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Robert Torricelli: We have to win this before a lot of innocent people (in Camp Ashraf) are hurt

NCRI – A bi-partisan panel of members of U.S. Congress and senior former public officials and national security experts entitled “U.S. Policy, Iran and Camp Ashraf: The panel, held at the U.S. House of Representatives  to make it the policy of the United States to “prevent the forcible relocation of Camp Ashraf residents inside Iraq and facilitate the robust presence of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq in Camp Ashraf.”

The House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL); Rep. Bob Filner, (D-CA), Co-Chair, Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus; Representatives “Judge” Ted Poe (R-TX); Judy Chu (D-CA); Dan Lungren (R-CA); Trent Franks (R-AZ); Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX); and Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) were joined by John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Andrew Card, former White House Chief of Staff; Michael Mukasey, former Attorney General of the United States; John Sano, former Deputy Director of CIA for National Clandestine Service; Robert Torricelli, former United States Senator; and Professor Steven Schneebaum, Counsel for U.S. families of Camp Ashraf Residents.

Below is an excerpt of the speech by Hon.Robert Torricelli. Mr.Torricelli served 14 years in the U.S. House of Representatives before being elected to the Senate from the state of New Jersey. In 2000, he also headed the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. 

Thank you very much.  Thank you very much.  I don’t know in my life I’ve ever been duped to turn over the microphone to anyone else so quickly, but if ever I were going to do it this would be the moment.

From almost the day she arrived in the House of Representatives as a new member of Congress from Florida Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was a fighter. She also was a friend.  She was always going to be someone who was going to take principal stands.

Somewhere in these next few months the lives of thousands of people will be decided, whether they live or they die, and a great policy will be decided whether we stand up to Iran or we are subjugated to their desires.  In that debate we could have no better fighter, no better leader than the Chairwomen of the House of Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana.

Thank you.  Some of you have may have experienced many movements in the Congress before and been part of many coalitions.  Through my many years in Washington I have been part of more than a few.  But the truth is, I’ve actually never witnessed anything like I’ve seen in recent months.

This is a partisan town.  There are deep philosophical divides, but somehow over the course of the last year an extraordinary coalition has formed in support of the residents of Camp Ashraf, indeed in support of the MEK delisting from the foreign terrorist list and for dealing realistically with Iran.

Now, I don’t mean a few desperate members of the House and Senate coming together on a letterhead.  I’m talking about two former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States, a former CIA director, FBI director, some of the most distinguished names in American foreign policy, democrats, republicans, liberals, some conservatives, an extraordinary combination of people.  Today you’re going to receive some exposure to this coalition.

First is my pleasure to introduce to you former secretary of transportation, the former chief of staff to President Bush, one of the most reasoned gentleman to serve in the United States government in recent years who has lent his name and his prestige and his powerful voice to this cause, Andrew Card.

Thank you very much.  I promised you a broad coalition.  In the 30 years I’ve been in this town there may have been issue with John Bolton and I stood on the same side, fought for the same team, I don’t know what it was.  It took the mullahs to bring us together, but while we may often not agreed on many issues in the past, John Bolton has been a distinguished and a strong voice for the things in which he believes. He represented the United States in the United Nations as our permanent representative. He served as assistant secretary for arms control and international security and is now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. We’re very proud to have his strong voice here today.  John Bolton.

Thank you, John, very much.  We are going to hear from members of Congress as they arrive through the course of their days and I’m very proud now to introduce a member of the House who’s been here so long he was in here when I was here, which means he just about laid the cornerstone on the capital. He’s a member of the committee on Homeland Security and on House Administration from the third district in California Dan Lungren.

With this next introduction I’m going to double the number of republican members of the House that I’ve introduced and praised through the last 30 years.

I am very proud to introduce another friend of the community who has been one of the those strong voices that we’ve counted upon and in the next few months we’re going to count upon even more, and that is the Republican Congressman from Arizona, Trent Franks.

