Tuesday, 24 January 2012
NCRI - In the international conference held in Paris on Friday, January 20, 2012 in defense of Ashraf, General David Phillips, former officer responsible for the safety and security of PMOI members at Camp Ashraf made the following remarks: (During General Phillips remarks, his daughter Sara Phillips joined him for supportive arguments.)
Thank you. Madame Rajavi, distinguished guests, freedom loving people around the world, and most importantly the 3,400 residents of Camp Ashraf, I’m honored to be here with you today. Those of you at Ashraf, you’ve endured much while spending nearly nine years in virtual captivity. Make no qualms about it. The first six years were under the protection of the coalition forces. And for the past three years, under the barbaric captivity of the Al-Maliki regime. This speech is about my friends at Camp Ashraf who I know personally, but it’s important also that this speech is to bring attention to the world in highlighting the plight of those 3,400 men and women.
I can only imagine how the mullahs laughed when under orders my unit shut down and confiscated the MEK radio transmitters, silencing the voice of freedom for the Iranian people. The reason given to me was because the MEK were terrorists so obviously they’re sending terroristic broadcasts. The decision to cut this link off between the MEK and the people living under the iron grip of the mullahs was ridiculous. When you step back and look at these decisions you’ve really got to wonder.
Consolidating the MEK at Camp Ashraf, I was part of that. Disarming them, I was there. Placing them under detention like restrictions. I implemented that. And silencing their radio. It sounds like we were working for the mullahs instead of the multinational coalition forces.
While the soldiers of the 89th Military Police Brigade, my brigade, detained 3,400 members at Camp Ashraf, the mullah regime was simultaneously providing weaponry and EFPs and other munitions designed to kill those soldiers. And we were actually doing the mullahs’ bidding by taking the MEK off of the battlefield and out of the equation. The mullahs could not have paid or bribed or extorted or blackmailed such an effective effort to thwart their number one opposition, the MEK. We, the U.S., we did it for them.
To make matters worse, we walked away from a written promise to protect them, thereby abandoning the very people who can bring about change in Iran. We left them to the real terrorists. The Al-Maliki has a tarnished record in many areas, but none so much as the abusive and sadistic and barbaric treatment of the unarmed men and women at Camp Ashraf, the Iranian resistance.
Al-Maliki, you may want to use revisionist history but there’s no taking away the blood on your hands for the murder of over 40 unarmed people who were guaranteed protected status under the rights of the Fourth Geneva Convention, not to mention over a thousand who were wounded, some critically. I lose sleep because I was the spokesperson for the coalition forces with the MEK at Camp Ashraf. As the commander of the 89th MP Brigade, I conducted sweep operations looking for violations of the agreement the MEK made to disarm. I never found a violation. I directed my forces to search every square inch of that 36 square kilometer facility and not one piece of contraband, not one violation was found. My forces also participated with other government agencies in determining the status of every one of those 3,400 hundred people. And not one was found to be associated with terrorism or even any criminal acts.
The residents of Ashraf were each given a written, individually each of them a written promise of protection. I personally delivered the first written promise. And that promise was broken when we abandoned the 3,400 men and women to an undisciplined force under the command and control of the Iranian puppets, Al-Maliki.
I lose sleep each night because we did wrong. We did the morally unconscionable act of reneging on a national promise to protect these people. Al-Maliki, I suspect you lose sleep too because you sold your soul. The Mullahs probably laugh out loud at your foolhardy actions in advancing their cause of murdering and destroying everything that threatens their absolute fascist power. Yes, you lose sleep at night knowing that you were responsible for the murder of over 40 of the members of the MEK.
Surely you must realize when you are no longer useful to the mullahs they’re going to discard you too. Yes, we both lose sleep at night. Only I am doing everything I can to save the lives of those 3,400 men and women, while you, Al-Maliki, are doing the opposite. [applause] Thank you for allowing me to get involved with writing a wrong.
There’s been much false propaganda and lies in the international media. Spread by individuals like Ann singleton, and Renee Behinifar. Their firsthand at Camp Ashraf is almost nonexistent yet they speak as if they’ve got an innate intuition. I’ve read their writing, most recently Ms. Behinifar’s article on the 29th of November. If the topic wasn’t so serious and slanderous it would make a good fictional story, because that’s all it is is fiction.
What about another woman, an Iranian-American? But unlike the two I’ve previously mentioned, she is—I’m sorry, I need to rephrase that into another tense, past tense. She was a brilliant medical student in Houston, Texas, and she was gunned down in her car last week. Her name was Gelareh Bagherzadeh. What was her crime? Nothing more than speaking out for women’s rights, particularly the women of Iran who are horribly abused and subjugated by the insecure male mullahs. My guess, and it’s only a guess based on 35 years of law enforcement and military police experience, that when the suspect is found, the assailant, that individual will be found to have disagreed with her right to speak out. The investigation’s ongoing, we’ll see.
I lived with the people of Camp Ashraf for well over a year and I’ve worked with them for many more. Few people know them better. My first hand information is from my personal experiences, not obtained through politics or propaganda or lies. I saw it, I lived it, unlike some other people that write with little or no experience or firsthand knowledge from ivory towers and repeatedly spew unsubstantiated allegations. One of those reports was published by an organization which I formerly respected. It was the Human Rights Watch report on Camp Ashraf. Although I was still on active duty at the time, I felt it was so ridiculously far-fetched that I had to speak out. I countered in writing to the director of the Human Rights Watch that report. I can think of few things that have made me prouder than having stood up and refuted the garbage that was in it. I made reference in my letter to wanting my own daughter to visit and spend time at Camp Ashraf. Interestingly, I didn’t receive a single comment from the director of Human Rights Watch.
