Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Camp Ashraf

Such international condemnation as there has been of the deadly attack this month carried out by Iraqi forces against a camp housing members of the Iranian opposition leaves two pertinent questions unanswered. First, is the attack a crime against humanity under the principles of international law; and, secondly, have the US authorities turned a deliberate blind eye to a massacre on their watch in Iraq as part of a deal with the Iraqi authorities, or as part of a policy of appeasement?
Undoubtedly, the answer to the first question is yes. Video footage of the incident shows Iraqi forces running over unarmed residents with armoured vehicles and Humvees. Further as stated by the Bar Human Rights Committee: “the Camp residents, all of whom are recognised as Protected Persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention, were shot at indiscriminately”. The United Nations confirmed that at least 26 men and 8 women were killed, while 178 suffered gunshots out of some 300 injured.
The actions of the Iraqi authorities and specifically Nouri Al-Maliki is an international criminal justice offence which demands that the UN, US and EU condemn the attack and define it appropriately as a crime against humanity. Firing at the unarmed residents with live machine gun rounds in these circumstances was clearly a government sanctioned act of war perpetrated against a civilian population and specifically a civilian population which has repeatedly been recognised as protected under the Convention.

The above is from British MP Alex Carlile (House of Lords) writing at the Independent about Camp Ashraf. following the US invasion, the US made these MEK residents of Camp Ashraf -- Iranian refuees who had been in Iraq for decades -- surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28, 2009 the world saw what Nouri's word was actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. April 4th, Iran's Fars News Agency reported that the Iraqi military denied allegations that it entered the camp and assaulted residents. Specifically, Camp Ashraf residents state, "The forces of Iraq's Fifth Division invaded Camp Ashraf with columns of armored vehicles, occupying areas inside the camp, since midnight on Saturday." Friday April 8th saw another attack which the Iraqi government again denied. Thursday April 14th, the United Nations confirmed that 34 people were killed in the April 8th assault on Camp Ashraf. Barbara Grady (San Jose Mercury News) reported that the dead included journalist Asieh Rakhshani who has family in California.

The US government failed to live up to its legal obligations. It's an issue in England -- even letters to the editor decry the US, like Martyn Storey's letter to the Guardian which includes, "Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt has issued a strongly worded statement deploring the loss of life and emphasising the need to make medical assistance available. There is no sign, however, of the US administration rushing to fulfil its obligations. We are waiting for President Obama's strong condemnation of the atrocities committed by Iraqi troops at Ashraf. " For all the attention it receives in England, it's largely ignored in the US. The Tehran Times notes, "The Iranian ambassador to Baghdad has predicted that the members of the terrorist Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) would leave Iraq by the end of the current Iranian calendar year, which started on March 21. The Iraqi government has issued a declaration and the Iraqi cabinet has approved a ratification, both of which require that the MKO members leave Iraq, Ambassador Hassan Danaiifar told the Mehr News Agency in an interview published on its website on Tuesday." This week at the Huffington Post, former resident of Camp Ashraf Hajar Mojtahedzadeh contributed a column:

On Thursday, April 8th, I received a phone call a little before midnight D.C. time. The voice on the other end franticly told me to turn on the Iranian satellite channel, Iran NTV, adding that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's forces had stormed Camp Ashraf just hours before. As my friend on the phone continued speaking, all I could think about was my brother Hanif and our mutual friend Elham. Hanif and Elham Zanjani, both 29, are residents of Camp Ashraf located in the Diyala province, north of Baghdad in Iraq. The camp is home to 3,400 unarmed Iranian refugees, members of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), the primary opposition group to the tyrannical mullahs in Iran. Surely acting at the behest of Tehran, the Iraqi Prime Minister ordered the deadly assault.
As I watched the scenes of carnage unfold that day, I recognized the familiar face of my dear Elham. Her body, badly injured by a hand grenade thrown by Iraqi forces, was lying on a medic stretcher. Overwhelmed with a sense of anger and disbelief, I realized that my loved ones were paying the price of their legal protector's broken promises, with their blood.

Meanwhile, in England, Natalie O'Neill (Times) reports, "A MOTHER has protested almost every day for 25 years in aid of Iranian refugees in Camp Ashraf, where her daughter lives. Despite finding it difficult to walk, 75-year-old Fatemeh Mohammad has rallied alongside hundreds of fellow Anglo-Iranians outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and US Embassy in Westminster calling for the protection of exiles in Camp Ashraf, Iraq."

The following community sites -- plus and Military Families Speak Out -- updated last night and this morning:

We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "Obama 'Compromise' With Republicans Called 'A Rotten Deal' For Most Americans" (Veterans Today):

President Obama’s compromise with Congressional Republicans to reduce the deficit is “a rotten deal” that “hits the poor and the middle class the hardest,” The Nation magazine said in a May 2nd editorial.
The president may have called for “shared sacrifice”to reduce the budget by $4 trillion over the next 12 years but for every $1 raised by closing tax loopholes for the wealthy, he proposes $2 in spending cuts, the liberal magazine says.
And “Two-thirds of those cuts would come from education, health and other social programs while one-third would come from the military budget,” the magazine editorialized.
“The president’s vision of ‘shared sacrifice,’ in other words, hits the poor and the middle class hardest. Meanwhile, wealthy Americans and the military are asked to sacrifice less, even though it was unfunded tax cuts and wars that got us a deficit in the first place,” the editorial continued.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends