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Governor Tom Ridge: The State Department has told us they are not in Iraq, it is a convenient cover up

Governor Tom Ridge: The State Department has told us they are not in Iraq, it is a convenient cover up

Governor Tom Ridge: The State Department has told us they are not in Iraq, it is a convenient cover up

As I looked across the audience, I ask your indulgence to let me take a walk down memory lane to try to put everything that has been said together in a context, so that when we leave this room, everybody is going to know there has been a call to action that we united with the knowledge that we need to get some things done. But before I do that, I want to just ask you to think in your head and your own heart, how important is your word? How important is your personal credibility? When you say something to someone, do you mean it? When you make a promise, do you keep it? 

The court of the realm, I think, in the world with which I was privileged with many meetings in this beautiful room, the court of the realm in personal relationships I think is honesty. The court of the realm in politics is that if you say something you mean it; now I can speak from years of experience as a proud republican, but occasionally I told my leadership no; and when I said no I meant no; and when I said yes I meant yes. So just keep that thought in your own head and your own heart. For you as a person, as an individual, as a family member, or someone involved in the political process, how important is it to keep your promises? 

Two other thoughts. The number one terrorist state in the world is Iran. The number one terrorist state in the world is Iran. They are the epicenter of every chaotic moment and event in the Middle East; they are supporting Assad in Syria; they have disproportionate influence in Iraq, by the way the Iraq with which American taxpayers parted with trillions of dollars and a couple thousand men and women die there, and thousands more injured, some of them permanently; and they support Hezbollah, who are not only the armed forces supporting Assad in Syria, but responsible for a lot of the unrest and challenges in the Middle East, that’s a second problem. 

And the third is Iraq, we are more weary in this country, the historians debate, but the fact of the matter is trillions of dollars, and more importantly lives and blood, most important treasure that a country can sacrifice is its men and women in support of a goal to bring freedom and democracy, at least some form of self-government, to another part of the world.

We’ve done that for 200 years and we’ll keep doing it; but keep those three thoughts in mind, particularly I must say, how important is it to you, personally and politically, to keep your word. Take a trip down memory lane with me, just briefly. 

As the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, every day I wake up and come down the steps and go to the White House and get a briefing book, sometimes we called it a threat matrix. Some days it would be a couple pages and some days it would be a couple dozen pages; it would be all the threats gathered over the past 24 hours that the intelligence community was willing to share with me, listed threats against Americans or American interests here or abroad, terrorist threats. 

I will tell you, in my entire time in the White House and as Secretary of Homeland Security, not once, not once, not once did I see the MeK listed as responsible for a potential threat to the United States of America; now by the way they were put on the foreign terrorist organization list in 1997 as Ambassador Bolton and other people have said in order to mollify the mullah’s; to try and show them it’s a matter of goodwill. 

Why did we do that? Because for the past, ironically the reason Saddam Hussein let them build Camp Ashraf was because the mullahs detested them, hated them and feared them; and by the way, under Ahmadinejad and Rouhani, who is now executing people at a faster rate (and he’s a moderate) than Ahmadinejad, they’ve killed about 30,000 members of the MeK. 

I’ve proudly served this country in many different ways, and by the way it may become important for you to know that one time I was a soldier. So I lead the administration from the diaspora of Iranian democrats, the dissidents around the world, the leadership approaches, and said would you help.

Governor Tom Ridge: The State Department has told us they are not in Iraq, it is a convenient cover up 

We have a group who we believe is improperly listed as foreign terrorist organization, by the way, you don’t have to be a lawyer, go check it out, foreign terrorist organization, take a look at the prerequisites to be on it. If you did a little history check, you find that they probably never should have been on it, but if you’re looking at it carefully it should never have been sustained, until last year; and you don’t have to be a lawyer to draw those conclusions. 

The law and the facts are pretty straightforward, but they aren’t; and the goal of all their friends and family and relatives, frankly the friends and family of a lot of people who got killed here a couple of months ago, you ought to meet some of their sons and daughters and talk to them and ask if their father was a terrorist.

I’ve got a load of credibility, I used to be Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, do I want to be supporting an organization that I think is a terrorist organization whose ultimate goal is to do harm to the United States? I think the answer is, you know, it is not my goal, and it is not something I want to be associated with. 

We start having conversations and I join an incredible group of men and women, republican and democratic, military, diplomatic, you have no idea of the powerful picture it would be if you saw the assembled people, because we aren’t R’s and D’s on the issue, we are Americans on this issue. 

This rises above partisanship in every manner, shape, or form, it rises above partisanship; I suspect we’ve got R’s and D’s in the audience and that’s good because this is not a political issue, it’s an American issue, and I’ll tell you why I think it’s an American issue; because around 2004, once we’ve gone into Iraq, Maliki said to us you’ve got 3,500 people at Camp Ashraf, by the way they were a militia, they were armed, by the way they are a very sophisticated group; they have engineers there, teachers there, people with medical professions there, they are also patriots. 

Men who have fought and are willing to fight, and they had arms. They could defend themselves and Maliki said we’ve got this dissident group, they’re Iranian dissidents, and we need to disarm them. 

So we went in and said here’s the exchange, you give us your ability to defend yourself, and we will guarantee you protection as ‘protected persons’ under the 4th Geneva Conventions. There was no hesitation, they trusted America. Why did they trust America? Because we gave them our word that if they surrendered their own means of self-defense that we would provide that means of self-defense for them. How important is your word to you, to your family, to this process, and now I ask you, to this country? 

