Mouth ajar
February 16, 2005 1:07 AM   Subscribe

"The Bush administration intervened to argue that their claims should be dismissed" I seriously can't believe it. This is Brechtian. Something has to be missing. This can't be my government.
posted by Smedleyman (59 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As paranoid shifted as I thought I was...I just don't believe this.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:09 AM on February 16, 2005

I'm only finding Savage as a source....of course it is 3:30 in the am here and I'm getting blurry...
posted by Smedleyman at 1:16 AM on February 16, 2005

It is vitally important for that money to remain in the hands of the GOP-selected Iraqi government, so it can be taken by GOP-supporting business interests. Otherwise, the queers might get married and Jesus won't come!
posted by Goofyy at 1:20 AM on February 16, 2005

*waits for the usual cheerleaders to try to defend this horror*
posted by matteo at 1:24 AM on February 16, 2005

Maybe those who said that the soldiers were getting the shaft were correct...indeed if you think about that, it's easy and very cheap to pray and honour soldiers in words, but what about facts ?

I wouldn' t be surprised to see extremism coming from veterans when they'll notice even the most military friendly government is really against ordinary grunt.

That said, I don't see how one could hold a country responsible for the action of the military of the precedent
regime...they have better chances suing Halliburton I guess.
posted by elpapacito at 1:25 AM on February 16, 2005

The part that's sticking in my throat is that BushCo is arguing the men get nothing.
Obviously a billion dollars is a lot, but nothing?
I never thought I'd see something like that. Sure Shay's rebellion and all - we gotta hold the country together - blah blah blah.
These are 17 men who could be spared, what - some money to make their lives more comfortable so they can live with their wounds.
Nope. Not a dime can't affordit.
I don't see any broad political issue here, this isn't a ten thousand or even a thousand people filing suit, its a small group of men. It just looks too personal. It looks like a sign that says "Your Next."

...I'm going to bed.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:28 AM on February 16, 2005

What if Bush is an Al Qaeda mole? and Krugman's story is more truth than conceit.
posted by hortense at 1:37 AM on February 16, 2005

hortense: The entire time I was reading that, I kept thinking "it's marginally plausible, but only if we assume that Bush isn't a willing Al Qaeda mole, but rather an easily led puppet that doesn't realize he's doing this for his money-giving cronies."

I'm too cynical...
posted by Swervo at 2:09 AM on February 16, 2005

From the article:

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

How is that irony, isn't it just business as usual?
posted by ninebelow at 2:22 AM on February 16, 2005

Augh, I should stop reading metafilter before going to sleep.
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:42 AM on February 16, 2005

In what way is this inconsistent with the Bush administration's treatment of its' soldiers to date?

They've increased the military budget by 60-70%, but they're trying to cut veteran's medical care, unilaterally upgrade national guard enlistment terms by 25 years(!), recycle reserves through a combat zone, and last year they proposed cutting the money for the families of soldiers killed in combat (a proposal which was shot down and replaced with a very stingy increase). You'll note that actual troop numbers haven't increased by 60-70%, nor has army pay increased by 60-70%; the money is all going into the trough where their friendly high-tech munitions vendors slurp their slurry.

Love the military-industrial complex, hate the soldiers. This just sums it all up in one story.
posted by cstross at 3:56 AM on February 16, 2005

>*waits for the usual cheerleaders to try to defend this horror*

Gimme a NINE

Gimme an ELEVEN
posted by gsb at 4:09 AM on February 16, 2005

The CPA done spent that money!
The missing $9 billion that padded Cheney's retirement was sweetly unaccounted for.
Cash handed out by the bagfuls with no receipts!

I must go out ans put another magnetic ribbon on my SUV so as to properly "support the troops!" -blech

Paging dhoyt and PP. Please come to the Strident Defender of All Things Dubya counter!
posted by nofundy at 4:49 AM on February 16, 2005

I really want to see what the conservatives here have to say about this one.
posted by borkingchikapa at 5:00 AM on February 16, 2005

well, wow, it just makes you wanna go right out and sign up, doesn't it?
posted by pyramid termite at 5:25 AM on February 16, 2005

I'm far from conservative, but I have to wonder:

a) isn't being a soldier something that inherently entails stuff like potential torture? and

b) is there any precedent in the US of financial compensation being made to soldiers of an invasion force by the country they're invading?

Just curious...
posted by birdthing at 5:28 AM on February 16, 2005

This can't be my government.

Where have you been the past several years? This seems exaclty like par for the course. This might even be the hole in one of standard Bush admin policy making.
posted by OmieWise at 5:33 AM on February 16, 2005

True colors now visible to all. Popular response? Probably nothing.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:41 AM on February 16, 2005

In October [2002] three Afghan men were released without charge after they had been held for a year at the American base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. They were given $500 compensation between them.
From here.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:52 AM on February 16, 2005


That reference doesn't really answer either of my questions. The Afghans were not an invading force, nor does the article say anything about whether or not they were soldiers. Further, it doesn't say who awarded them their "compensation", or if they're following up with a lawsuit.

In fact, it seems that (unless I misread), the article is mostly about a particular person arrested who was of Briton nationality. Could you clarify how you think this is relevant to my questions?
posted by birdthing at 6:10 AM on February 16, 2005

The Bush administration is opposing payments-as-compensation-for-torture because there are many thousands of Iraqis, Afghans, and more than a few Americans who can make the exact same claims against the U.S. government. It's a money issue, but it's not the case that the Bush administration really wants to screw these particular POW pilots; rather, they don't want a precedent that can be used against the U.S. by the tens of thousands of people who have passed through the U.S. torture archipelago - camps in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay Cuba, as well as extraordinary renderings where the U.S. ships people to other countries to be tortured by proxy. The total liability here is truly astronomical, and though it is all but certain that the U.S. will end up paying these people large amounts of money, obviously BushCo would like to postpone that day of reckoning as long as possible.
posted by jellicle at 6:35 AM on February 16, 2005

This actually shows an admirable honesty and consistency in the policy of the current White House administration in supporting torture committed both by itself AND by Iraq/other countries.

New American policy: torture =good. We're all one step closer to barbarism, but you know, it's across the board.
posted by Shane at 6:52 AM on February 16, 2005

There is a nice legal explanation of all of this at FindLaw. A UN convention the US signed in 1994 and a 1996 law passed by Congress enabled this kind of lawsuit to go forward.

The writer's explanation of BushCo's stance on this seems more plausible than jellicle's (or maybe I'm just being naive).
...the national security establishment has always disliked Congress's policy of allowing litigation against rogue regimes. It believes that U.S. pressure on Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, and similar states should be carried out through diplomacy, not litigation.

Perhaps it's all part of their tort reform/victim's rights limitation ideology.
posted by Cassford at 7:09 AM on February 16, 2005

I'm speechless.
posted by SisterHavana at 7:11 AM on February 16, 2005

I'm speechless.

That's exactly the reaction the administration hoped everyone would have.
It's best if these things weren't questioned or talked about.
posted by Balisong at 7:25 AM on February 16, 2005

Well, ninebelow already said it, but just to amplify: Calling this action by the Bush administration "ironic" shows not only how little anyone understands what irony really is anymore, but also how completely spineless and incompetent our national media are at their supposed job of publicly, loudly distinguishing shit from shinola.
posted by soyjoy at 7:26 AM on February 16, 2005

It would be neat if, before commenting with hysterical histrionics, the people here would (a) make an attempt at understanding the law and implications or (b) make an effort to actually read the legal agument.
posted by dios at 7:33 AM on February 16, 2005

or (c) spell argument correctly.
posted by dios at 7:34 AM on February 16, 2005

Bush administration lawyers argued that the case should be thrown out of court on the grounds that Bush had voided any such claims against Iraq, which was now under U.S. occupation.

But we're not occupiers! We're a democracy-breeding coalition of the willing!
posted by fungible at 7:42 AM on February 16, 2005

Some background.

