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Old 02-15-2005, 07:08 PM   #1 (permalink)
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This is .....freakin' rediculous...unacceptable.


White House Turns Tables on Former American POWs
# Gulf War pilots tortured by Iraqis fight the Bush administration in trying to collect compensation.



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.

"It seems so strange to have our own country fighting us on this," said retired Air Force Col. David W. Eberly, the senior officer among the former POWs.

The case, now being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, tests whether "state sponsors of terrorism" can be sued in the U.S. courts for torture, murder or hostage-taking. The court is expected to decide in the next two months whether to hear the appeal.

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.

The picture changed, however, when the United States invaded Iraq and toppled Hussein from power nearly two years ago. On July 21, 2003, two weeks after the Gulf War POWs won their court case in U.S. District Court, the Bush administration intervened to argue that their claims should be dismissed.

"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.

Former military lawyers and a bipartisan group of lawmakers have been among those who have urged the Supreme Court to take up the case and to strengthen the law against torturers and tyrannical regimes.

"Our government is on the wrong side of this issue," said Jeffrey F. Addicott, a former Army lawyer and director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University in San Antonio. "A lot of Americans would scratch their heads and ask why is our government taking the side of Iraq against our POWs."

The POWs' journey through the court system began with the events of Jan. 17, 1991 — the first day of the Gulf War. In response to Hussein's invasion of Kuwait five months earlier, the United States, as head of a United Nations coalition, launched an air attack on Iraq, determined to drive Iraqi forces from the oil-rich Gulf state. On the first day of the fighting, a jet piloted by Marine Corps Lt. Col. Clifford Acree was downed over Iraq by a surface-to-air missile. He suffered a neck injury ejecting from the plane and was soon taken prisoner by the Iraqis. Blindfolded and handcuffed, he was beaten until he lost consciousness. His nose was broken, his skull was fractured, and he was threatened with having his fingers cut off. He lost 30 pounds during his 47 days of captivity.

Eberly was shot down two days later and lost 45 pounds during his ordeal. He and several other U.S. service members were near starvation when they were freed. Other POWs had their eardrums ruptured and were urinated on during their captivity at Abu Ghraib.

All the while, their families thought they were dead because the Iraqis did not notify the U.S. government of their capture.

In April 2002, the Washington law firm of Steptoe & Johnson filed suit on behalf of the 17 former POWs and 37 of their family members. The suit, Acree vs. Republic of Iraq, sought monetary damages for the "acts of torture committed against them and for pain, suffering and severe mental distress of their families."

Usually, foreign states have a sovereign immunity that shields them from being sued. But in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1996, Congress authorized U.S. courts to award "money damages … against a foreign state for personal injury or death that was caused by an act of torture, extrajudicial killing, aircraft sabotage [or] hostage taking."

This provision was "designed to hold terrorist nations accountable for the torture of Americans and to deter rogue nations from engaging in such actions in the future," Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and George Allen (R-Va.) said last year in a letter to Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft that urged him to support the POWs' claim.

The case came before U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts. There was no trial; Hussein's regime ignored the suit, and the U.S. State Department chose to take no part in the case.

On July 7, 2003, the judge handed down a long opinion that described the abuse suffered by the Gulf War POWs, and he awarded them $653 million in compensatory damages. He also assessed $306 million in punitive damages against Iraq. Lawyers for the POWs asked him to put a hold on some of Iraq's frozen assets.

No sooner had the POWs celebrated their victory than they came up against a new roadblock: 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. The administration lawyers based their argument on language in an emergency bill, passed shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, approving the expenditure of $80 billion for military operations and reconstruction efforts. One clause in the legislation authorized the president to suspend the sanctions against Iraq that had been imposed as punishment for the invasion of Kuwait more than a decade earlier.

The president's lawyers said this clause also allowed Bush to remove Iraq from the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism and to set aside pending monetary judgments against Iraq.

When the POWs' case went before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit,, the three-judge panel ruled unanimously for the Bush administration and threw out the lawsuit.

"The United States possesses weighty foreign policy interests that are clearly threatened by the entry of judgment for [the POWs] in this case," the appeals court said.

The administration also succeeding in killing a congressional resolution supporting the POWs' suit. "U.S. courts no longer have jurisdiction to hear cases such as those filed by the Gulf War POWs," then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage said in a letter to lawmakers. "Moreover, the president has ordered the vesting of blocked Iraqi assets for use by the Iraqi people and for reconstruction."

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.

By contrast, the government's lawyers have refused to even discuss a settlement in the POWs' case, say lawyers for the Gulf War veterans. "They were willing to settle this for pennies on the dollar," said Addicott, the former Army lawyer.

