Speech of Governor Ed Rendell at Washington Symposium on US and UN commitments on protection of Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty on May 30, 2012
sdciran -Washington, May 30, 2012 - Thank you all. I think you should all move to Pennsylvania. Thank you very much for that warm welcome. I wish we could say we deserve it.
We have been trying very hard to accomplish many things. All of you, all of us up here and the many other friends of the residents of Camp Ashraf here in this country, the many generals, many elected officials, the many Professors, we have been trying very hard to influence things but we’re not there yet and I despair every time I come here about where we are.
Now, I normally speak at sort of the tail end of the program. I’m speaking at the beginning. I have to go back to Philadelphia. I have a book coming out, my first, and after the experience of writing my last book, but it’s coming out and I have a live TV show at 2:00 o’clock in Philadelphia.
But my book is called a Nation of Wussies, which means someone who is afraid to do what’s right, afraid to act upon their own convictions. They chicken out, as the kids would say.
Really, it’s interesting, I was thinking about what I was going to say today and I have some substantive things I want to say to you. But this is all about two agencies or two institutions that I have tremendous respect for not being willing to show the counsel of their convictions and do the right things and that’s the United Nations and the United States of America. Two institutions that I grew up believing were the hope of the world and in both cases, the U.S. and the U.N., have not done the right thing by the residents of Camp Ashraf. They have not.
The United States has a special responsibility because we entered into a contract with the residents of Ashraf. Each and every resident has a signed contract from us saying we will protect you, if you disarm, we will protect you. They disarmed.
And you’ve heard from General Phillips and others that the disarmament was complete. Colonel Martin will go over that today. They disarmed. Did we will fill our obligation to protect them? No. In 2009 we didn’t and in 2011 we didn’t. As a result 47 people are dead and hundreds more were seriously injured.
Now, when the fight is on for what’s going to happen to the remaining 3,400 residents of Ashraf, the United States is not acting with the courage of its convictions.
The United Nations stepped in and we were told by our own government by the State Department, the MOU was signed between the U. N. and the government of Iraq and the MOU would take care of the residents of Ashraf to make sure they would be held in a place that met humanitarian conditions. In a place that allowed them to bring their personal property, to bring their automobiles. That they would be taken care of in every way. And the MOU has routinely been violated and hasn’t been lived up to in almost any form, shape that you could conceive of.
And yet, we do nothing. The United States doesn’t do anything and the U. N. doesn’t do anything. We don’t do anything to make this even agreement.
Let’s take a look at what the residents of Camp Ashraf have done. Because of the leadership of Madam Rajavi, every time we have been asked to do something, we have agreed. Sometimes compromising the things that we want to do.
As many of you know, there are six or seven of us on a routinely weekly basis get on the phone with the Ambassador Fried, who is Deputy Secretary of State, and we discuss the movement. And Ambassador Fried will tell us, well, you have to talk to Paris and get them to do this, this and this.
We get on the phone and we talk to Paris or we do it through e-mail and we get Paris to make one compromise after another. And then Paris has to convince the residents of Ashraf. They do it not because they like it, not because they think it’s fair but because they believe in the overall mission. They want to leave Iraq. They want to go to a place where they can be free as individuals and not live in fear and they think that making these compromises is going to get them there.
But each time we compromise, the other side, the government of Iraq taking its orders from Tehran, doesn’t live up to their side of the bargain.
We have seen convoy after convoy. We have heard from the State Department. Let’s just get this convoy moving and then we’ll deal with these problems after this convoy is gone because if we don’t get this convoy moving something bad can happen. That’s what we always hear. Something bad can happen.
We weren’t so worried about something bad happening in 2009 and 2011. When 2009 happened, we didn’t reposition American troops to live up to our bargain to protect the residents of Ashraf, did we? But we’re worried that something bad might happen. That this arrangement is going to get detailed.
So we’re asked to compromise. They’re never asked to live up to their side of the bargain.
Just recently, I guess a few days ago, Madam Rajavi wrote to all of us, her friends in America, pushing the cause of the residents of Camp Ashraf and pushing the cause of de-listing. She asked us to ensure that seven things were done. I want to read them to you. I think many of you are aware of them. For those of you who are not, I want to read them to you because when you’re finished hearing them, you’ll be shocked.