They're suing under the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which was amended in 1997:
To permit certain claims against foreign states to be heard in United States courts where the foreign state is a state sponsor of international terrorism or where no extradition treaty with the state existed at the time the claim arose and where no other adequate and available remedies exist.
This appears to be the complaint they filed in the U.S. District Court.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:43 AM on February 16, 2005

Disgusting. This one's going to resonate with lots of enlisteds--especially those in Iraq currently risking kidnapping/torture by insurgents now.
posted by dhoyt at 7:53 AM on February 16, 2005

Ok dios, I did a. b. and c. Now will you allow me to say I am sickened, saddened, disheartened, appalled, dismayed, angry, depressed, disgusted, troubled, and disturbed.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:55 AM on February 16, 2005

*waits for the usual cheerleaders to try to defend this horror*

Paging dhoyt and PP. Please come to the Strident Defender of All Things Dubya counter!

I really want to see what the conservatives here have to say about this one.

You guys are precisely on par with Mick and his "Nothing's more damning than silence". Never knew that kind of pettiness crossed party lines. Wait, yes I did.
posted by dhoyt at 7:58 AM on February 16, 2005

I still fail to see how the US courts claim jurisdiction over sovereign states. Apart from the usual American mistake of thinking they own the world, that is.
posted by salmacis at 8:06 AM on February 16, 2005

To those of you who are so disgusted by this, can you offer me any legal grounds upon which a person should be able to sue in a US court a foreign sovereign state that is now a new government/democracy for an action taken singularly by a deposed dictator? Can you trace the typical liability chain of Duty-Breach-Causation?

Or, from the Man On the Street perspective in Iraq: why should the Kurds and Shia in Iraq now be responsible to pay for the actions that were taken by Saddam who brutalized them as well?

Once again, until you can provide a cogent legal argument for this, then this just smacks of more the "EVERYTHING THAT BUSH SUPPORTS IS EVIL AND MUST BE MELODRAMATIZED" attitude that is a sad intellectual disarmanent and is so pathetic among people who often trumpet their own rationality.
posted by dios at 8:17 AM on February 16, 2005

No worries, matteo - dios has once again bravely taken on the task of trying to explain why everyone in the world other than him is an idiot.

By your logic, dios, no state need ever pay reparations once there is a change in administration. As a theoretical example, let's say the government exposed you to radiation during the Ford administration. You sued then, but it took a long time to get through the courts, and now Bush is in charge and Ford is long gone. By your reasoning, why should the Americans living here now be responsible for the actions taken by Ford?
posted by kyrademon at 8:30 AM on February 16, 2005

cstross, do you have some links for that information?
posted by iamck at 8:36 AM on February 16, 2005

I'm a little with Dios. I'm not as outraged at this as I suppose I should be.

I can't see myself being equally annoyed if the US government took money from Iraqi rebuilding to reward tortured 1991 vets. As crappy as this is: War is war. But I guess it's also crappy to go out of your way to prevent Iraq from performing such a healing gesture.

The damages suffered by these soldiers were at the hands of an entity that no longer financially exists, or can be held responsible. If soldiers from the first Gulf War want incredibly huge, and better-deserved, settlements, they have a much better case with this horrifying depleted uranium thing. (number 4)
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 8:39 AM on February 16, 2005

dios: I think everyone is suggesting that paying reparations would be a huge symbolic gesture for the administration for obvious reasons, if not a strictly legal obligation to which they are bound.
posted by dhoyt at 8:41 AM on February 16, 2005

whoa, change my "can't" to "can." geez.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 8:42 AM on February 16, 2005

Kyrademon. I never said the people are all stupid here. In fact, I think they are all very smart. But that is the disconcerting part: smart and inquisitive people who, in particular circumstances, do not choose to understand a topic before going into histrionics.

As a theoretical example, let's say the government exposed you to radiation during the Ford administration.
posted by kyrademon at 8:30 AM PST on February 16

Well, for one, we have the concept of statute of limitations would not allow a claim to be brought too far in the future due to the break in liability. We also have Federal Tort Claims Act which limits the time and basis of lawsuits against our country. Furthermore, the change in US presidencies is not anywhere close to a factually similar scenario of holding a new free and democratic Iraq culpable for the actions taken by a tyrannical despot.

