Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Acree v. Iraq and the United States 

Courtesy of Zemblan patriot J.D.: Certain items confound us, for the simple reason that any smartass commentary we might append would pale beside the jaw-dropping outrageousness of the story itself:
The latest chapter in the legal history of torture is being written by American pilots who were beaten and abused by Iraqis during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. And it has taken a strange twist.

The Bush administration is fighting the former prisoners of war in court, trying to prevent them from collecting nearly $1 billion from Iraq that a federal judge awarded them as compensation for their torture at the hands of Saddam Hussein's regime.

The rationale: Today's Iraqis are good guys, and they need the money. [They need the billion awarded to the POW's, that is. Fortunately, they didn't need the $8.8 billion inexplicably mislaid by the CPA. -- S.]

The case abounds with ironies. It pits the U.S. government squarely against its own war heroes and the Geneva Convention.

Many of the pilots were tortured in the same Iraqi prison, Abu Ghraib, where American soldiers abused Iraqis 15 months ago. Those Iraqi victims, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said, deserve compensation from the United States.

But the American victims of Iraqi torturers are not entitled to similar payments from Iraq, the U.S. government says . . . .

Congress opened the door to such claims in 1996, when it lifted the shield of sovereign immunity — which basically prohibits lawsuits against foreign governments — for any nation that supports terrorism. At that time, Iraq was one of seven nations identified by the State Department as sponsoring terrorist activity. The 17 Gulf War POWs looked to have a very strong case when they first filed suit in 2002. They had been undeniably tortured by a tyrannical regime, one that had $1.7 billion of its assets frozen by the U.S. government . . . .

"No amount of money can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering that they went through at the hands of this very brutal regime and at the hands of Saddam Hussein," White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters when asked about the case in November 2003.

Government lawyers have insisted, literally, on "no amount of money" going to the Gulf War POWs. "These resources are required for the urgent national security needs of rebuilding Iraq," McClellan said.

The case also tests a key provision of the Geneva Convention, the international law that governs the treatment of prisoners of war. The United States and other signers pledged never to "absolve" a state of "any liability" for the torture of POWs . . . .

Already frustrated by the turn of events, the former POWs were startled when Rumsfeld said he favored awarding compensation to the Iraqi prisoners who were abused by the U.S. military at Abu Ghraib.

"I am seeking a way to provide appropriate compensation to those detainees who suffered grievous and brutal abuse and cruelty at the hands of a few members of the U.S. military. It is the right thing to do," Rumsfeld told a Senate committee last year.

The last hope for the POWs rests with the Supreme Court. Their lawyers petitioned the high court last month to hear the case. Significantly, it has been renamed Acree vs. Iraq and the United States.
MARGINALLY RELATED SIDEBAR: A couple of whistleblowers filed a lawsuit claiming that their former employee, the security firm Custer Battles LLC, bilked the CPA out of tens of millions of dollars, which it turns out the Iraqis didn't need either:
"I wish I could tell you that the Bush administration has done everything it could to detect and punish fraud in Iraq," Grayson said. "If I said that to you, though, I would be lying" . . . .

Lawyers representing Custer Battles have denied the charges and have argued that the case should be dismissed because the money that was allegedly stolen belonged to Iraqis, not to Americans. Grayson said that argument has the potential to turn Iraq during the authority's administration of the country into "a fraud-free zone," with contractors not subject to Iraqi or American law.
Details galore at World O'Crap.

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