One, she wants Camp Ashraf to be inspected now by either U.N. or U.S. forces. Why? So we can prevent when residents of Ashraf are gone. So we can prevent the planting of weapons as an excuse of doing something against the residents of Ashraf.
We saw our own State Department lawyer essentially mislead The Court by saying that the State Department wasn’t satisfied that there had been total disarmament. Fortunately Colonel Martin and General Phillips and others they went nuts because they were responsible for overseeing the disarmament and they went public and said, yes, we can tell you the disarmament was complete because we oversaw it, American Generals and Colonels oversaw it. That State Department lawyer did not tell the truth.
We wrote the Justice Department asking them to inform The Court that what their lawyer said was incorrect and the Justice Department hemmed and hauled and in then didn’t do anything. That’s the way it goes.
Madam Rajavi wants an inspection of the camp by independent observers so they can record there are no weapons so the Iraqis can’t come in and plant weapons after the fact and use that as justification.
Second, she wants an agreement going forward before the 6th convoy leaves that there will be adequate utilities vehicles for transport of water, fuel and sewage. Easy to agree to. You remember in convoy five, the utility vehicles, took off and left Ashraf on the way to Liberty but halfway there, they were told to turn back that they couldn’t go to Camp Liberty.
Number three, the disabled. Madam Rajavi asked for six housing containers and three specialty equipped vehicles to take care of the disabled residents of Ashraf as they move to Liberty.
Number four, that Camp Liberty as swiftly as possible be connected to the electrical and water grids of the city of Baghdad so we don’t have to worry about bringing water trucks in. We don’t have to worry about generators, that we’ll get our electricity and water from Baghdad like every other citizen.
Number five, green space for recreation, canopies for shade. Construction of sidewalks so the older residents and the disabled can walk freely without fear of tripping or falling.
Number six, a guarantee that the removable property and what personal property remains in Ashraf can be sold. In fact there’s an Iraqi businessman who made a reasonable offer for that, but the government of the Republic of Iraq refuses to let that agreement go forward. Refuses to let the property be removed by the merchant and the money given to the residents of Ashraf.
Seventh, a guarantee that, especially in light of Ambassador Kobler’s trip to Tehran, a guarantee that the Iranian government will have no say over the disposition of the residents or the residents’ fate.
Now, Madam Rajavi, as you know, is a very well-spoken person and she often coins phrases that are right on topic.
She said at the end of this, I believe the most striking thing about this list is it’s modesty. Meaning, we’re not making outrageous demands. These are basic, simple demands and we have told Ambassador Fried and I think there’s an agreement among Paris, unless these demands are met, we’re not sending the 6th convoy. Because if we send the 6th convey and the last convoy and everybody is in Liberty, we lose every remaining leverage we have.
So the time for us to stand and the time for the U. S. Government to take the stand and the United Nations to take the stand and enforce that MOU and tell the government of Iraq that it must comply, that time is now. There’s no time for excuses.
Because look at what’s happened here. The Iraqi government has been harassing, mean and cruel for no purpose of their own. Not to save money. Not for any strategic or security reasons. Consider some of the things that have happened since we have been in this process relocating residents.
Number one, when the vehicles arrived at Liberty we’re not allowed to use forklifts to take the heavy material off. That would be easy.
Instead, the residents have to painstakingly carry it off by hand. Why wouldn’t they let us use forklift? How is that going to endanger the security of the Republic of Iraq or cost money? We’re willing to pay for it ourselves. It’s mean and cruel.
Next, we hear all about it’s difficult to get the water down. Ambassador Kobler said the water will be hooked up sometime before Ramadan. That’s two months from now. We have been told the same things, it’s coming next month. It’s absolutely ridiculous.
The residents of Ashraf have said, let us do it. We can connect it ourselves, the water. We can’t connect the electricity. But we can connect the water ourselves at no cost to you. They wouldn’t let us do it? Why? As Mr. McColm said, why? There’s no explanation for it.