But I now gotta bring up some very troubling information from my sources in the Iraqi government and Ministry of Interior. My Iraqi friends tell me that not only was Camp Liberty looted, vandalized and pilfered away, and that a small facility was constructed as a prison facility not to house all 3,400 members of the MEK. My personal sources, who I served with, I bled with and I fought with, so I trust them, they say that Camp Cropper on the other side of the BIAP facility, the Baghdad International Airport, is being reopened. That’s the facility where we kept the former senior leaders of the Baathist regime. I know, my forces ran that facility. That it is being reopened for the senior leaders of the MEK who have arrest warrants for them. Well, Secretary Clinton, if it’s not so, let’s verify that. I’ll personally fly to Baghdad and take a look and I will report back. And this will cost U.S. taxpayers nothing. I’ll do it at my own expense. President Obama, send me as a former general who is very familiar with Camp Liberty, having lived there too, and knows what it takes to billet thousands of people while providing for minimum essentials for hygiene, quality of life, food—oh let’s talk about quality of life. Even the basketball back hoops have been looted away. I’ve got the pictures of what Liberty looks like now. I mentioned the Human Rights Watch report and not contacting me, but I was contacted from other quarters. Most of it was positive but there was some negative. On the negative side they accused me of using my daughter’s name in vain. Oh those foolish people. They don’t know my daughter. [applause] Like the women of the MEK, my daughter’s dedication and determination is a scary thought to the mullahs or Iran. As I reported, I’m very proud to have written and refuted that report. [applause] So for those of you that said I used my daughter’s name in vain in that letter, why not hear it from her? Sara, would you come up here and tell me whether I used your name in vain?
Sarah Phillips:Thank you. And forgive me; I’m not well-versed in public speaking, so I will do my best. As my father said, my name is Sara Phillips, and I am his daughter. I like to tell you a little bit of history about how I came to learn about the people of Ashraf.
In 2003, my understanding of the world was shattered. I learned contrary to very popular belief, especially in America, that not all women in the Southwest Asia region remain complacent in the face of oppression. There’s a special group of women who do not just let their lives be dictated for them. My father who was in Iraq at the time told me. He called me on his international cell phone; I was in a dorm room at the time. I remember him calling and saying, “Sara, I’ve found your modern day Amazons, those women warriors, the type that you were always seeking and reading about.”
He told me, “You would never guess where I have found them.” It was that day that I learned about these brave women and actually what was almost more shocking to me is the fact that it wasn’t just women, there was men standing at their side in defiance of tyranny. I learned about the Mojahadin Khalq and I begged my father, I begged him, “Let me meet these women. Even better, even better, let me take their mantle and let me fight with them.”
They managed to not only break stereotypes and roles, but they’d overcome insurmountable odds to rise up to a position of authority and power. These women and men of the MEK believe in democracy and equal rights. They believe in freedom. What a beautiful word, freedom. The Webster’s dictionary defines freedom as a quality or state of being free, the absence of necessity, coercion or constraint in choice of action; liberation from restraint from the power of another. Soon after I learned of the people of Camp Ashraf I began corresponding with several of them. If you’re listening today, and I sincerely hope that the women of Ashraf are able to hear my words, I loved receiving your electronic letters and I loved being able to share that information with people on my campus and with friends letting them know what is going on in Ashraf and around the world. [applause] There are not many people in the world as valiant as these women of the MEK who I had the absolute honor of being able to correspond with. We would talk in our e-mails and in our letters of one day meeting in a free not only Ashraf but Tehran, as global sisters, and finally being able to cross those borders. [applause]
My father has given many speeches lately defending his stance that the MEK should be taken off the terrorist list. Many of you believe him, and you know this to be true as well. But for those of you that might question the stance of my father, and even his character, using his daughter as a tool, I want to tell you something.
When my father first took over in Iraq, and this is a true story, he would warn me, “Sara, do not be so starry-eyed. Do not be so excited by these stories that I tell you because they might still be falsehoods. These are terrorists we’re talking about.” He was as skeptical as any American would be concerning the disposition of the MEK and the perception that they were terrorists.
But when I told you about my character in standing up here today, the apple does not fall far from the tree. My character is like my father’s. And he walks with open eyes and with an open heart. When he began to realize that the people of Camp Ashraf were not terrorists he began to activate, he began to advocate for them and urge me to pass along what information I could. By the time he left Iraq my father knew, without question, that what he had originally been instructed about the people of Ashraf was a blatant falsehood and propaganda to empower corruption and ruthless men. I always felt that there was not enough I could do, just a simple young girl in America. What can I do knowing about this situation? I always felt that far away my voice would be very small, that my words could not be heard. I’m very lucky to be here today in front of you all and finally let my voice be heard.
I can only hope that those listening in America who actually do have the power to affect change in the situation for several thousand good people are listening. As things are, I’m afraid for the people of Camp Ashraf. I’m afraid that the women and the men are going to find themselves facing a force without any defense. If all I can offer standing here today as a weapon for them is my voice then I shout for their removal off the terrorist list. These people are good, they are not terrorists. Thank you.
General PHILLIPS: Madame Rajavi, I’m sure your daughter and almost a thousand other young women in the MEK would appreciate having another young woman come there and work with them. Because yes, I would trust the safety of my own daughter in the hands of a supposed terrorist. But it’s not up to me. It’s not up to me. It’s up to my daughter. Sara, your choice. If I get the opportunity and the president allows me to go over there, will you go with me even if it means you gotta go to Ashraf?
Sara PHILLIPS: I say, let’s roll.
PHILLIPS: Thank you.