But again, you are ignoring key facts. These people are trying to sue a foreign company and hold people in the foreign country responsible for something a dictator did. You are ignoring that these people didn't want the dictator but were tyrannized by him. Now they have their own fledgling country, and our courts are supposed to assert jurisdiction over this new government to hold it responsible for something that they couldn't prevent?
posted by dios at 8:45 AM on February 16, 2005

Bah. I really need to start proofreading. My apologizes. If you read it close enough, I am sure any inconsistencies/glaring errors would be resolved.
posted by dios at 8:47 AM on February 16, 2005

I give up.

*shoots self*
posted by dios at 8:47 AM on February 16, 2005

I give up.

*shoots self*
posted by dios at 8:47 AM PST on February 16

Another dissonant wing nut head explodes, another job well done. Congratulations all around.
posted by nofundy at 8:56 AM on February 16, 2005

dhoyt, I am, in fact, suggesting that this is a legal obligation to which they are bound.

There is a great deal of precedent indicating that a country's debts and obligations are not automatically forgiven every time there is a regime change. This was a debt owed by the state of Iraq. If you'll recall, near the beginning of the war, the U.S. politely asked several other countries if they might perhaps be willing to forgive some of the debts owed to them by Iraq - they did NOT simply tell them that the debts were erased. This was a debt owed to these soldiers. They could be asked if they might let it go - and, in fact, it sounds like they were willing to forgive much of it and take "pennies on the dollar" - but legally, that's their call, not the US government's.

Dios, that was one reason I specifically said the theoretical lawsuit I brought up was started during the Ford administration. Statutes of Limitation wouldn't apply. And in the case of the soldiers, this is a lawsuit that they already won, not one they are starting now. Again, a regime change does not automatically erase owed debts.

And I do not think I am being too cynical when I say that if, for example, this was money owed to a US company rather than a US soldier, the Bush administration could very well be insisting that it be paid. And they are certainly honoring debts owed to foreign countries. I think this is far more a matter of what they think they can get away with than what they think is legally right.
posted by kyrademon at 9:05 AM on February 16, 2005

Wait. A BILLION dollars? With $653 million Split between 54 people?

I understand that they deserve compensation. But does that mean handing over the annual budget of most small nations? Isn't it understandable to claim that this would be almost impossible for Iraq to comply with?

Certainly the U. S. could chip in and give them some money, too. But...

Look, folks, let's think about this. If they split this evenly, they'd each get... lessee... a little more than 10 MILLION dollars, considering that there are 17 former POWs and 37 family members, and that the compensatory damages are $653 million. If they don't split it evenly, somebody's gonna get a lot more than that.

I'm all for compensation, and something tells me that the PR-hungry White House, which seems to love hugging soldiers at every (photo) opportunity, is all for it too. But is there any way a billion dollars isn't gonna break Iraq? Money can't take away their pain, though some money will make it easier to bear. However, a billion dollars buys a hell of a lot of food, for example.
posted by koeselitz at 9:07 AM on February 16, 2005

I hadn't really done the math. WTF? 10 million bucks? People who die from asbestos get much less than that, and their death was the direct fault of the companies the lawsuits are against.

The Bush administration is in an admittedly difficult spot with this, they take a PR hit no matter what, as I think any administration would. They're handling it in a shitty way, sure, but heaping outrage on debateables like this are what make our protest seems like an irritating buzzing to so many conservatives.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 9:18 AM on February 16, 2005

koeselitz, the soldiers apparently offered to settle for a tiny fraction of that amount, and the government said no.
posted by kyrademon at 9:18 AM on February 16, 2005

Republicans in 1996: "We believe that rogue nations should be forced to give monetary compensation to the Americans they torture..."

Republicans in 2004:"...unless we're currently occupying said rogue nation. They're our allies in democracy now! But the lawsuits against North Korea and Iran can continue to go forwar - uh. Until we take over Iran too. But nevermind that just yet."

