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Ed Rendell: Time to Act for US Government on Responsibilities and Commitments

Ed RendellGeneva, February 28, 2013 - A little less than two years ago I had the great pleasure of meeting Madam Rajavi, her support staff in Paris and many of you, many supporters of the MEK in Geneva, in Paris, in Washington, in New York, in Los Angeles and I became unofficial member of a group called Friends of MEK. You have heard today from ambassador Bolton who has done a great job, former Congressman Kennedy, also people whom you recognize, mayor Giuliani the mayor of New York, Louis Freeh former director of FBI, Michael Mukasey a judge and former attorney general of the US, my predecessor as governor Tom Ridge who went on to be the first secretary of the homeland security after 9/11, Howard Dean former governor of Vermont and presidential candidate, and many others too numerous to name including 4 generals who served in Iraq and got to know the MEK and residents of Ashraf very well.

 

This has been a wonderful part of my life because I met a group of warm, caring, freedom loving individuals who want the best not for themselves but for other people, their countrymen, their comrades, and for the cause of liberty, justice and democracy all over the world. I have thoroughly enjoyed this association and when we first met Madam Rajavi we had two goals. One was to convince the State Department of the US to delist the MEK as a terrorist organization and the second goal was to make sure that the residents of Ashraf were resettled outside Iraq and during that resettlement process they were safe and secure. We promised Madam Rajavi that we will do our best towards our goals.

 

Let me talk about success first. We did have success in winning the war to get delisting. The success came when I and others persuaded Madam Rajavi to go back in court and essentially sue the State Department again, you have been sitting on this for several years, it is time to act and we won that battle.

We were told by countries all over the world, we were told by Mr. Kobler, we were told by everyone that as soon as we got delisted countries around the world could take the residents of Ashraf and that was a condition precedent to get into resettlement. Let the record show that it has been almost half a year since the MEK is delisted and hardly 5 people have been resettled during that time.

I go to conferences in Paris and in Geneva and I hear representative of foreign government, (I get to the US in a second) I hear members of European Parliament, I hear the Swiss Parliamentarians who are here today, I hear French representatives of the French assembly, the German, Norwegian, Scandinavian, all these people come and decree what is happening and say we want to get these people resettled; Where are these countries? Thanks to the Swiss parliamentarians, Switzerland indicated that they will take two or three hundred of the residents now in Liberty for resettlement. We hear all these talks. What about France or Germany? The only country that stepped up so far is Albania. Give the Albanian credit. They said they would take 300 residents of Liberty. But where are other countries in the world. If ten country stood up and said we do the same as Albania, everyone would be gone from Liberty, Albania 300, ten others countries that’s more than the residents we have at Liberty.

Is it so hard? Is it so difficult? Those countries talk about liberty and justice and freedom and protection of individuals’ rights. We have always commission on human rights, and where are they? They are silent. They are not to be heard from. That has got to change.

I call on those nations to stand up and be counted in the next several weeks before the next attack. Let’s make it clear; when we say we love freedom and respect human rights and dignity and the resettlement process. Let’s do more than talk, let’s act now.

I said we were successful in delisting and we were. We have failed Madam Rajavi and American Friends of the MEK; we have failed the residents of Ashraf and Liberty because we were lied to by Mr. Kobler, we were misled by our own government, and we helped to persuade Madam Rajavi to persuade the leadership of Ashraf to begin the resettlement process. Time and time again when that process plugged down, we American Friends of the MEK got back on the back with Madam Rajavi and her staff and said we got to keep this going; it is the only hope for resettlement. We were lied to and we were naïve. There was never any caring about protecting residents at Liberty. Remember the whole condition precedent for going to Liberty was that it was going to be safer at Liberty. It wasn’t isolated, it was near Baghdad; it was going to be safer. It is also a hellhole.  Every promise made about the condition at Liberty, about what is in the MoU, what residents of Ashraf could bring with them, almost every promise has been violated. We fought hard to get individual promises lived up to by the government of Iraq. But we were complicit in telling these people that they should move and they would be more secure.

Now, I said I talk about my government, the US. The US bears special responsibility more than France, more than Germany, more than Spain, more than Norway and more than Albania. We have special responsibility because in 2003, representatives of the US government and the US military persuaded residents of Ashraf to disarm. They were well armed and able to protect themselves. In return for disarming, we gave every and each one of those people a signed paper saying that they would be protected by the US of America and their safety and security would be protected by the US. Spain didn’t do that; Germany didn’t do that; France didn’t do that; England didn’t do that; Albania sure didn’t do that. The US of America supposedly the beacon of freedom and justice in the world gave each and every one of those residents a signed copy of that agreement. And how has the US done since.

