Casting a slur on Fellow Americans who speak up for Tehran's victims
Blaming the victim has been the strategy of oppressors as far back as anyone can remember. Now, in the ongoing struggle to protect the 3,400 Iranian dissidents trapped in Iraq, the strategy has taken an even more perverse turn - to blame those who would help the victims. This is a strategy being pursued, not just by the oppressors, but by "double agents" within the State Department.
A little background: A quarter of a century ago the Iranian dissidents, after they fled the ayatollahs who turned Iran into a theocracy, built Camp Ashraf, inside Iraq, and since then have lived there in peace. They are members of the People's Mujahedin of Iran/Mujahedeen e-Khalq (PMOI/MEK), the leading opposition group to Iran's terrorist regime.
In 2003, after the US-led coalition deposed Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Camp Ashraf residents agreed to disarm and underwent screening by the U.S. agencies, which cleared every single resident. They then accepted the status of protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention and continued to live peacefully in Ashraf - a self-contained community with shops, schools, hospitals, amusements, etc. - just like any small city anywhere.
However, by 2011, when the US Forces withdrew from Iraq, they left responsibility for safeguarding Ashraf vested in the Nouri al-Maliki government. But by then the new Iraqi Administration was little more than a puppet of Iran's mullahs and Maliki, almost immediately, sought to simply drive the dissidents out of Ashraf.
With nowhere to go, other than to be scattered across Iraq or to return to Iran, where they faced death or imprisonment, the Ashraf residents appealed to the free world and the UN. Twice, Maliki's armed forces attacked - killing around 38 defenceless men, women and children and wounding hundreds. Maliki then set a 31 December, 2011 deadline for them to leave Ashraf.
The US and the UN did succeed in brokering a deal that would have them moved to a former U.S. Army base near Baghdad, called Camp Liberty, where they were then to be screened by the UN refugee agency as part of preparation to relocate them in third countries. One immediate obstacle to any smooth relocation was, of course, the State Department's persistence in listing the PMOI/MEK as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The origin of this dated back to the 1990s - a failed gesture to appease Tehran's rulers but it had since been removed from the UK and EU lists and had won a US District Court order to the State Department to "show cause why their listing hadn't been reversed".
In the meantime the "new" Camp Liberty was turned into a virtual prison, with degrading and dehumanising conditions. The first 400 residents who had agreed to go there had no running water, overflowing sewage, and Iraqi armed forces in their midst. Still, in a demonstration of good faith, another 400 agreed to move last week, sharing the already overcrowded quarters that have turned out to be a virtual "concentration camp".
Yet, in spite of this, it is the victims, not the oppressors, who are being blamed for any and all problems. Unbelievably, the most recent injustice came at the hands of a supposedly fair-minded journalist named Josh Rogin and was based on (mis)information from a source(s) within State Department, no less.
Rogin: "Two ... attempts by the Iraqi government to enter the camp (Ashraf) resulted in bloody confrontations." Truth: The Iraqis didn't "attempt" to enter the camp; they stormed it with US -made Humvees, guns and batons. The only blood was that of the totally unarmed residents!
Rogin: "... the UN and the State Department's efforts have been made exponentially more difficult due to the MEK's surprisingly strong base of support in Washington. Retired U.S. officials and politicians ... have mounted a sophisticated media campaign accusing the U.N. and the U.S. government of forcing the group to live in subhuman conditions against its will at Camp Liberty, an accusation US officials say is as inaccurate as it is unhelpful."
It would be interesting to know who these faceless officials are, but we probably never will. On the other hand, we do know the names of the congressmen and women, diplomats, generals, White House advisors, and respected human rights activists and others who support the Iranian dissidents - because they're proud to stand openly for freedom and justice.
And to cap it all Rogin quotes a US official as saying, "The Americans who ought to know better and claim to be on the side of good solutions are really damaging it. Either they are too lazy or too arrogant to actually do their homework. They don't spend the time to learn facts, they just pop off. We have a plan that has a chance to work and the Iraqis want it to work."
Sorry "Official" - I know quite a few of your "lazy and arrogant" folk - some of them are the very people who faithfully served their country in Iraq (and elsewhere); who faced and endured suffering while you grew 'bureaucratically fat' sitting behind your desk. I've served with people like these and I know their worth and trust their word. They support the MEK because they have seen evidence at first hand - more so than any of Rogin's "sources".
The MEK/PMOI has shown good faith given the great risk to those who have gone to Camp Liberty. It's time for the US to back up its pledge to reconsider the FTO listing. It's also time for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to find out who, among her advisors, seems to have a separate agenda that smacks of treachery.