Electric, the same thing. We’ll see, we’re working on it. Yet at the same time we’re not allowed to buy fuel from Iraq. We have to go outside the country to buy fuel and the costs are outrageously high. They’re depleting resources. Why? Is there any reason for that? Is there anything you can think of that the government of Iraq benefits from that other than just being mean and cruel and harassing and doing the bidding of Tehran.
Shade, something as simple and basic to human beings. You heard Mr. McColm talk about 120-degree temperatures. They originally agreed to allow the mesh to be brought in the camp. The residents purchased the mesh, it came to the front door of the camp, it was turned away and the residents couldn’t get their money back because they already paid it. It wasn’t the contractor’s fault. It was turned away and there is no shade in 120-degree temperatures.
There are 300 air conditioners, working air conditioners at Ashraf. The residents wanted to bring them over. The air conditioners that were at Liberty are unfunctional. The Iraqi government had someone come in, they reported they were unfunctional. They wouldn’t let them bring the air conditioners over.
We don’t get enough fuel to gas the few cars that are in Camp Liberty and we’re not allowed to hire an outside contractor to spray against the insects, snakes and the like.
None of these things are important strategically. They’re all to just create pressure on the residents for whatever reason. It’s hard to fathom. Maybe they want a lot of the residents to throw up the hands and say I’ll go back to Iran. I don’t want to go back. If we have to live here the next two or three years, maybe we’ll just go. And that would suit the purposes of the regime and Tehran for whatever reason.
So I think it is time without a shadow of a doubt for us to draw the line in the sand. For us to tell the United States Government and tell the U.N. No more coddling the government of Iraq. It’s time for us not to be wussies. It’s time for us to stand up and do what’s right. Ensure there are humanitarian conditions every way, shape or form; shade, water, air conditioning. The basic things that are necessary to survive.
It’s time for us to insist that the government of Iraq lives up to the MOU that the Memorandum of Understanding that they signed voluntarily and willingly they signed it.
It is time for the U. N. to declare Camp Liberty a refugee camp, not a temporary transit location but a refugee camp. It’s a joke to call it a temporary transfer location.
How many months have some residents been there?It’s not five months and there hasn’t been one person allowed to immigrate yet, not one. There hasn’t been one person processed. We’re looking at, if things got speeded up immediately, we’re looking at a two to three-year process. That’s not a temporary transit location. That’s a refugee camp.
But if the U. N. categorizes it as a refugee camp, certain rights would adhere to the residents to the camp that for some reason the U. N. doesn’t want to give them because they’re afraid for some reason of the government of Iraq.
We need to de-list and as Mr. McColm said it’s up to us up here. It’s up to all of you U. S. citizens as loud and clear say, all right, we have done what you asked us to do, now de-list. De-list so we can speed up the process of getting countries to accept our residents.
MR. RENDELL:It is time to speed up the process. Ambassador Fried told us last week in the phone call that the U. S. is going to begin processing people in June. Now, again, we have heard it before. You’ve heard it before. France, England, where are the nations of the world?
I’m sick and tired, no offense, but reading all of these letters from European members of parliament, et cetera, about what’s going on, having all of us up here decrying what’s going on. We need action and the only way to get action is for the United States Government to tell the Republic of Iraq no more -- try to put this in a way that I can for public usage -- no more.
MR. RENDELL:I’m trying, all the words in my head -- no more pussy footing around. Best I can do. It’s time to live up to your agreement. It’s time to stop being gratuitously mean and cruel and petty. It’s time to let the people live in humanitarian conditions. They’ve done everything you’ve asked them to do. Paris has done everything. The residents have done everything. It’s time for basic fairness.
I grew up believing that the United States and the United Nations were the basic and final enforcer of basic fairness. The enforcer of what was right and fair and honest. To give people the basic rights they’re entitled to.
I want to pledge to you this:We have been harassed, most of us ourselves, but as we said when these subpoenas first came out we’re not going to stop. This is way beyond what it started out to be.
It was a humanitarian effort on all of our parts in the beginning and we are going to see it through. I can only wish that we did something, myself individually, all of us cumulatively, the people here today and aren’t here today, they’re warranted that type of applause. We have tried and we will continue to try and we will be relentless and we will stand up and we will be heard but we have to succeed in the name of Ashraf.