I suggested to you earlier that this was a broad coalition of left and right and democrat and republican.  Indeed in this town there is another component of any coalition, and that is the professional government itself.

Those who do not have partisanship, but just have a commitment to public service.  And sometimes when I read in the press about the debate about the MEK or Camp Ashraf I wonder why are those reading the stories rather than engaging in the debate of speculation not quoting those who actually know.

I’m very proud now to introduce and I want you to listen carefully to these credentials. John Sano has 28 years in the CIA and was appointed to the National Clandestine Services, formally director of operations.  He came to his position after he served as the chief of East Asian Division of Director of Operations.  As Deputy Director Mr. Sano chaired the NCS’s senior leadership team and oversaw the day-to-day management of clandestine service.

In addition he was an active member of CIA executive management team and regularly briefed senior administration and Congressional officials on matters of national security and covert operations.  He also previously served as a chief of station in two foreign and one domestic location.

You could discount the partisanship of some of us who may have motivations which I believe are over the national interest, but today and in the weeks that have a passed you will hear again and again the most distinguished names in American national security and diplomacy and military affairs who have a remarkably similar view about the MEK, the mullahs and their regime, Camp Ashraf and the delisting for the foreign terrorist organization.

I’m proud now to present another one of those distinguished voices.  Welcome.

Thank you very much.  Although we’ve had many strong voices in the Congress speak up for people of Camp Ashraf, and in fairness to the MEK and delisting I think every one on both sides of the aisle have to agree that the one person who has been there from the beginning, has been there consistently, has never let us down time and time again, that is Congressman Bob Filner democrat from California and a co-chair of our caucus.

Thank you very much.  Let’s stay with the California delegation which is disproportionately.  It’s my pleasure to introduce to you a member of the judiciary committee subcommittee on terrorism Congresswoman Judy Chu.

I don’t know actually whether Congressman Sheila Jackson or Congressman Rob was here first, but I’ll go with gender.  So if it’s only to say we finally got back to the class of people that were actually here when I was here. It’s a pleasure to see you again and to welcome you.

Mr. Bartlett, you are a gentleman and a scholar.  Thank you for being with us.

You know, if you go to West Point the general is a fellow who has stars on his shoulders, and you salute him.  If you go to law school and general is a fellow who is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States.

It has given me enormous pleasure in some of our conversations with the State Department when young lawyers talk about the foreign terrorist designation to give their views, such as they maybe, to turn to them and say, well, let me tell you what Judge, Attorney General Mukasey has to say on this subject because there is not a more distinguished voice in the country on these matters.

As a federal judge he presided over the trial of the World Trade Center bombing.  He then became an 81st Attorney General for the United States.  One of the strongest, most outspoken, most distinguished voices in this cause.  General.

Thank you for your remarks and for your commitment to this fight.  I have been very proud in our presentations to the State Department to have a co-counsel who as 25 years of experience in international litigation and arbitration and settlement of dispute. Steven is our last speaker today before you close this program, and there’s probably no one more knowledge in the country of Camp Ashraf or the designation of a foreign terrorist organization who has served longer in this cause.

Steven Schneebaum is a lecturer of international human rights law at Johns Hopkins.  He has served as counsel for the U.S. families of Camp Ashraf.  He’s traveled to Camp Ashraf on two occasions, recently as August 2008.

I’m very proud to introduce you to our co-counsel who has led the fight on this issue of foreign terrorist designation and standing up for residents of Camp Ashraf Steven.

I want to thank you all for being here today, your time and your commitment and to every member of the panel.

It is a basic of public speaking and debate that one never repeats an allegation that is baseless because it gives it foundation, and I’ve stated that most of my life, but the case that has just been made to you is so important.

There is a legitimate debate.  We can debate the issue of the PMOI, the future of Camp Ashraf, and American relations with Iran; but I don’t know anything that speaks more to the problem of legitimate discourse in American public policy then the repeating of the these hollow charges and empty lies about the MEK as witnessed by Saturday’s story in the New York Times.

