, we had open access everywhere at any time, any place. Look at it. If somebody would have prevented us access, it would have been a very bad day for them.
We asserted ourselves. We chose locations and went to them. No place was off limits.
And the reason that we never had an altercation is because no doors were closed or locked to us. We went where we wanted to go. We saw what we wanted to see.
Now, for the attorney's assertion that there may be still weapons hidden someplace on the camp because we never fully searched because it's a big area. To that I say, what do you mean we didn't search?
I personally went to every single facility on that 36-square kilometer facility. This is my aerial photography (indicating) that has every building and it is a detailed shot to where I could even see tracks in the dirt when I blow it up. So if there was any movement on the ground, we would inspect it to make sure weapons had not been buried there the night before.
I went to the morgue and inspected there, to the hospitals, to the latrines. Every place was inspected on that camp.
There's also an assertion that the camp is not fenced in. I don't know, could have fooled me. 12-foot fence all the way around. Six kilometers by six kilometers. Constantine wire on top. Sounds like a fence to me.
We used high tech methods looking for weapons. And we used some good old-fashioned boots on the ground.
We did find bayonets. In the female billets in their wall lockers next to their personal clothing was a bayonet. I let them keep the bayonets.
We did clear the housings of deadly bomblets. We demilitarized over 100 bunkers filled with ammunition and thoroughly checked every square meter of the 36-square kilometer facility.
I didn't read a report about this. I didn't look at an intel action about it. I did it. I walked the ground. I've been to the facility. I inspected every structure on the camp. It's not hearsay. Firsthand I was there. I can tell you no rock was unturned.
We did have open access to the entirety of that camp and never did we find a single weapon.
No, there's another side to this, too. I wanted to find weapons. Remember? I'm a soldier. I was given a mission to guard 3,400 detainees who were terrorists. I believed they were terrorists when I took over that mission.
So by God, I was going to find the smoking gun.
I was going to prove why we were in the middle of Diyala desert in 45 degrees Celsius, add that up, it's pretty hot over there in the summer, looking for contraband.
Soldiers have a unique perspective on the world and if you listen to them, it's amazing what you can learn.
In my case, I traveled with a 12-soldier security detail of 4 up armored Humvees. We traveled the entire country rebuilding the Iraqi police, keeping the high value detainees, and yes, governing Saddam Hussein. That was our job.
We had another job of detaining and protecting the 3,400 people at Camp Ashraf.
Well, my soldiers would ask, real subtly, Sir, when we going back to Ashraf?
You know why they asked that? Because on Ashraf, in the midst of 3,400 terrorists, they felt safe. In fact, it was the safest place my soldiers were in that country.
I walked, talked, and spent time with usually unarmed with the so-called "hard core," the government attorney's term, not mine, "hard core" members of the MeK.
I don't call them "hard core" members. I called them Madam Parsai, Commander Zhoreh, Miss Giidy Mr. Davari. I knew them, the people. Few people know these "hard core" members better than me.
So did they have weapons hidden on Camp Ashraf? No. And think about it. I staked my life on it.
Ashraf was the safest place in Iraq.
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