America the Exceptional

The U.S. forces Iraq to pay $400 million to torture victims 2 days after America's victims are denied court access

Published September 11, 2010 11:12AM (EDT)

(updated below - Update II - Update III)

Even for those who believe they're inured to the absurdities of imperial irony, this is almost too extreme to process:

The New York Times, Wednesday:

A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that former prisoners of the C.I.A. could not sue over their alleged torture in overseas prisons because such a lawsuit might expose secret government information. . . .

"To this date, not a single victim of the Bush administration’s torture program has had his day in court," [the ACLU's Ben] Wizner said. . . . "If this decision stands, the United States will have closed its courts to torture victims while providing complete immunity to their torturers."

Yahoo! News, yesterday:

Iraq to pay $400 million for Saddam's mistreatment of Americans

Iraq has quietly agreed to pay $400 million in claims to American citizens who say they were tortured or traumatized by Saddam Hussein’s regime after his 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The controversial settlement ends years of legal battles and could help Iraq emerge from United Nations sanctions put in place two decades ago -- a step Iraqi leaders see as a prerequisite to becoming fully sovereign. . . . Settling the claims, which were brought by American citizens, has been seen as a key requirement for Washington to be willing to push for an end to the UN sanctions. . . .

Despite Iraq’s potential oil wealth, the country has major economic problems, including widespread poverty, 30 percent unemployment, and an infant mortality rate among the highest in the region. . . .

The settlement is controversial not only because of Iraq's pressing developmental needs, but because it holds the current government accountable for Saddam Hussein’s actions.

“A lot of blood has flowed since then and a lot of it is Iraqi blood. It’s arguable that the suffering was not caused by the current Iraqi government or the Iraqi people,” says one senior Iraqi official. “This is politics, this is not justice.”

So, to recap:  the U.S. creates a worldwide regime of torture, disappearances and lawless imprisonment.  Then, the Bush administration, the Obama administration, and the American federal judiciary all collaborate to shield the guilty parties from all accountability (Look Forward, Not Backward!), and worse, to ensure that not a single victim can even access American courts to obtain a ruling as to the legality of what was done to them, let alone receive compensation for their suffering, even while recognizing that many of the victims were completely innocent and even though other countries have provided the victims with compensation for their much more minor role in what happened.  Our courts even ensure that Blackwater guards are shielded from prosecution for the cold-blooded murder of Iraqi citizens.

But we invade, occupy and destroy Iraq -- while severely abusing, torturing and killing their citizens -- and then demand, as a condition for our allowing the end of crippling sanctions, that they fork over hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to American torture victims, even though it all happened 20 years ago, under an Iraqi regime that no longer even exists.  They hate us for our Freedoms.

* * * * * 

See also:  my post from earlier today on Tom Goldstein and the perils of conflict-plagued commentary.


UPDATE:  The excellent novelist Barry Eisler has a new book, Inside Out, which pertains to this theme and many others covered by this blog.  I haven't yet read Inside Out, but long-time commenter Mona has, and she provides a short review and enthusiastic recommendation in the comment section here.  Aside from their quality, Eisler's books are well worth buying because, as a former CIA analyst, he writes national security novels from a very unique and valuable perspective:  one that incisively highlights the absurdities, contradictions and immoralities that drive much of American foreign policy.


UPDATE II:  Related to all of this:  at 5:00 p.m. EST today, I'll be at FDL Book Salon, hosting a discussion of Bruce Fein's superb new book, American Empire Before the Fall, which examines the history of America's imperial hubris and the fundamental harm it is causing on virtually every level.  At 5 pm, my review of that book will be posted at the top of FDL, and both Fein and I will be present to engage with commenters and questioners about the topics covered by the book. 


UPDATE III:  For those wishing to commemorate 9/11 -- and that desire seems oddly widespread -- I highly recommend this amazingly smart and prescient article, written on September 12, 2001, by Hunter Thompson.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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