WASHINGTON, April 16, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a Conference on Thursday, 14 April 2011, former senior U.S. government officials strongly condemned the Iraqi military's deadly assault on Camp Ashraf on April 8, 2011, which left 34 residents dead, including 8 women, and more than 300 wounded.
Ambassador Mitchell Reiss who moderated the conference highlighted the "promise that the United States made to ensure that the residents of Camp Ashraf were protected, the failure so far of the Obama administration, the Iraqi government and the international community to fulfill that promise and the ongoing threat posed by the Iranian regime to men and women everywhere who believe in freedom and democracy." He said that "Despite serving in different branches of the U.S. government, differences in our political affiliations, we are united this morning in a common cause, to seek justice for the people of Camp Ashraf and to remove the MEK from the State Department's terrorism list."
The Conference featured Gen. Wesley Clark, the former Supreme Allied Commander for Europe; Gen. Richard Myers, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; former Attorney General Michael Mukasey; Admiral Dennis Blair, former Director of National Intelligence, Porter Goss, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; former Senators Evan Bayh and Bill Bradley; former White House Spokeswoman, Dana Perino, and Col. Wes Martin, former commander of counterterrorism for the coalition forces in Iraq. The event was organized by Near East Human Rights Initiative, whose founding member, Bruce McColm, commenced the conference.
"I cannot be with you today to join with you in the mourning of the horrific loss of life in Camp Ashraf to yet another unprovoked attack on unarmed civilians by Iraqi forces. This most recent attack… should never have happened. It certainly should never happen again. I hope that the United Nations will also conduct a full investigation into the events of last week as well. Those who planned and executed this attack should be held accountable for their actions and we should lead the international effort to do everything possible to ensure that a similar tragedy is not repeated," wrote Gen. James Jones, former National Security Advisor to President Obama, in a statement.
Judge Mukasey said, "What is happening in Ashraf is a human rights tragedy and a political disgrace for the United States because it occurred after U.S. troops withdrew and while the United States Secretary of Defense was himself in Iraq visiting. Human rights organizations, the United States must be given access to Ashraf and a report made public on what happened and why it happened. Make no mistake about it. What has enabled this, what has allowed it to happen and whether it is going to continue to allow it to happen again unless we do something about it, is the continued listing of the MEK as a terrorist organization on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations."
In his remarks, Gen. Wesley Clark expressed his personal condolences to residents of Camp Ashraf, saying, "All Americans appreciate the courage and the dedication you've shown there and our hearts are with you." The former Supreme Allied Commander for Europe added, "When I look at what happened at Camp Ashraf over this past weekend I find it absolutely deplorable and inexplicable. We did make a promise they would be protected persons. That's the word of the United States of America. That's important, it's time. We talk about American credibility, there it is."
"How can we hope to help those inside Iran who are seeking a more open and liberated government if we can't help those in Camp Ashraf who are simply asking for protection and an opportunity to live their lives in peace. Surely the United States of America can do that and we must," Gen. Clark stressed in closing.
Gen. Myers also opened his remarks by expressing his condolences "to our friends at Camp Ashraf," saying "the residents of Camp Ashraf are unarmed and the folks that were shooting at them were aiming their fire. This was aimed fire. This wasn't firing in the air to try to influence behavior. The other thing that struck me was the number of women that we saw in the hospital." "But what courage [shown] by the folks of the Camp! Courage by those that were taking pictures," he added.
He went on to stress that "There has to be an investigation and people need to be held accountable for this tragedy. Delisting the MEK is surely the right thing to do and it's way past time to do that. There has to be some permanent structure put in place to make sure that the residents of Camp Ashraf are protected. Whether that's UN based or whatever the basis is, it seems to me that absolutely has to happen."
"There are some obvious things to be done [about Camp Ashraf]. It's a question of who will do them and what energies will be brought to bear to make that happen. Certainly the delisting question is critical and I don't think anybody is in disagreement on that," said Mr. Goss, adding, "It's fine to deplore it [the attack] but what are we going to do about it? How do deal with this problem right now of getting an element in there to fix the problem?"
In his remarks, Admiral Blair described what happened during the April 8 attack on Camp Ashraf as "certainly shocking and the courage we saw was very moving." In his comprehensive analysis of the threats by the regime in Tehran, he said "I consider the current Iranian regime a threat to important American interests and I believe American policy needs to oppose it and defeat it at every turn."
Former Senator Evan Bayh emphasized that he has "advanced the cause that has gathered us here today to lift the designation on MEK and promote those who seek reform and democracy in the nation of Iran." He added, "It is simply unacceptable that the regime allied with us would engage in such crimes against humanity," Mr. Bayh stressed that "The cynical attack upon Ashraf should cause us to very clearly communicate with the Maliki regime that this sort of thing is intolerable and if continued will result in a rupture in relations with the United States of America."
Referring to "the senseless violence" in Camp Ashraf, former Senator Bill Bradley remarked that "I want to say to those at Camp Ashraf that I'm with you and I want to say that the real terrorists are not the innocents at Camp Ashraf but the Iraqi soldiers who drove the Humvees and pulled the triggers." Mr. Bradley stressed that "You look at the horrible events that we saw today at Camp Ashraf and you think well, in a way it kind of flows out of the policy of the last ten years. If you ask who is the main beneficiary of U.S. policy in the last ten years? It's been Iran."
Former White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino added, "The video puts into context the petty, ridiculous policy debates we're having in Washington, D.C." She said "To the women in Camp Ashraf I express my admiration. What you say sends a message. So does what you don't say. If our State Department and our White House continue to be silent it sends the wrong message."
Col. Martin, who also served as U.S. base commander at Camp Ashraf as said, "I was well aware of MEK and the outstanding work that they were doing and how they were cooperating with us." Referring to the assurance given by Iraqi government, he added, "This government cannot be trusted to do the right thing…Now we have the opportunity to step forward and I would call on the State Department to do the harder right instead of the easier wrong," Col. Martin said in closing.
Mr. Reiss concluded the conference by saying, "First, it's absolutely essential that we open Camp Ashraf to the world's media. Open it to the European Union, human rights organizations, to Iraqi parliamentarians and congressmen who want to visit. Publicity is the best antidote to the corruption and lawlessness that we've seen so vividly on that video and it's the best safeguard for the residents of Camp Ashraf.
"Second, I think that we need to demand, not ask, but demand that the findings of the U.S. team that visited Camp Ashraf after the latest tragedy be made public immediately. We have no confidence in the ability or willingness of the Iraqi government to conduct this investigation. At the same time I think that the American people and others are also owed an explanation as to why American soldiers were ordered to leave Camp Ashraf knowing that an attack on the camp was likely. Who gave that order and what was the reason for that order?
"Third, the U.S. State Department needs to delist the MEK immediately. Time is running out, lives are at stake. For the United States this is a case where American interests of opposing the regime in Teheran are entirely consistent with American values of freedom and democracy. In fact, these same values of freedom and democracy are shared by the residents of Camp Ashraf and by millions of Iranians inside Iran and in exile around the world. A tide of democracy is rising across the Middle East and I'm confident that one day it will sweep across Iran as well."
SOURCE Near East Human Rights Initiative (NEHRI)