The events of the decade since Sept. 11 accentuate the reality that fighting terrorism and defending the security and welfare of the civilized world is the responsibility of every citizen, especially those in public service. But when the purported combat against terrorism turns into a witch hunt, with tactics like using slurs, mudslinging and disseminating unsubstantiated claims, that is the time to sound the alarm and to stand in defense of the institutions and values that distinguish democracies from the rest of the world.
Unfortunately, these tactics have been employed by some at the U.S. State Department in dealing with the most organized and arch-opponents of the clerical regime ruling Iran; namely, the members of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
What makes the attitude of the State Department officials even more striking is that in recent days they have gone into a higher gear and are using the same tactics vis-a-vis the American dignitaries and former senior national security, foreign policy and intelligence officials and military commanders who believe in the U.S. principles and defend the rights of Iranian dissidents.
The saga of Iranian dissidents extends back to 1997, when the Clinton administration – futilely reaching out to illusionary moderates in the Iranian regime – placed the PMOI/MEK on the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO). However, the current situation goes back to the end of last year.
After two Tehran-inspired massacres by the Iraqi armed forces at Camp Ashraf, where 3,400 PMOI members have been residing in Iraq for the past 25 years, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed to let the dissidents be moved to Camp Liberty, where they could be interviewed by the United Nations refugee agency prior to evacuating them to third countries.
Even though there were great misgivings, Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Committee of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which includes the PMOI/MEK, persuaded 400 Ashraf residents to go to the new facility, but only with assurance of their security by the United Nations and the United States. However, the Iraqis reneged on many of the terms, reducing the size of the camp and adding every obstacle possible to the Ashraf residents.
Finally, on Feb. 18 and March 8, two groups totaling 400 men and women were moved to Camp Liberty. But despite the lip service of the State Department in providing assurances for the welfare and security of the residents, the conditions at Liberty are obscene and inhumane. Iraqi armed guards roam all over the place. The area is surrounded by high walls, there is no freedom of movement and not even running water.
These conditions – and the betrayal to U.S. values that they represent – have invited outrage from an impeccable group consisting of dozens of former senior national security, foreign policy and intelligence officials and military commanders of four administrations, including three chairmen of the Joints of Chief of Staff, two directors of the CIA, an attorney general, the first Homeland Security secretary and a former director of the FBI. They all have reiterated the United States’ written commitment to Ashraf residents and their protection.
But what was the response by the State Department? It produced a salvo of slurs and mudslinging by a faceless anonymous official.
There are not many issues agreed upon by Howard Dean, a former chairman of the Democratic Party, and John R. Bolton, a U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in the George W. Bush administration. But Mr. Dean and Mr. Bolton, as part of a wide-ranging coalition of former U.S. officials, have supported the guarantee of minimum rights of Camp Liberty residents and delisting of the PMOI/MEK, as the consequence of a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. Such an uncommon unity points toward only one conclusion: There must be some merit to the position of these officials.
It is shameful and disgraceful conduct for some at the State Department to slur the most senior U.S. officials in order to continue a defunct, failed policy and in order to appease the tyrants in Baghdad and their masters in Tehran.
As W. Clement Stone said: “Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.” I believe at this crucial time for the people of Ashraf, the United States must pick up the keys and unlock the truth.
This is exactly what these former senior American officials are doing. What do those anonymous officials at Foggy Bottom stand for? The safety and security of 3,400 Iranian dissidents aside, is the valor and prestige of the free world a matter of bargaining?
The answer is a resounding no.
By Lord Clarke of Hampstead, former chairman of Britain’s Labor Party and a prominent member of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom.