Moral Outrage at Camp Ashraf

It’s a new era, alright: an era in which America’s moral compass is spinning aimlessly. While on an official visit to Baghdad Tuesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and top U.S. commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, hailed a new era in Iraq and touted an improved security situation at the one-month mark since U.S. troops pulled back from Iraqi cities and towns at the end of June.

But even as the two crowed (along with their Iraqi counterparts), Iraqi police forces were assaulting the civilian population of Ashraf City north of Baghdad, home to some 3900 unarmed members of the Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK). At day’s end, the MEK death count stood at four, while the injured numbered in the hundreds, and dozens more had been snatched and carried off by the Iraqi forces.

The Iraqi assault, captured in graphic videos posted to YouTube, advanced with armored vehicles, front-loaders, fire engines, police vehicles, and other equipment and unleashed boiling water, pepper gas, barrages from water cannons, clubs, and eventually live fire against the unarmed inhabitants. YouTube footage shows MEK members massed passively at an entrance gate to the camp as Iraqi police beat those in front furiously with clubs and then sprayed pepper gas and water cannon directly into the crowd. Other films show police opening fire with assault weapons while the group began to chant “Allahu Akbar,” echoing the recent calls of their demonstrating compatriots on the streets of Tehran and elsewhere.  

The MEK has been fighting tyranny and despotism in Iran since the group arose in the 1960’s on Iran’s university campuses to oppose the autocratic rule of the Shah. From the 1980s until the U.S. launched Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in March 2003, they had waged a desperate battle against the mullahs’ despotic regime from Iraqi soil where they took refuge after the Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution turned on the allies that had helped him topple the monarchy.

In the early days of OIF, American forces bombarded MEK camps, despite not being attacked first or taking a single shot in return. A ceasefire and MEK disarmament agreement culminated in 2004 with U.S. extension of Fourth Geneva Convention protections to the group, which had been exhaustively and individually investigated in the interim by a U.S. interagency panel and found completely innocent of any criminal or terrorist wrongdoing.

In this 2004 action, the U.S. declared the MEK members in Ashraf “protected persons” under the Geneva Conventions.  This makes us responsible — morally and legally — for their safety.

U.S. forces honored their protective commitment up until the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), approved by the Iraqi government in late 2008, began to enter into force. In recent weeks, however, as the Iraqi government moved closer to assuming independent security control across the country, the U.S. has stood by passively as Iraqis, almost certainly acting on behalf of the Tehran regime, repeatedly blocked shipments of food, water, and medicines to Ashraf. As yesterday’s brutal assault unfolded, Odierno, speaking in Baghdad, observed blandly that Iran was employing "soft power" in a bid to shape Iraqi politics.

Amnesty International, the U.S. Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents, Maryam Rajavi, head of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), and supporters across the world issued calls to the international community, the U.S. government, and President Barack Obama personally to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Ashraf.

(The homepage of the Department of State, meanwhile, contained a selection of pieces about Hillary Clinton’s recent travels in Asia, an upcoming trip planned for Africa, and some commentary about North Korea and Russia — but not a single word about the savage attack by the police forces of our Iraqi protégé against courageous and completely unarmed Iranian civilians who have dedicated their lives for the last 30 years to the cause of freedom and democracy in their homeland.  From the U.S.’s new Ambassador to Baghdad, Christopher Hill, not a word. From the administration’s new Iran specialist on the National Security Council, Ambassador Dennis Ross, not a word.

The official U.S. government reaction — in the face of massive street protests across Iran after June 2009 presidential elections widely seen as fraudulent — was to stand by passively, issuing mild expressions of concern about “the violence” as regime thugs clubbed, gassed, knifed, and shot unarmed demonstrators on the streets.  Now, again, this administration is showing itself to be an enemy of those who stand for their liberty against the forces of tyranny. Desperate to achieve some kind of negotiations with the mullahs’ regime about its nuclear weapons program, the Obama administration seems not only oblivious to repeated public snubs from Tehran, but blind to the reality that this regime is unraveling before our eyes and has lost all domestic and international legitimacy.

Earlier this month, in yet another demonstration of abasement to the ayatollahs, the U.S. released Qods Force commanders who’d been captured and held in Irbil, Iraq since January 2007, when they were caught red-handed planning, coordinating, and executing attacks with Iranian-trained Shi’ite “Special Groups” terror militias that have killed hundreds of U.S. forces.

This is an administration that simply has no moral compass. Let the world be on notice: the leader of the free world has abdicated and instead now seeks outreach with thugs, terrorists, and rogue regimes around the world.

North Korea lurches toward regime succession by setting off nuclear tests, proliferating nuclear expertise to Syria, and launching missiles in the direction of Japan and Hawaii — but the Obama administration thinks more economic enticements should turn them right around.

Tiny, brave Honduras defends its constitution by removing a president in league with Venezuelan caudillo Chavez — and the State Department is now busy revoking its diplomats’ visas.

Oppressed Iranian citizens at last turn against a regime that has tortured and terrorized them for three decades — and the American president says he’s “appalled and outraged,” but can’t really be sure who actually won those elections. Besides, he still hopes the mullahs will accept his outstretched hand one of these days and sit down to a civilized discussion about why they should end development of nuclear weapons instead of continuing plans to wipe our erstwhile friend and ally Israel off the face of the map.

The United States disarmed the MEK in Camp Ashraf and then promised — under the Geneva Conventions — to protect them. Yet we stand by while they are being murdered.  How can this be, America?