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.

The POWs say the justices should decide the "important and recurring question [of] whether U.S. citizens who are victims of state-sponsored terrorism [may] seek redress against terrorist states in federal court."

This week, Justice Department lawyers are expected to file a brief urging the court to turn away the appeal.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationwo...home-headlines



------------------------------------------------------------------

One can only hope this is a joke....but I believe it to be real, even if it is the LA Times.
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Old 02-15-2005, 07:15 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I apologize, I admit I did not read this in full, thus misunderstood what was going on.

I agree this is unacceptable.

Last edited by Seaver; 02-15-2005 at 08:23 PM..
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Old 02-15-2005, 07:33 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Oh thank God you know what's going on, Seaver. I'm sure you can prove that no one who under American jurisdiction is being electrocuted, beaten, or being killed. I'm sure you'll give us this great proof that you have, so that we can finally put all of our minds at ease.

...

I'm with Tecoyah on this one. Actually I'm usually in agreement with Tecoyah ...anyways... It is absurd for the government to take the side of the Iraqis, who we just dethroned in front of the world, against the POWS who would give their lives for our country! These are heros, and they are being treated like enemies. There is simply no excuse.
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Old 02-15-2005, 07:44 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I don't know if I missed something in the article so don't tear me down quite yet , but who exactly would be paying the POWs? Certainly not the weak government they recently elected in Iraq. Would the US be picking up the bill for the regime that tortured those soldiers a decade ago?
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Old 02-15-2005, 07:59 PM   #5 (permalink)
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The problem here is that this isn't the same Iraq.

The government that did these things to the soldiers is long gone. Unless they are suing individuals in the Iraqi government at that time, they really don't have a lawsuit anymore.

It upsets me to say this, because of the terrible things that those soldiers endured. They deserve compensation; unfortunately, there is nobody to get it from lest they sue Saddam Hussain personally.
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Old 02-16-2005, 12:07 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djtestudo
The problem here is that this isn't the same Iraq.

The government that did these things to the soldiers is long gone. Unless they are suing individuals in the Iraqi government at that time, they really don't have a lawsuit anymore.

It upsets me to say this, because of the terrible things that those soldiers endured. They deserve compensation; unfortunately, there is nobody to get it from lest they sue Saddam Hussain personally.

Yep. Hmmmmm, that might not be a bad idea though. After his criminal trials are up, sue his ass!
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Old 02-16-2005, 01:27 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tecoyah
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.

The POWs say the justices should decide the "important and recurring question [of] whether U.S. citizens who are victims of state-sponsored terrorism [may] seek redress against terrorist states in federal court."
This seems like a tough one to me since the regime that did the terrorism is no longer in existence. I wonder what we did in previous wars, did we go after the new German and Japanese governments for torture etc..after WWII?
My uncle was a Japanese POW for about 9 months and was tortured repeatedly but I don't recall him getting any compensation other than the usual GI benefits. He was never the same after what he went through.

The U.S. government should probably compensate our soldiers for what they went through. Also if we can find some of Saddam's money we should use it to help. I don't know, maybe there's an argument to be made that the newly elected Iraqi government should pay our soldiers first before building their infrastructure back up. I imagine we would also have a case against the new Afghan government as well.
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Old 02-16-2005, 04:53 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I didn't know this was legal... Removing soverign immunity under ANY circumstances is just plain idiotic. Especially in a manner that singles out what are basically "enemy" nations of the US. So what if a US court decides that Syria or Iran owe some American plaintiff a million in damages for whatever reason... How the heck are they going to enforce it? They say "please do this" and the other country says "no". Unless the US gives them aid, there's no place to even take the money from where it would in principal be going from the foreign country to the plaintiff.
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Old 02-16-2005, 06:22 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I agree with C4 Diesel on this one. The removal of sovereign immunity selectively from "enemy" nations sounds like something the members of congress did as a political stunt to gain favor for themselves.

I think that these POWs should be justly compensated for their suffering before any of the money goes to rebuilding or compensating any of the Iraqis tortured during the war. It is just wrong of our government to turn tail on these soldiers. I have particular disdain for the comment, "No amount of money can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering that they went through..." as a partial justification for giving them no money at all.
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Old 02-18-2005, 01:40 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by braisler
I agree with C4 Diesel on this one. The removal of sovereign immunity selectively from "enemy" nations sounds like something the members of congress did as a political stunt to gain favor for themselves.
I tend to agree.
Quote:
I think that these POWs should be justly compensated for their suffering before any of the money goes to rebuilding or compensating any of the Iraqis tortured during the war.
Before any money goes to rebuilding? Why?

Quote:
It is just wrong of our government to turn tail on these soldiers. I have particular disdain for the comment, "No amount of money can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering that they went through..." as a partial justification for giving them no money at all.
While I do agree that it is wrong of our government to turn their backs on the soldiers and they surely sufferred greatly, $1 Billion dollars in payback seems a bit excessive.
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Old 02-18-2005, 03:26 PM   #11 (permalink)
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The thread article doesn't quite do the "No amount of money that can truly compensate..." statement justice.

Here's the actual Press Briefing, in all it's absurdity:
Quote:
"Q: Scott, there are 17 former POWs from the first Gulf War who were tortured and filed suit against the regime of Saddam Hussein. And a judge has ordered that they are entitled to substantial financial damages. What is the administration's position on that? Is it the view of this White House that that money would be better spent rebuilding Iraq rather than going to these former POWs?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that I view it in those terms, David. I think that the United States -- first of all, the United States condemns in the strongest terms the brutal torture to which these Americans were subjected. They bravely and heroically served our nation and made sacrifices during the Gulf War in 1991, and there is simply no amount of money that can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering that they went through at the hands of Saddam Hussein's brutal regime. That's what our view is.

Q: But, so -- but isn't it true that this White House --

Q: They think there is an --

Q: Excuse me, Helen -- that this White House is standing in the way of them getting those awards, those financial awards, because it views it that money better spent on rebuilding Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, there's simply no amount of money that can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering --

Q: Why won't you spell out what your position is?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm coming to your question. Believe me, I am. Let me finish. Let me start over again, though. No amount of money can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering that they went through at the hands of a very brutal regime, at the hands of Saddam Hussein. It was determined earlier this year by Congress and the administration that those assets were no longer assets of Iraq, but they were resources required for the urgent national security needs of rebuilding Iraq. But again, there is simply no amount of compensation that could ever truly compensate these brave men and women.

Q: Just one more. Why would you stand in the way of at least letting them get some of that money?

MR. McCLELLAN: I disagree with the way you characterize it.

Q: But if the law that Congress passed entitles them to access frozen assets of the former regime, then why isn't that money, per a judge's order, available to these victims?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why I pointed out that that was an issue that was addressed earlier this year. But make no mistake about it, we condemn in the strongest possible terms the torture that these brave individuals went through --

Q: You don't think they should get money?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- at the hands of Saddam Hussein. There is simply no amount of money that can truly compensate those men and women who heroically served --

Q: That's not the issue --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- who heroically served our nation.

Q: Are you opposed to them getting some of the money?

MR. McCLELLAN: And, again, I just said that that had been addressed earlier this year.

Q: No, but it hasn't been addressed. They're entitled to the money under the law. The question is, is this administration blocking their effort to access some of that money, and why?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't view it that way at all. I view it the way that I stated it, that this issue was --

Q: But you are opposed to them getting the money.

MR. McCLELLAN: This issue was addressed earlier this year, and we believe that there's simply no amount of money that could truly compensate these brave men and women for what they went through and for the suffering that they went through at the hands of Saddam Hussein --

Q: So no money.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and that's my answer.

<a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/11/20031106-5.html">whitehouse.gov</a>
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Old 02-18-2005, 03:36 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I think if dante were alive today he would have made made a separate circle of hell specifically for white house press secretaries.
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Old 02-18-2005, 04:57 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Actually, I think the trial judgement was given before we occupied Iraq, and besides, we have frozen Iraqi assets we can disburse from. It really is quite simple: Do the right thing and give them their money. I can't believe how unAmerican these politicians are. George Bush should be the first one in line to say "give them the money".

The reason why no American GI's got compensation from Japanese torture is quite simple: Uncle Sam sold them out for Cold War politics. The Japanese literally got away with murder. It is illegal for US veterans to sue Japan which is jacked. If you were Jewish, you can sue to your hearts content the GErmans and everyone else and the Germans have a guilt complex to boot. The Japanese keep painting themselves as the victims when in fact they were worse than Hitler (Hitler actually was appalled by the atrocities the Japanese commited. They compared notes on torture).

In any case, when we wave our flag and shout slogans like "support our troops", we should do exactly that. There is no excuse. I can't believe we treat Iraqi's better than our own. It makes the right look like the left.
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Old 02-18-2005, 05:45 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Hmmm, if I am an Iraqi, living in the Iraq currently being rebuilt by the provisional government, I think I would tell the US that the money in accounts seized from the Saddam regime is money that was stolen from the Iraqi citizenry, and - as such - belongs to the people of Iraq and its new government. I believe that they would tell us that their claims take precedence over ours - no matter the personal sacrifice of our servicepeople.

