London, 7 Oct – “If there is one principle that the United States values it is liberty. So when thinking of the US’s relationship with worldwide movements for freedom and democracy, one would expect it to support them as a matter of course,” said Ambassador Ken Blackwell, a former Cincinnati mayor and US ambassador to the UN human rights commission in an article in the Town Hall.
The following is the text of an Op-Ed by Ambassador Blackwell on Neglect of US Principle and Commitments Abroad, published in townhall.com.
If there is one principle that the United States values it is liberty. So when thinking of the US’s relationship with worldwide movements for freedom and democracy, one would expect it to support them as a matter of course.
Unfortunately, reasonable expectations sometimes fall short of reality and there are disturbing examples of the US reneging on past commitments to pro-democratic movements in foreign territory.
This is bad enough for being at odds with some of the US’s most closely-held principles, and it is worse for the fact that it has been to the benefit of one of the US’s main enemies in the world and the direct antithesis to many of those American principles.
For as long as the world’s only modern theocracy has been ruling over Iran, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) has been fighting to oust that regime. It has suffered tremendously, comprising the vast majority of the 120,000 political dissidents executed in Iran by the Ayatollahs. Given the ferocity with which it has been targeted by Tehran, a good portion of PMOI/MEK activists has been forced into exile. Many of them constructed a community in eastern Iraq in the 1980s and established it as a stable base of operations for continuing their fight against the theocratic regime in Iran.
For well over two decades the community, Camp Ashraf, thrived, developing a close relationship with Iraqis in the surrounding area and subsequently working cooperatively with US military personnel stationed there during the occupation of Iraq in 2003. Many military officers developed lasting respect and friendship for the people they met at Camp Ashraf, and many of those officers remain understandably distressed to this day about how their leaders in Washington ultimately turned their back on the community, helped orchestrate its evacuation in 2012.
This was a shameful incidence of the US betraying not only its own principles but also its prior commitments, as each member of the Camp Ashraf community had previously been issued a document guaranteeing them protection by the United States. The community voluntarily disarmed and as a consequence it was left defenseless when Iraqi forces, under Tehran’s growing influence, launched attacks on them, killing 52 of them on September 1, 2013 alone.
The Camp Ashraf Massacre was the last violent incident as the residents relocated to the former US military base of Camp Liberty near the Baghdad airport, which was akin to being a prison, where repressive measures have only grown more sustained, with the residents subjected to a variety of restrictions, including adequate access to medical care.