There are four generals, one colonel and three generals, who got to know the residents of Ashraf very well and are now part of the American Friends of MEK and working to achieve the goals that I talked about, they are colonel Wesley Martin who was in charge of protection of Ashraf for a while, general Philips also in charge of protection of Ashraf, general Conway one of the commodores of Marine Corp and general Hugh Shelton who the chief of the US army. All of them served in Iraq; all of them got to know the MEK; all of them have been at conferences and spoken out publicly on behalf of this cause because they know people of Ashraf best.

But how the official response of the US government been? In 2009 when the first attack by Iraqi federal police using US weapons took place, the State Department issued a strong statement of condemnation and nothing changed. In 2011, American troops were nearby Ashraf, they got noticed in advance that this attack was taking place and instead of moving to stop the attack, they were withdrawn and told to fall back and move away from Ashraf. After the slaughter in April 2011 what did the US State Department do? It issued a strong statement of condemnation and nothing changed. Then this past February 9th, after the attack and death of 7 more residents, the State Department issued another strong statement of condemnation. But worse, when we tried to persuade the residents of Ashraf to go to Liberty, the US issued the following statement: if the residents of Ashraf move to Liberty, the US government would commit to support the safety and security of the residents in Liberty.

Now can somebody in this room tell me what the US government did to ensure the safety and security of residents in Liberty? What did we do to protect those 7 people? Madam Rajavi, do you know anything that the US did to protect residents at camp Liberty? I don’t thing you do because I don’t and I guess ambassador Bolton doesn’t and congressman Kennedy doesn’t. But in August 29 of last year after we persuaded some of the residents to leave, our government issued another statement. It says the US reiterates its commitment to support the safety and security of the residents throughout the process of their relocation outside of Iraq.  So, two statements saying that we were actually committing to support the safety and security. We didn’t, we hadn’t, we should be ashamed.

Now, you have heard other speakers talk about the options that are here. There are basically four options left in the path before us.

One is to somehow strengthen the safety and security at Liberty. That is impossible. It is too small, too crowded, the buildings are not bomb or mortar resistant. And the government of Iraq has even admitted that it cannot ensure the safety of residents of liberty. And the leader of Hezbollah has said today again that there is going be another attack. So that is an option that is off the table.

The second option is to expedite the resettlement process. But even if a miracle occurred, and nation of the world was so moved by my speech that 11 of them stood up and said we take 300 each, that process would take at least a year to complete. That is probably optimistic but at least a year if they all moved to do the right thing. So that option is not very viable. It is not viable as 3200 remain and security is the first concern for all of us here.

Third option is to move back at Ashraf and surely the residents would be more secure in Ashraf, no question about that. For all the reasons that were stated and reasons that were showing on video tape, it is more secure at Ashraf. But is there a guarantee that they would be safe, of course not. As the attack in 2009 and 2011 showed us, they weren’t safe; 38 of them weren’t safe; hundreds more who lost limbs and were severely injured weren’t safe. They would be safer but not safe.

There is a fourth option, an option that I have said to Senator Kerry and his staff. That is for the US to step up and honor its moral and I believe its legal commitment that was given individually to each one of those residents. And I believe the US should act as swiftly as possible, particularly in the line of what the Hezbollah said today, should as swiftly as possible airlift all of these asylum seekers back to the US where they can temporary be asylum seekers on military bases that many military bases or barracks are empty or half empty; we can easily accommodate these folks on one base; they can be together and the resettlement process can occur under the safety of the auspices of the US government and US military base. Someone said to me that is extraordinary but never will happen. Well, it is not extraordinary. The American government said so in a contract in 2003 and statements time after time after time that we are committed to guarantee the safety and security of those people. How many more have to die, how many more have to be injured before we stand up and do the right thing? I say we are for option four. I think it could be done in two short weeks. I think it is the right thing to do. I think the country that calls itself the beacon of freedom and democracy and human right across the world has an obligation to do so, and it is time the nations of the world act the right wrongs, and I want to right wrongs all over the globe, I want to right wrongs in Darfur and other places, but right now the threat to life is no more severe and no more eminent than at Liberty. It is time for the nations of the world, the UN, and the Us government to stop talking and start acting.


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Iraqi forces attack Camp Ashraf