The conditions at Camp Liberty have been grim and lacked even the most basic needs such as running water and electricity. And no one from outside the camp may visit the residents. The MEK members were promised they would be transferred to a third country outside of Iraq, but that process has been woefully slow.
The worst blow came in early September, when Iraqi troops attacked a group of the Iranians who had stayed at Camp Ashraf to protect its assets. Fifty-two people were murdered when Iraqi forces raided the camp. According to the U.N. report on Sept. 2, “All the deceased appeared to have suffered gunshot wounds, the majority of them in the head and the upper body, and several with their hands tied. Seven MEK members disappeared, apparently abducted by Iraqi government agents.
While Maliki was in Washington, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the Obama administration “remains deeply concerned” about the seven abductees from Camp Ashraf as well as about the MEK members living in misery at Camp Liberty.
But “concern” is insufficient when the lives of seven kidnapping victims hang in the balance.
Some will argue that death, deprivation and kidnapping are unavoidable, given the deteriorating conditions in Iraq. There is, however, a critical distinction: These people were not targeted by unknown terrorists. This was mass murder at the hands of the Maliki government.
Based on available evidence, including a Sept. 19 statement by Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, the abductees are still being held by the Iraqi government. Their release should be a prerequisite to any new U.S. assistance, particularly new weapons, that the Obama administration might give to Maliki.
Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman put it well when she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Oct. 3 about what happened at Camp Ashraf: “We need to do anything” possible, she said, “to make good on the word we gave to the MEK.”
When America makes a promise, it should be kept.
Retired Gen. Hugh Shelton is the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Retired Gen. James Conway is former commandant of the Marine Corps.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.