His or her name is “joe” and the signature headline quote above was used in a comment post as we conducted a ‘debate’ about the Siege of Camp Ashraf. “joe” is but one of many whose sole purpose is to blur the line, creating what US jurors call ‘reasonable doubt’ about the Iranian Regime. It is tactically brilliant propaganda: engage, disarm and then attack to make the reporter question his or her own sources and credibility.
Said a prominent NCRI/PMOI organiser in an e-mail (name withheld to protect his family in Iran):
“…as you may have already gathered on the various websites affiliated to the Iranian intelligence ministry – the regime has developed a strong lobby in the leftist media and groups in the US and Europe.
A few years ago the NCRI revealed that the regime embarked on a campaign to demonise the Iranian opposition. In order for its agents not to blow their cover, the regime ordered them to attack itself 80% and attack the PMOI 20%. In this way its agents could pretend that they were neutral and not aligned to the regime.
The whole point of this strategy is to demonise the Iranian opposition PMOI so as to justify the stance of those seeking to appease the regime. The appeasers could then claim that the opponents of the regime are worth than the regime itself, and therefore justify dialogue with the regime.”
With a minimum of seven parties fighting over the future of Iran and Iraq (Iranian regime, Iraqi PM al-Maliki’s government, the UN, the coalition, the US government, MEK and PMOI) plus dozens of activist groups, the stakes in the region are very high.
It was effective last week in having my Siege of Camp Ashraf article censored from the US website truthout.org. But a funny thing happens when thrown under the bus, I simply forget to stay there. When thrown for no reason other than fear because it might get too hot, I jump up and fight back. Political correctness cannot trump human lives. I am not alone in condemning the treatment of those in Camp Ashraf.
Everyone is a Terrorist be Afraid!
The New York Times Op-Ed by David Cole about Michael Mukasey highlights how loosely and dangerously we throw around ‘terrorist’ labels and their impact on those trying to make a difference in that part of the world. He even posits that his entire party were terrorists under US law.
“The problem is that the United States government has labeled the Mujahedeen Khalq a “foreign terrorist organization,” making it a crime to provide it, directly or indirectly, with any material support. And, according to the Justice Department under Mr. Mukasey himself, as well as under the current attorney general, Eric Holder, material support includes not only cash and other tangible aid, but also speech coordinated with a “foreign terrorist organization” for its benefit. It is therefore a felony, the government has argued, to file an amicus brief on behalf of a “terrorist” group, to engage in public advocacy to challenge a group’s “terrorist” designation or even to encourage peaceful avenues for redress of grievances.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe Mr. Mukasey and his compatriots had every right to say what they did. Indeed, I argued just that in the Supreme Court, on behalf of the Los Angeles-based Humanitarian Law Project, which fought for more than a decade in American courts for its right to teach the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Turkey how to bring human rights claims before the United Nations, and to assist them in peace overtures to the Turkish government.
But in June, the Supreme Court ruled against us, stating that all such speech could be prohibited, because it might indirectly support the group’s terrorist activity. Chief Justice John Roberts reasoned that a terrorist group might use human rights advocacy training to file harassing claims, that it might use peacemaking assistance as a cover while re-arming itself, and that such speech could contribute to the group’s “legitimacy,” and thus increase its ability to obtain support elsewhere that could be turned to terrorist ends. Under the court’s decision, former President Jimmy Carter’s election monitoring team could be prosecuted for meeting with and advising Hezbollah during the 2009 Lebanese elections.
The government has similarly argued that providing legitimate humanitarian aid to victims of war or natural disasters is a crime if provided to or coordinated with a group labeled as a “foreign terrorist organization” — even if there is no other way to get the aid to the region in need. Yet The Times recently reported that the Treasury Department, under a provision ostensibly intended for humanitarian aid, was secretly granting licenses to American businesses to sell billions of dollars worth of food and goods to the very countries we have blockaded for their support of terrorism. Some of the “humanitarian aid” exempted? Cigarettes, popcorn and chewing gum.
Under current law, it seems, the right to make profits is more sacrosanct than the right to petition for peace, and the need to placate American businesses more compelling than the need to provide food and shelter to earthquake victims and war refugees.”
Broken Foreign Policy
One would rightfully question our humanity if we simply said ‘the end justifies the means’ and we ‘washed our hands of the lives of 3,400 people’ because Ashraf residents created their own situation and it’s too difficult politically. Oscar Wilde prophetically said, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.’ The UK and EU Governments are able to forgive the past and focus on the current and future humanitarian crisis. Why then is the US and their media not?
The Washington Times’ Brian Brinley on Sunday called for a rebooting of US policy in 2011 towards Iran and rather than timidly playing at the edges, called for the government to formally support regime change:
“The time has come to adopt internal regime change as the U.S. policy on Iran. That is not a call for U.S. military intervention; it is a call to stand at the side of the Iranian people and their organized resistance to bring about democratic change.
