So maybe they're not exactly Athos, Porthos and Aramis but there was a united trio that caught my attention outside the White House today. And just like the trifecta of Dumas' heroes, this group also had a noble goal: To save lives.
In this case, I'm talking about former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, former FBI director Louis Freeh and former Democratic Governor Ed Rendell.
It's not unusual to see them at 1600 Penn. Ave.It IS unusual however to see them outside the gate and protesting.(Photo: Scott Thuman)
They, along with hundreds, if not a thousand or more, American-Iranians and supporters put on a display unlike any we've seen at the White House in quite some time. Inside the columned portico was Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki meeting with President Obama. What's unclear is if the topic that so angered this group, was ever broached.
At the heart of the matter is a spot in northern Iraq called Camp Ashraf. www.campashraf.org. It's a small city occupied by roughly 3,400 Iranian exiles who as part of an opposition party, left their country and set up base in Iraq. The main problem is that at one point the group was listed as a terror organization. Despite that label eventually being debunked in the eyes of many experts, including then FBI director Louis Freeh, and removed by the European Union & UK listsour State Department still recognizes the classification. Some (Freeh for example) believes the scarlet 'T' was only given to the group in the first place to appease Tehran in hopes of opening more dialogue and better relations between the U.S. and Iran. In other words: a political ploy in its greatest sense.
Either way, as a precaution the residents of Camp Ashraf were told to give up their arms, RPG's, etc. in exchange for U.S. promised protection. They reportedly did.
Then, this apparently happened. Those are U.S. supplied Humvees and U.S. supplied weapons being used to run over and kill what look like unarmed Iranian refugees.
Dozens were killed by Iraqi army groups who seem to use the 'terror' label as carte blanche to attack. Now, the calendar may be the Iranians' worst enemy. When U.S. forces complete their pullout from Iraq at the end of this month, it means there will be no direct oversight of Camp Ashraf to ensure the safety of those men, women and children. It means they'll have two options. Stay behind and hope that Nouri al-Maliki's troops refrain from further attacksorreturn to Iran. The former means potential death. The latter, means certain death.
That's why today that impressive group of supporters from all over the world (I interviewed Iranians from L.A., Ohio and Holland today) gathered to very loudly, voice their concerns with that group of lofty allies. To see members of both parties, who've held such high positions, take the microphone and call on the president to do "the right thing" was a stop-you-in-your -tracks moment. As former Director Freeh told me, "the United States gave a written promise to protect these people."
"I've been privileged to work in government in many different capacities," Former. Sec. Ridge told me. "From a soldier in Vietnam to cabinet secretary, I never thought as a private citizen I'd be rallying with my friendsto implore my president to do the right thing."
So how serious is the threat? Here's what Ed Rendell told me.
"If you turn them over to the Maliki government without any protection, you're essentially signing their death warrants."
And time is running out fast, as was evident by the large clock setup on Pennsylvania Avenue counting down the days to Dec. 31st.
When I asked Freeh if he thinks they're getting White House attention today, he said "We hope so. Do you think you are? I think so."
If their assertions are right, I hope so too.