Proving once again that we've never really cared about what's right, just what's most convenient for the US at any given moment.
posted by junkbox at 9:25 AM on February 16, 2005

As an interesting side note, my mother's church is being sued for something that happened 30 years ago. A youth minister sexually molested several boys, and now the boys are coming forward with a civil suit. The church fired the minister immediately at the first hint of impropriety, within months of the alleged sexual molestations (something they would probably not be able to do today.)

Unfortunately in the thirty years since, the governing board as well as all the ministers are long gone. Retirement, death, and relocation means most of the people associated with that time, close to 90% of the church membership, is gone. So all the building fund money raised recently by people who were not even around at the time is going for legal fees. And if it goes to trial, who knows?

My point is, this is perfectly legal in the United States. We hold this institution to be legally liable. Too bad the White House doesn't allow countries to be held to the same accountability.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:46 AM on February 16, 2005

I'm curious - there's a lot of fuss over this case, but the CPA lost track of nearly 9 times that much, and we've so far just shrugged our shoulders. I don't think it's about the money.

I suspect (but can't back it up with anything other than slight paranoia) the possibility that, by allowing this case to proceed and the settlement to be parceled out, we open ourselves to a similar issue in reverse - prisoners using U.S. (or foreign) courts to sue the United States for torture performed by our hands across the world. Think about it - for example, British nationals held in Gitmo for two and a half years under apparently horrifying conditions suing the United States in a British court, and in return having the British government seize and parcel out US funds to settle it.
posted by FormlessOne at 9:53 AM on February 16, 2005

kyrademon: "koeselitz, the soldiers apparently offered to settle for a tiny fraction of that amount, and the government said no."

Yeah, I saw that in the article. It quotes their lawyer as saying, "they were willing to settle this for pennies on the dollar." Well, then, why didn't they seek a smaller settlement? This stinks, to me, of weird lawyer tactics. The government bungled this one, sure, but I can't believe that somebody, somewhere, won't propose a smaller settlement, and that the government, afraid of looking bad and happy to spend taxpayer money, won't pay it out.

On preview: Secret Life, do you really think that the people of Iraq are guilty of torturing these guys? Should they be "held accountable?" Wasn't it Saddam's regime that did this? He's going to stand trial, but I have a feeling he won't be able to pay out damages. These guys deserve compensation, but it should, and will, come from the United States.
posted by koeselitz at 10:01 AM on February 16, 2005

Sorry, my link earlier had an errant period -- correct Findlaw link.

THE Appeals Court decision(pdf)
ruled in favor of Bush's Justice Department. But it ruled, if I understand it correctly, that Justice is right for the wrong reason. Justice wanted it thrown out because Iraq is no longer on the Dept. of State's list of state sponsors of terror -- the only sovereign state's that can be sued by the law kirkaracha cited.

But the court ruling rejected this argument. They dismissed the case because:
"the Flatow Amendment to the FSIA, which provides a
cause of action against an ‘'official, employee, or agent of a
foreign state,’' 28 U.S.C. § 1605 note (2000), does not afford a cause of action against a foreign state itself."

Sadly, dhoyt is correct. The laws cited in this case revoke sovereign immunity for states that sponsor terrorism, but the Flatow amendment does not provide for the states themselves to be sued.

I wonder if they could collect if they sued Hussein himself?
posted by Cassford at 10:07 AM on February 16, 2005

koeselitz - huh? Why would they have sought a smaller settlement? At the time, they were suing Saddam's government. They offered to take a smaller amount when the situation changed. Why does that stink of weird lawyer tactics?
posted by kyrademon at 10:11 AM on February 16, 2005

These suits are standard in the world, these days, from Spanish judges trying to hold Pinochet to victims waiting to get money from Qaddafi. The US supports the later but not the former, which should indicate what is at stake here.

