Tuesday, February 15, 2005

THE LOS ANGELES TIMES has an absolutely astonishing article in today's online edition about the Bush administration's efforts to void punitive damages awarded by a federal judge to a group of American prisoners of war who were tortured by Iraqis in the Persian Gulf War.

The 17 veterans filed suit under a law passed by Congress in 1996 that allowed individuals to file suit against foreign governments. The purpose of the law was to discourage acts of terrorism by holding rogue nations legally accountable for such acts.

The veterans won their case against the Iraqi government and were awarded a judgment of almost $1 billion. The Bush administration's lawyers are fighting tooth and nail to get the judgment thrown out. They do not want the veterans to collect one penny of that judgment.

Their reason? The United States overthrew Saddam Hussein's regime; the current Iraqi leaders are the "good guys," and all of the money awarded to those POWs should go instead to Iraq's new government.

This, despite the fact that Donald Rumsfeld has gone on record as supporting compensation for the Iraqi detainees who were tortured by U.S. military personnel in Abu Ghraib, calling it the "right thing to do"; and despite the fact that when the Geneva Convention was ratified, its signers (which included the United States, of course) pledged "never to 'absolve' a state of 'any liability' for the torture of POWs."

When asked, in November 2003, about the administration's determination to keep the POWs from getting the $1 billion they have been legally awarded, Scott McClellan said the current Iraqi government needs the money more than the POWs do, and then added sanctimoniously, "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."

Perhaps those "brave men and women" should be allowed to decide that for themselves.

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