Governor Tom Ridge – We Can’t Be Silenced
Governor Tom Ridge - March 24, 2012 Paris - Thank you very much. Thank you very much for that very warm and gracious welcome. I very much appreciate that. First of all, I think it’s very important to say to my friend Rudy Giuliani, I know a little bit about security, Rudy. So if you go I’ll go as your bodyguard; let’s go together, alright? We’ll take Kennedy and Mukasey and Wes Martin with us and frankly, ladies and gentlemen, they’ll need an airbus to take everybody over to Camp Liberty and Camp Ashraf.
You know, ladies and gentlemen, most of my life has been spent in public service. I’ve been honored and privileged to serve my community, my state, and my country in many, many, different ways. I started as an infantry combat soldier in Vietnam and concluded my public service in President Bush’s cabinet as the first secretary of Homeland Security. Had the opportunity to do a lot of extraordinary things and work with some extraordinary people, and under every and all occasion I thought what I was doing was the right thing to do for the cause that I promoted, for the interest that got me engaged in the first place, for the people who I look to support. And in my nearly 30 to 40 years in public service the last thing I ever imagined would happen to me as a citizen of the United States of America would be my own country questioning my motivation, my own country questioning my patriotism, my integrity. It angers me a little, disappoints me a lot, and I guess at the end of the day it just saddens me.
And I’m not going to question the motivation of those who decided to challenge the 60, 70, 80 people who have spoken out in unison collectively, Republicans and Democrats, throughout the United States. I won’t question your motivation. I’m not going to ask why. I’m just going to tell you this. You will not silence us. It can’t be done. If whoever is responsible has a moment of quiet reflection, I suggest that they just take a look at the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights, and particularly take a look at that first amendment. It’s called freedom of speech, the same freedom of speech that the men and women of MEK aspire to under the leadership of Mrs. Rajavi, the same freedom of speech that democratic opposition throughout Iran aspire to. So at the end of the day you may have disappointed, you may have angered and you may have saddened, but at the end of the day we will continue to stand on the right side of history with the people of MEK, the freedom-loving people of MEK at Liberty and Ashraf until they are resettled. And I’d like to think that sometime in the near future all of us will get on the airbus with Rudy, will get on the same airbus and go to Tehran and celebrate victory and freedom and democracy and liberty!!
You know with that wonderful response to that last set of remarks I’m probably doing the most foolish thing but I’m going to share with you—I should probably sit down, but I have a couple other thoughts I’d like to share with you. Because we’re also here today to talk about the international obligation to the residents of Ashraf and Liberty. Now the Western world primarily, but in general the global community has enshrined its commitment to human rights, to social justice, to freedom, to diversity in many, many documents. There’s the UN Charter, there’s the Declaration of Human Rights of the UN, there’s the Geneva Convention; it’s enshrined in the democracies and charters and documents throughout the world. And one wonders the last time that those responsible for the fate of the Ashraf residents looked at those documents and the principles that they embodied.
You know, I have a very difficult time as a soldier looking—and I think my friend Wes Martin is here, who lived with the men and women of Ashraf a long time—have a very difficult time looking at that video. Defenseless people. The reason they were defenseless is because at the request of the United States of America they surrendered all means of self-protection. Defenseless people. Then I look at the Humvees, I look at the machine guns, look at the weapons, conclude that much of the training provided by the United States and I say to myself, if there is anything more shameful and more evil than what I observed in that video and what we know that occurred on two occasions, was the relative silence and indifference of my country.
How we can ignore the reality of those two vicious, brutal, evil attacks with hardly a word? I will tell you that it angers and disappoints and saddens me more than any administrative subpoena questioning my integrity. Because if anything else, and I’m just one of 300 million, if anything else it’s not the credibility of those of us who speak in support of the MEK, it’s the credibility of an entire country that’s at stake here. My country. And so that video, the sights, the sounds, the horror associated with it for me is far, far more important in terms of my commitment and I believe my colleague’s commitment to this cause than any administrative subpoena anybody in the State Department or Treasury Department— perhaps thinking they’re doing the right thing. I’m not going to question the motivation, we’ll end up on the right side of history; I don’t worry about that. I don’t worry about that.