We take their arms, no incidents when we were in charge of security. Fast forward a couple of years, we have the status of forces agreement in Iraq. We turned the responsibility over to Iraq, to provide for the safety and security of 3,000+ people who were protected persons under the 4th Geneva Conventions and Maliki’s government signs it. His word. 

When you get back to the office, Google: Ashraf April 2011. Have a strong stomach, because you’ll see Humvees that we provided, and troops that we trained, enter Camp Ashraf and very meticulously mow down people like its target practice, remember they have no way of defending themselves. It’s not a republican issue it’s not a democrat issue, it’s a humanitarian issue, and more importantly our word, our credibility has been shaken, our word has been broken. Today, as of today, since April of 2011 nothing has gone on; nobody has brought the justice, everybody has kind of washed their hands of it. 

You know, in Asian culture, there is a temple above Japan with three wise monkey’s, you’ve probably seen the statues of them, right? I hear no evil, I see no evil, and I speak no evil. Well, as of the date of April 2011 there was no evil, according to our State Department. 

Fast forward a little bit further, they are still on the blacklist, finally this groups says, I don’t mean to bore you with all these details but I think it’s important for todays, finally we convinced the group file a suit against the State Department, they have to show why you should remain on the FTO list. 

Secretary of State Clinton, we’ll give her credit for taking them off the list, but she took them off the list the Friday afternoon, preceding the Monday that the circuit courts were going to take them off the list.

To get them off the list, she said to us, and we prevailed on the leadership, to move 3000 people from Ashraf to Liberty, because once again we said you make this move, we’ll take you off the list, and we’ll provide for your safety and security and make sure the Iraqis do it as well. 

The UN said it, our State Department said it, and nothing happened in the State Department unless they get the word and the direction from the White House. We moved, and there have been several incursions there, and you saw what happened in September of this year. How important to you, to your family, to this process, to this country, is keeping the word? 

So where are we today? All the preceding speakers have said very appropriately, Liberty and Ashraf have nothing to do with nuclear negotiations. I could argue, if you want to send a signal to Iran that we’re serious, we would do something very decisive with minister Maliki, because they are apples and oranges ladies and gentlemen, but the notion somehow, if we keep these people subjective to a repressive regime in an unsafe condition, many people call them concentration camps, somehow that means that the Iranians are going to be willing to make whatever arrangements or compromises that we need as a country, frankly the world needs them.

I hope Congressman Sherman prevails, a bad deal is better than no deal, well I’m afraid this administration is going to sign a bad deal just to get out of there, but we’ll let the administration decide that, I’m not here to negotiate the nuclear side of things, I just want to talk about the people. 

There are 42 of them that have left from Ashraf, the others were killed, and some handcuffed, some on the gurneys and seeking medical care. How important is your word? How important is America’s credibility? 

Two final observations I’d like to share with you. It is inconceivable to anyone who has observed what was going on in Camp Ashraf, and now at Liberty, the United States of America’s State Department, to include Maliki’s government, is not responsible for what transpired. There is no reason you should know this, but you couldn’t get in and out of Ashraf and you can’t get in and out of Liberty unless you go by multiple, prepositioned troops of the Iraqi government. The world knows that Maliki was responsible, but the State Department is in denial. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. 

Let’s talk about the hostages. The State Department has told us they are not in Iraq, it is a convenient cover up if you don’t think their responsible for the encouraging, you certainly don’t want to claim that they’ve got the hostages do you? 

But amnesty international has said, as some of the previous speakers who have spoken have said, that’s where they are; and so you say to the State Department, well if they’re not there where are they? Who took them? Have you inquired of the 42 survivors what transpired in Ashraf? It’s an endless list of, frankly, misleading, disingenuous, pro-Iraqi for whatever reason, assurances that they had nothing to do with it, and the whole world knows we’re wrong, which tarnishes our credibility, in my judgment, even further.

Let’s not forget that 6 of the 7 are women, not that it makes any difference, but the fact is Maliki’s troops are responsible and have been involved for all 5 attacks, they know exactly where these people are, and yet, we claim that there is no reason to blame the Maliki government. 

So I join in with previous speakers, no aid, no support, nothing; and we can blame the UNHCR, and the UN’s got a lot of blame, Maliki has a lot of blame on his shoulders, all those crimes against humanity as far as I’m concerned; but the end of the day, there is one primary reason that there have been five attack, multiple deaths, hundreds of injuries, there is only one reason that the people protected under the 4th Geneva Conventions have not been provided with the safety and security that they deserved. 

There is one reason that these men and women have not had the opportunity to be relocated out of Iraq, and then resettlement, frankly, the United States has to look at itself in the mirror, there is a lot of blame to go around, but at the end of the day we gave our word. 

It’s not a partisan issue ladies and gentlemen, Maliki’s government is responsible and we look the other way; Maliki’s government is responsible for the attack in September, we look the other way; Maliki is responsible for the detention and probably torture of these seven hostages, and we look the other way. 

I go back to the question that I offered at the onset, how important is it to you, as an American citizen I don’t care how you register, it’s immaterial. When your country has given its word to a group of people who have surrendered their ability to protect themselves, is it important for us to keep it or not? 

You don’t have to know about the MeK, you don’t have to know about the FTO list, you don’t have to know about anything; but at some point in their lives, these men and women, and they've been preceded by dozens of others, were told by the United States of America, we’ll protect you. 

For me as an American, when we give our word, we have to keep it. 

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Iraqi forces attack Camp Ashraf