should seized Iraqi funds be used to compensate American POW? DOJ says no.


Earlier this month, 17 American POWs were awarded a billion dollars in damages, payable to Iraq, for torture that was inflicted on them during Gulf War One. Those POWs want to be paid from funds that have been seized from Iraq. The Justice Department is opposing the judgement.

The POWs are trying to argue that the US is taking sides against its own POWs and aligning itself with the very country that tortured them.

The DOJ is asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed and for the judgement to be set aside on the grounds that the government which was responsible for the torture no longer exists.

So who’s right? I actually kind of see the government’s side of this. The Iraqi regime responsible for the torture of American POWs is gone. Is it really fair to raid the desperately need coffers of the Iraqi people now to pay a debt incurred by a government they had no control over?

On the other hand, I think the POWs are entitled to something and I’m not sure I agree with the DOJ’s argument that that the judgement should totally be set aside.

Of 1.9 billion dollars originally seized from Iraq, only 722 million remains. Can’t we give the POWs a million dollars each and use the rest for rebuilding Iraq?

My natural instinct is to oppose anything that Ashcroft and Bush want to do just on general principle. In this case I don’t think they’re completely wrong but I’m surprised they’re being so absolute about it.

So what do you think? Is the government right to oppose this judgement? Are they stabbing our POWs in the back? Or are they making a pragmatic choice and do the POWs just have to realize that they can’t collect their damages from a defunct regime?

The POWs deserve nothing more than an average soldier. They deserve no special treatment.

I would say compensate them reasonably from U.S. funds instead. Yes it might still mean drawing money away from the rebuilding efforts, but there’s symbolism here as well. Much better to invest Iraqi money into Iraq than use it in other places. Half of the battle is perception, and thats an area we could use some boosts in.

In a world of limited resources, the money should be put to its best use, further to that, I find the concept of foreign soldiers suing a sovereign over accusations of treatment during wartime to be exceedingly bad precedent, one which the US would not enjoy if the tables were turned.

The lawsuit is bad policy.

Why are they entitled to “something”? They’re not civilians, they are or were soldiers.

Why should the meagre resources available to Iraq go to a set of American soldiers whose award, by the way, was a default judgement as the Iraqis did not defend themselves (Iraq not recognizing in their basic law the legality of most outside judgements.).

Further to that, as the occupying power, the US has a certain duty to the Iraqi interests as well, which is certainly not to fork over money to some Americans with torture claims, valid or not.

You make some good points, Collounsbury, I was leaning towards the government’s side on this anyway. You’ve convinced me that confiscating what’s left of the Iraqi coffers to pay this judgement is probably a bad idea.

I think that money rightfully belongs to the people of Iraq. Not that I don’t want to see the soldiers compensated, but countless Iraqi citizens were tortured as well, and I think they should be entitled to the money.

I don’t see it as the right thing to do. The soldiers were just that - soldiers. When you join the military you know that there is a chance you will see combat, and perhaps be captured or killed. It is an agreement entered into with open eyes.

Certainly it is a horrible thing to be a POW, especially in a country where the things that we consider rights are considered conveniences, but to take money from the pockets of Iraqi citizens will not produce justice for either the POW’s or the Iraqi people.

I’m agreeing that money should not be taken from Iraqi citizens. The POWs should still get generous veterans’ compensations and benefits, including any psychological treatments they may need, for the rest of their lives.

However, is it possible that this decision may piss off veterans or even troops currently in the field. Is there any chance that the military culture in general will buy into the POWs rhetoric that the Us government is “siding with” the enemy?

From my experience in the miltary I wouldn’t think so. As has been pointed out, there was a pretty pragmatic acceptance of the fact that signing on the line meant we might get killed or captured. I doubt it would have even occurred to us to try to sue a hypothetical enemy. That was almost twenty years ago, though, and I’ve been out of touch. I also wasn’t standing in a desert in 110 degree heat watching out for snipers. We’ve already seen reports of low morale and anti-Bush/Rummy resentment from the troops in Iraq. Could something like this antgonize them even more?

Are these funds Iraqi government funds, or do they belong to individuals? If the latter, then even aside from all other considerations of fairness I believe it’s wrong to penalize individuals for the actions of their governments.

I think that the Bush regime is correct in their decision. Any compensation made to POWs should come from their patron nation, NOT the enemy. Just think, are we going to cough up billions of dollars to compensate the “detainees” in Guantanamo (sp?)? To give this money to Americans would only enrage the Iraqis further, make the rebuilding of Iraq more costly and difficult, and set a precident that would be detrimental to the way war is conducted.

I’d say that Bush cutting veterans benifits is what will do that.

The POW’s came home with their lives, which is more than the 148 killed in action can say. Should the families of the KIA’s be able to sue the Iraqis for killing their loved ones?

Sorry, I can’t see it. If a soldier held prisoner by the former Iraqi government, why should the future Iraqi government be held responsible?

Further, if a soldier held prisoner deserves payment, surely those wounded or the families of those killed would be next in line.

Soldiers are compensated by the government they serve. Full stop.

Getting off topic here, but…

I know we have to have the best toys and all, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could spend just a little more of that huge military budget on soldiers getting the care they need, and just a little less on having enough bombs to blow the other guys up 10 times over?

[Sorry, no cite for 10 times over, it’s just hyperbole.]

Sure blowero. Run for office.

58mil each? WTF

What is wrong with these guys that they deserve 58mil each. Would someone please torture me and then give me 58mil.

My pleasure yojimbo. What size whip do you normally use?

Nah, I’d never win. My idea won’t condense into an oversimplified sound-bite. The other side would just distort it into “Blowero soft on defense; liberal bad”.

yojimbo, I imagine the excessively large compensation figure is because Iraq didn’t recognize the legitimacy of the suit, and therefore did not defend themselves, and therefore the plaintiffs won a default judgement. In a normal court case with even minimal representation Iraq probably could have got the judgement reduced to a reasonable level.

Personally, I think the soldiers are out of luck. The entity that tortured them is no longer in business. The US is in a position of trusteeship for the future Iraqi state, and paying the soldiers out of Iraqi funds would be wrong.

The whole suit was silly anyway. Saddam would never pay, and any future post-Saddam Iraqi state would repudiate repsonsibility. They never had a chance of actually seeing any money.