So I’ll try to distill this just into a couple final observations for you. The international obligation, in my judgment, starts with the United Nations, well-intentioned but to date relatively woefully, sorrowfully, ineffective, number one. Number two, making promises they haven’t kept. I’m not willing to say they misrepresented but it sure looks that way to me when you show a picture of one camp in perfectly fine condition and you assert that there were 5,500 American troops living there, it’s just fine, you can move in. It will be a slight downgrade from Camp Ashraf but all the amenities do exist and are there. And then you go and there’s no water, there’s no electricity, the septic is a mess, you got police roaming all over the place. You have not done your job United Nations, and it’s about time you did!
For whatever reason, we let Maliki convince the U.N. that they even had to leave Camp Ashraf is beyond belief in my judgment. Perfectly situated to engage them, do the interviews, and move people out in that process. But whatever reason—and again Mrs. Rajavi, your leadership as challenging as it is, in many conversations with us, we feel partly responsible for that because we said you have to show good faith. We want to assume good faith on the part of the U.N. We want to assume that they want to do the right thing by these men and women so make that first move of 400. A disaster from the time they got on the bus and it took them 24 hours to get there, to the time they arrived and no material change in the conditions. And then they ask, “Let’s move another 400,” and you did, and another 400 and you did. At some point in time the indifference, the fecklessness of the United Nations has to be brought to the attention of the broader global community.
And the only country in my judgment that can do that with the authority is the United States of America. And it’s about time that we lived up to that document, that signed document executed by a United States military official, a general when we said, “We’ll provide for your safety and security.” That hasn’t necessarily been the conclusion that the residents in Camp Ashraf could draw from the time they turned the responsibility of safety and security over to the Maliki government. It’s about time for the United States to step forward, be far, far more aggressive. And I say this again as a soldier with thousands of dead Americans, many of whom died to support and legitimize the Maliki government. Gold star mothers in the United States of America did not see their sons and daughters die to raise a despot, to create a government that ignored the basic human rights and social justice issues at play. The United States’ credibility is at issue. The lives of thousands of Americans are at issue. And I know everybody is being very respectful, and we always will in our country with our president and our secretary of state, but it’s about time they got a lot more aggressive. It’s about time they reminded the Maliki administration why he’s there and how he got there. And who sacrificed in order to get him there.
There’s that wonderful expression I think it’s very appropriate. I don’t know how wonderful it is but it says, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” And the notion that you could try to negotiate with Iran—and apparently that’s been going on since ’97—fifteen years later, one can only conclude was a false notion, an empty promise, certain nothing material and positive has occurred during 15 years. Time for negotiations are over. If you want to send a message, if you want to send a message to Iraq and Iran and if you want to show them how serious we are about a non-nuclear Iran, how serious we are about promoting human rights, social justice, democracy in the region, how serious we are about the rhetoric that we’ve used towards the Arab Spring but we now need it towards the Persian Spring, I’ll give you one simple easy idea. Delist the MEK.
And one of the most wonderful things about this extraordinary document that our founders wrote a couple hundred years ago in the United States of America is that whole principle called separation of powers. The executive branch made a decision to put the MEK on the foreign terrorist organization list but in the next couple of weeks, finally after several years, the judicial branch, separate but equal branch, countervailing, counterbalancing branch of government, I believe will ultimately decide whether these men and women in the organization belongs on that list. We’re not perfect in the United States, an imperfect system designed by men and women. We strive to perfection; that should be our goal every day and I think we will be one step closer to perfection, one step closer to the credibility that we like to promote, one step closer to the idea of America, when our system of laws, our Constitution and due process concludes that at the end of the day that MEK does not belong on that list and they are delisted. And that we go back to the international community whether on the list or not and say, “We have said they are protected under the Geneva Convention, so it’s almost immaterial in terms of how we treat them. As human beings, whether they’re listed or not, they are protected persons.”
Let’s facilitate the resettlement process. Let’s improve the human conditions, the sanitary conditions. Let’s get the police out of Camp Liberty. Let them monitor all traffic in and out but get them out of the way and out of the camp. And at the end of the day, I’m going to say to my colleagues from Europe and around the world, it is a privilege for all of us in the United States to stand in unison with you in support of freedom-loving people, those who aspire to self-government, those who aspire to take the principles of Western democracy, freedom of speech and religion and assembly and enshrine them in a democratic non-nuclear Iran. We are proud to stand with you on the right side of history. Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.