The U.S. government has worked hard to find a new location in Iraq for the thousands of members of the Iranian dissident group Mujahedeen e-Khalq (MEK), a State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization that is being kicked out of its home at Camp Ashraf by the Iraqi government.
But now the State Department has to answer aggressive charges that the new home for the MEK, a former U.S. military base called Camp Liberty, is a "concentration camp" with horrid conditions. What's more, these charges are coming from senior U.S. politicians and experts, led by former New York mayor and presidential candidate Rudi Giuliani.
"This is not a relocation camp. I have seen relocation camps. I know what relocation camps look like. And I know what jails look like. This isn't a jail. This is a concentration camp. That's what it is. This is a concentration camp. Let's call it what it is," Giuliani said at a Feb. 26 "conference" held under the rubric of something called the Global Initiative for Democracy, an advocacy group that seems to be very interested in the MEK issue.
"This is worse than any facility I've ever seen having been at one time in charge of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and another time responsible for the New York City jail system, Rikers Island, materially better than this. This is a concentration camp."
The State Department worked with the United Nations to prepare Camp Liberty, now renamed Camp Hurriya (Arabic for "freedom"), to get it ready for the MEK, but the MEK has been reluctant to move there. The first tranche of about 400 MEK members started relocating this month.
Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, who was on the panel with Guliani at the Feb. 26 conference, wholeheartedly agreed with his take on the conditions at Camp Liberty, according to a press release put out by the Global Initiative for Democracy.
"This is a scandal. This is a fraud; a fraud not involving money, but a fraud involving threats to human life. What we need immediately is a commission of inquiry to determine how this fraud was perpetrated," Dershowitz said. "Who certified, who approved that hell hole, that garbage dump? Who said that it met United Nations standards? Somebody is responsible for perpetrating that fraud and for getting 400 innocent people to risk their lives and their health to be exposed to that kind of trash and that kind of hazard to their health. We have to get to the bottom of this."
Neither man ever called Camp Liberty a "concentration camp" or a "garbage dump" when it housed hundreds of U.S. soldiers for years during the Iraq war.
Also on that panel were several former high-ranking officials who have been on the roster of the MEK's often-paid supporters in Washington, including former Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, and former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Transnational Threats on the National Intelligence Council Glenn Carle.
Other speakers at the conference included former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, former U.S. Ambassador to the UK Philip Lader, and former policy advisor at the Treasury Department's office of terrorism and financial intelligence Avi Jorisch.
Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Ted Poe (R-TX) both questioned Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the MEK at Wednesday's hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, with Poe directly raising Guliani's accusation that the new location amounted to a "concentration camp."
Clinton didn't comment on the "concentration camp" charge and simply emphasized that the U.S. was working hard to safely relocate the MEK to Camp Liberty, keep the Iraqi government from harassing the MEK, and ensure that the U.N. monitors the camp and provides help for refugees. She also said that if the MEK really wants off the list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTO), it should get with the program at Camp Liberty.
"Congressman, given the ongoing efforts to relocate the residents, MEK cooperation in the successful and peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf, the MEK's main paramilitary base, will be a key factor in any decision regarding the MEK's FTO status," Clinton said.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.