I’ll be brief.  But it has to be said.  If you have something to say about why the MEK should not be delisted, if there is a case for not protecting the people of Camp Ashraf where they are located, if there’s a case to be made against the MEK on some basis, in the interest of the United States, let’s hear it.

I’m sympathetic to the MEK, but I’m from the United States every day of the week.  If this is not an American interest make the case, but to repeat these ridiculous allegations, the MEK is not a Marxist organization.  It simply is not.  You can say it.  You can keep writing it.  You can repeating it all day long, but it is not Marxist.

Ms. Rajavi in her speech in Rome laid out the platform and the charter of the organization.  It believes in free enterprise and human rights denuclearization, peaceful relations in its neighborhood, a democratic multi-party system.

You may not want to hear it, but with the lack of any other evidence just denying it may be your case, but it makes you look more ridiculous than right.

To charge the MEK with being Marxist because in 1970 some people came to leadership who had Marxist tendencies is like claiming the democratic party remains segregationist because of George Wallace.  That was then, this is now.  It’s an organization that wants a democratic future for Iran, period.

Second, to deny that there is no evidence of terrorist activity for many years and within the statutory period is to belie the facts. Now, you can say otherwise, but in recent months I have heard the director of the FBI, the director of the CIA, the director of anti-terrorism operations, the attorney general of the United States, I’ve heard the most high-ranking officials in the democratic and republican administrations to say otherwise.  If you have evidence that they’re wrong, what an extraordinary coincidence that everyone in both parties for the last 15 years is wrong; but if you have evidence it’s time to come forward with it, but aren’t you just tired of reading in the newspapers the same empty charges and nonsense again and again and again.  Talk about an admission of nothing to say.

Now, finally I want to leave you with this.  Some things are so simple.  What is it the people of Camp Ashraf want?  What are our demands? You know what, they want to live.  They’ve been attacked twice.  People are losing their lives.  And if the problem is not solved there’s a very real chance by the end of this year many more are going to lose their lives because policy is being dictated from Tehran, not Washington, and not Baghdad.  It is a real problem.

But have we learned nothing in diplomacy.  Seeing to the demands of the mullahs in Tehran accomplishes nothing.  Of course, they want the camp badly.  Of course they want people to move. Of course they want the MEK disbanded.  I understand that, but does anyone believe if you give them those things, if everyone in Ashraf has moved, if another hundred people are killed, if your organization is disbanded, if there was no opposition to the mullahs anywhere on this earth, does anyone believe what’s the last Iranian demand.

Do we accomplish anything by seeing to it other than encouraging more outrageous demands and an compromise the rights of yet other people’s.

There are many things that make me proud about the United States, but nothing more than the unique willingness of the United States government to stand with the small against the large, the weak against the strong, the poor against the rich.  We have an enormously rich tradition of doing that.

I understand the power of Iran.  It’s developing nuclear weapons.  It has oil.  It has money.  It holds some of our citizens against all international law.  I understand their leverage, but I also remember that tradition and the lessons we have learned about ever receding the tides.

I’m enormously pleased that you’re all here today.  It is very rare in your life that you can be involved in a cause and fighting for something that literally means someone’s life.

There are many good causes you can help, many things that you can advance; but rarely are you involved in something where someone’s life is in your hands.  But people at Camp Ashraf, they’re in your hands.  Everyone here that works for a member of Congress or knows a member of Congress, everyone is capable of writing to the State Department, being heard talking to a journalist, correcting a record, I urge you to do so because time is late.

I wish we had time to figure out what motivates Ambassador Butler, but frankly it is beside me, I don’t know.  I don’t know why journalists write these stories without researching the facts, but there isn’t time to figure that out either.  We have to win this before a lot of innocent people are hurt.  And for that we’re all grateful as you are here and the members of our panel that have lent their credibility and their knowledge and their voices.

Thank you all very, very much.