It isn't hysterical, dios, to assume that BushCo is worried about the precedent to which they will then be held accountable. That, to me, is the truly disgusting thing at work here. This current position is due to the torture authorized by BushCo. The soldiers should get money from Iraq, and then sue the US govt for pursuing illegal policies that resulted in a delay in their payments.

Meanwhile, the US govt itself pays millions of dollars to folks who were murdered on 9/11.

And of course, Kyrademon is absolutely correct, contracts and obligations entered into by a govt are not nullified by a change in govt, even a change in regime. This was debated and put to rest before the US invasion of Iraq for obvious reasons.
posted by OmieWise at 10:13 AM on February 16, 2005

This is sad, ugly and just helps to define ever more sharply the kind of rampant assholery we have "leading" our nation.

I'm ashamed of our government now more than ever. Fucking hypocritical dickwads.
posted by fenriq at 10:57 AM on February 16, 2005

I think that the US should compensate them since we are now in charge. Otherwise this sets up a nice example for Dow.
posted by john at 2:14 PM on February 16, 2005

koeselitz, I bet if we went back to the original trial you'd see that nobody showed up to defend Iraq's interest in the matter, which would be pretty typical behavior given that Saddam was unlikely to have acknowledged the jurisdiction of an American court. Regardless of what our laws say. Hence the outsized dollar figure. I do agree with kyrademon and others that the Bush Administration needs to stop picking and choosing which laws and treaties they'll abide by.
posted by billsaysthis at 4:45 PM on February 16, 2005

I think the irony is Rummy is arguing that the Iraqis get paid off while our guys shouldn't.
But it's only irony if you assume they stand for something other than selfish interests. (What they are supposed to be as opposed to what they are - like a fireman arsonist).

To those of you who are so disgusted by this, can you offer me any legal grounds upon which a person should be able to sue in a US court a foreign sovereign state
Nope. I can't. That makes it all ok then doesn't it?
I guess those guys should get NOTHING even though a judge already ruled on it. Oh, well.

Why should the Kurds and Shia in Iraq now be responsible to pay for the actions that were taken by Saddam who brutalized them as well?
True. Why should the Germans be responsible to pay for the actions taken by only one man? ...oh, wait he had help didn't he.
Well, slavery is over too....oh, wait lawsuits still exist. huh.

Once again, until you can provide a cogent legal argument for this
I don't know that one is necessary. Again - slavery was legal. What was done to the jews was legal. These things have nothing to do with right and wrong. I'm not Bush bashing here. Not even BushCo bashing.
I simply have a hard time believing the individuals in our government are allowing this to happen. People are supposed to prevent injustices when they see them.
I can't believe a man can stand in court knowing Iraqi people are being paid $ while arguing not that our own men get a reasonable settlement, a lesser settlement, but that they get NOTHING.
See the difference?
In addition, motivations aside, the mechanism of our government was rolling along just fine until BushCo chose to step in.

The damages suffered by these soldiers were at the hands of an entity that no longer financially exists, or can be held responsible.
Let's follow that logic - we then forgive them all debts but also eliminate all their credit and assets. All their capital resources must be zeroed out somehow - so let's convert that to liquid and - to be fair - subtract the amount we destroyed (bombs, etc,).
Oh yeah, and billions upon billions of gallons of oil - which was 'owned' by the former regime as well.
Whose is it now?
At some point it gets absurd of course, but so is the suggestion that the Iraqi people who supported Saddam (since Saddam didn't do everything himself and there are still plenty around) are suddenly innocent because the former system doesn't exist. By that logic we should have let Eichmann walk since he could only have been responsible when Hitler was around.

To take your 'war is war' thinking - success is success. They didn't successfully revolt did they? So, as crappy as it is, they are just as responsible in this failure as those who supported Saddam.
(I don't believe that, but you can't say 'war is war.' Otherwise you start marching yourself)

And not to (re)Godwinize - the only reason we didn't get reparations from the Nazis and Japanese was because it was part of the peace treaties signed.
Jews (civilians) who has their stuff taken, did. Granted they were civilians, but at the time this lawsuit was brought, Saddam was still in power.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:39 PM on February 17, 2005

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