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General David Phillips – What Part of the Term Protected Person don’t the Iraqis Understand?

Washington DC – February 3, 2012 – US Congress conference – Uphold Justice enable peaceful resettlement of Camp Ashraf  residents

Distinguished leaders of our country, colleagues and most importantly the family and friends of the 3400 residents of the Iranian Resistance at Camp Ashraf, I am honored to be here today.  I was an active duty Soldier for over three decades.

In 2003, I deployed my MP brigade to Iraq and was responsible for many missions; the rebuilding of the Iraqi Police, the detention of the senior leaders of the former regime and for the safety and security of the Mujahedin-e Khalq, the MeK, a group listed as a foreign terrorist organization by this country.  We consolidated the members of the MeK from locations all across Iraq to Camp Ashraf, a 36 square kilometer facility in the desert of Northern Diyala province.

I was also there when they voluntarily disarmed and turned over all of their weapons in return for the protection of the US Forces.  I was in charge of the identification of all members of the MeK as they were literally individually identified by some of the most advanced methods available today, DNA, Retinal Scans, fingerprints, photographs.  After their identification, I was personally disappointed, because I was proud as an American to be in charge of detaining over 3000 terrorists.  The reason I was disappointed was because of after a thorough individual background investigation, the FBI, the Army investigators, Interpol and many others produced no evidence of wrongdoing, no evidence of criminal acts and absolutely no evidence of terrorism buy these people.  I wanted to find some reason to rationalize their treatment, their detention, loss of freedom of movement at the hands of my forces.  Unfortunately, there was nothing.  To this date, I have yet to learn of any credible allegation of wrong doing by these people, those 3400 residents of Camp Ashraf.

I’ve spent this week on Capitol Hill talking with Senators, Congressmen and their professional staff.  My intent was not strategic, but tactical.  I didn’t make policies; I enforced them as a Soldier of the United States.  There were several issues raised repetitively in those meetings that require clarification, that is clarification from someone like myself who has lived at Camp Ashraf, investigated the allegations against those at Camp Ashraf and knows the people of Camp Ashraf.  I didn’t read or get my information second and third hand.  I lived it.  I experienced it.  I know it.

First; I was asked about people being held against their will at Camp Ashraf.  Not true.  We removed every resident of Camp Ashraf to a neutral location and asked if they wanted to leave the MeK.  Some did, most did not.  Also, there was a continual small flow of 3 or 3 residents of Camp Ashraf each week who wanted to quit the organization.  It was the MeK who drove them to the gates of our operating base and dropped them off, with their personal belongings and some Iraqi dinar.  I know of no one, nor did I ever find anyone who was being held against their will.

Another issue raised this week here on Capitol Hill was the supposed hidden weapons on Camp Ashraf.  Not true.  Again my forces searched every inch of that camp, all 36 square kilometers and never found any weapons, other than personal bayonets.  I let them keep the bayonets.

Supposedly there was torture of the residents at Camp Ashraf by other residents.  Again, NOT TRUE.  I raided their billets area at all hours, day, night, and never discovered any torture, any evidence of torture, weapons or people confined or being held against their will.  And please know, I tried to find evidence of wrongdoing by these people.  I wanted to find some evidence as to why we were detaining them in the middle of the desert.

There were congressmen and staffers who said they heard that the families of those at Camp Ashraf were denied access to even speak with their loved ones, let alone see them.  Again, that isn’t TRUE.  We had a daily lineup of family members who came from Iran and other locations each day waiting to see their loved.  We searched them, signed them into the camp and they spent as long as they wanted with the residents, some stayed for weeks.

Now one of the most surprising pieces of misinformation I heard here on Capital Hill about the residents of Camp Ashraf.  It was said that they will be better off at Camp Liberty because they will finally have cell phone and internet capability with the outside world.  You’ve got to be kidding.    They have cell phones, internet, television and radios at Cap Ashraf.  One of the staff members was surprised with my revelation.  I asked if they would like me to call Camp Ashraf from my cell phone, right here and now.  I told the staffer that I could have any leader of Camp Ashraf on the phone within minutes and a junior member probably within 15 minutes, of I offered, would you like to chat with them on Facebook?  My daughter does.  I also stated that I received an email update direct from Camp Ashraf on my I-phone only moments before entering the meeting.  To say the staff member was stunned was an understatement.

Finally, the other piece of misinformation permeating on Capital Hill was that the MeK were a cult.  I have lived with them and I have also been part  of the Waco investigation into the branch davidians.  I know cult personalities and have experienced the results of cult activities at Waco, Texas.  The MeK are not a cult and Madam Maryam Rajavi isn’t a cult leader.  She is a caring and compassionate woman whose own daughter is suffering the horrible treatment inflicted upon the Camp Ashraf residents by their Iraqi protectors.  My wife is an Army wife of over 30 years and can spot a predator personality and fraud, Dawna is Maryam A cult leader…

No, she is not.  I have met her many times, I know her. She is a woman who is trying very hard to save the lives of 3400 people, including that of her own daughter.

The MeK of Camp Ashraf are dedicated believers in gender equality, I witnessed it first-hand.  The espouse freedom and democracy and of well over three decades knows.  If that makes you a cult, well then most Americans probably belong to the same group.

Years ago, early on in their captivity at our hands, I brought the message back to Madam Parsai, Commander Zhoreh, Mr. Davari, Mr Bhariee and the other senior leaders of the MeK.  I informed them that they were now classified as Protected Person’s under the 4th Geneva Convention and I was charged with their safety and security; a mission which to this day I take very seriously.  Yes, I feel morally responsible for their safety and security because I believed what we said as a nation; we promised them protection and have left them to be slaughtered.

What part of the term protected person don’t the Iraqis understand?

They trusted us when we gave them a promise and assurance of safety and security back in 2004; let’s show them that the United States stands by its word.

BG(Ret) David Phillips