Last week (22 December), at an international conference in Paris, dozens of political figures and former high-ranking officials from the United States, Europe and Arab countries, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, former mayor of New York City; Frances Townsend, adviser to President George W. Bush on homeland security and counterterrorism; Michael Mukasey, former attorney general; and Tom Ridge, former homeland security secretary, urged the international community to adopt a new approach toward the Iranian regime and the threats it poses.
As a first step, they all called on the American government to remove the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the main opposition movement, from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.
The PMOI, which supports the overthrow of the Iranian government and the establishment of a democratic secular government, has been on the list since 1997, when the Clinton administration put it there in a bid to secure closer cooperation with Tehran. The results of this approach are clear.
Calling the designation a “disgrace,” Mr. Giuliani said the U.S. should act enthusiastically on the side of the PMOI and its objectives.
Ms. Townsend reiterated that “the greatest single step … the United States government can take to really put pressure on the Iranian regime and enable change is by delisting the PMOI. We should do that because the listing is not warranted by the evidence that is public, nor is [it] justified by anything that is classified.”
In July, a U.S. federal appeals court challenged the basis of this designation and ordered the State Department to reconsider its decision. The United Kingdom and European Union removed the PMOI from their lists of proscribed terrorist organizations in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
Removing the terrorist tag would gain considerable support in Congress. A bipartisan group of more than 110 members only recently sponsored a House resolution calling for the delisting of the PMOI.
The blacklisting of the PMOI has not only restricted the main Iranian opposition, it has positively encouraged the mullahs’ regime to more vigorously suppress its opponents, especially PMOI supporters, inside Iran. (Ali Saremi, 63, was executed Tuesday (28 December) after spending 24 years behind bars over his support for the PMOI.) The mullahs’ proxies in Iraq exploit the label to justify threats to Camp Ashraf in Iraq, where 3,400 members of the organization live. In July 2009, the camp came under attack by Iraqi forces at the behest of Tehran. Eleven people died, all of them unarmed and designated “protected persons” under the Fourth Geneva Convention, and 500 were wounded. The listing therefore puts the lives of these people at risk.
As Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the Iranian resistance, put it, “The correct solution to the Iranian problem is regime change, a democratic change by the Iranian people and resistance. This is the defining factor in the Iranian equation. Thus, any policy that blocks the resistance ignores the most important factor for change in Iran and protects the regime.”
When Iranians need all the resources at their disposal to bring about change, the unjust designation sends the wrong message to the brave Iranians who regularly take to the streets asking, “Obama, Obama, are you with them or with us?”
It is time to answer with a clear message: “We are with you.””
The Deeper Humanitarian Crisis
On Sunday in London’s The Telegraph, columnist Christopher Booker wrote of the tragedy about to befall Camp Ashraf:
“With the prospect of Iraq’s Christian community being forced to flee the country after nearly 2,000 years, it seems another tragedy is nearing its climax in that unhappy land. Government troops, under the personal direction of the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, have teamed up with the thugs of Iran’s Qods force to step up their assault on Camp Ashraf.
This once-neat desert town near the Iranian border has been home, for the past decade, to more than 3,000 exiles belonging to the main Iranian opposition group, the PMOI (the People’s Mujahideeen of Iran). In 2003 the exiles gave up their weapons, in return for written guarantees of safety from the US government. Now, after besieging the camp for months, cutting off medical supplies and deafening the inhabitants round the clock with 140 loudspeakers, Iraqi and Iranian forces have been beating up and wounding dozens of the exiles (including, over Christmas, patients in the hospital). In Tehran last week, Ali Saremi, a prominent Iranian dissident, was hanged because of his links to Ashraf.
The residents – whose cause is supported by 53 former prime ministers and ministers from across the world, including Britain – fear a final assault, followed by deportation to Iran to face prison or execution. And that promise of protection? Washington, it seems, has washed its hands.”
So it seems has the US media and truthout.org. A free and independent press respects and challenges unjust treatment of all kinds.
Look to the Past for the Future
John F. Kennedy said it best in September of 1962 when talking about going to the moon in 7 years’ time…
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
The most deeply disturbing note though came from a Holocaust family member who said:
“I think you should compare this to the Holocaust, in many respects the only difference is that communication is better these days. However, this does not show any reason why the world outside does not excuse the reason why this is happening. For me as a Jew I have spent many hours trying to recover family and why the Holocaust happened. I feel that the world should know what is happening. Not allow this to carry on.
The sheer torture, the lack of medical needs to those who need it in Camp Ashraf is a deprivation of human rights, the world needs to know whilst this is happening the Middle East will not come to terms with themselves as nations of credibility.”
The combined two centuries (some would argue many millennia) long history of foreign intervention and thuggish responses on all sides is best served by allowing the people of the region to determine their destiny, in Democratic elections, free from outside or internal interference.
And… know that this journalist will make sure a free press stands up and covers a difficult story, even if one side wants you (and everyone else) to believe your article supports “The Friendliest Terrorists You’d Ever Want to Know!”
Main photo : Supporters of the People?s Mujahideeen of Iran, the main Iranian dissident organisation, at a rally near Paris
Photo: Alexander Klein/AFP Getty – supplied by NCRI, used with their permission.