So, when the US courts and lawyers come a'knockin for that cash saying, "Our clients were tortured, they deserve a piece of that money!", why wouldn't an Iraqi respond with, "Tortured? I can get a list of 50,000? 100,000?...other Iraqis that have been tortured since Saddam came to power! Get in line..."?

If it comes down to suffering torture at the hands of the Hussein regime, who takes precedence?

That's really what it is all about - whose claim takes precedence?
Also, I wonder whose money is it, really?
Is it Saddams? If so, give a piece to the US servicepeople who suffered.
Is it Iraqs? If so, they should get it back to help rebuild.
Is it ours because we seized it? If so, we can do whatever the hell we want with it, so make with the restitution.

Anyone know what legal cases are out there? Obviously, Germany had to make restitution to the Jewish victims, but that was a case of attempted genocide, not a doule handful of military personnel (and I am not trying to belittle the ugliness of torture - merely point out a difference in circumstance.).

I just don't see this as a "black and white" issue, but - then again - I rarely see foreign relations and foreign policy in that way.
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Old 02-18-2005, 05:49 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Of course, it would be nice if Iraq said, "Here - each of you gets $1.5 mil for helping us out and then getting tortured for it."

But, once again, if the new government were to do that, it would be inundated with its own people coming with their [probably legitimate] claims for restitution for their personal suffering. If they say "No", then they send the message that the US military personnel are more important than their own people. I don't see such a voluntary payment being made.
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Old 02-18-2005, 06:01 PM   #16 (permalink)
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But our government is already compensating Iraqis for torture. Hmmmm....that is kinda weird if we compensate the Iraqis and the Iraqis compensate us?
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Old 02-18-2005, 06:13 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Actually the Geneva Conventions say that a nation is not exempt from the actions of a deposed government. The POW's are well within their rights and the US governemnt is once again dismissing the Geneva Conventions, not that is is a suprise.
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Old 02-18-2005, 06:37 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scotchandwater
Actually the Geneva Conventions say that a nation is not exempt from the actions of a deposed government. The POW's are well within their rights and the US governemnt is once again dismissing the Geneva Conventions, not that is is a suprise.
1) Does the Geneva Convention actually say that? (I'm honestly curious. Do you have a link?)
2) Did Iraq sign the Geneva Convention?
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Old 02-18-2005, 10:45 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jorgelito
But our government is already compensating Iraqis for torture. Hmmmm....that is kinda weird if we compensate the Iraqis and the Iraqis compensate us?
Yea, kinda f'd up, no?
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Old 02-18-2005, 11:04 PM   #20 (permalink)
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4th Geneva Convention

Quote:
Part IV, Section I, Article 148: No High Contracting Party shall be allowed to absolve itself or any other High Contracting Party of any liability incurred by itself or by another High Contracting Party in respect of breaches referred to in the preceding Article.
I don't think that really addresses situations where one government is overthrown for another...but I am not an international law & treaty specialist, so my opinion is suspect. I seem to recall Russia reassuring us that they would abide by all treaties formerly signed by the USSR right after the USSR started its downfall? Was that just a nicety, or did they really need to do so? Ukraine, Georgia, etc...didn't they all then come onboard some of the weapon treaties? Does that not apply, since none of those countries was still calling itself the USSR?

Here's an interesting document:
States Party to the 4th Convention and 1977 Protocols

Note under #1 (Abbreviations), where it talks about Succession. Answers my little question about the former USSR republics. Applicable to Iraq's situation?

If I read the chart right, Iraq is a party to the 4th Convention by accession in 1956.
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Old 02-19-2005, 10:36 PM   #21 (permalink)
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When I read the article, of course I felt like unjustness is going on. But djtestudo and MoonDog have a good point there.
The money was taken from the Iraqi people by the terror regime. The US took it from the regime that no more exists. So it is actually the money of the Iraqi people and they do need it.
Why is so hard for Donald to open the safe under his desk and give the pilots some compensation for what they had to endure?
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Old 02-19-2005, 11:21 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dyze
When I read the article, of course I felt like unjustness is going on. But djtestudo and MoonDog have a good point there.
The money was taken from the Iraqi people by the terror regime. The US took it from the regime that no more exists. So it is actually the money of the Iraqi people and they do need it.
If this were actually a good point, then regardless of whether we had removed the terror regime, the money would still be the property of the Iraqi people and therefore the court should never have given claim for it to any Americans.

And if that is the case: I suppose the Libyan people should be refunded the restitution their gov't paid for Lockerbie?
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Old 02-20-2005, 09:27 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manx
If this were actually a good point, then regardless of whether we had removed the terror regime, the money would still be the property of the Iraqi people and therefore the court should never have given claim for it to any Americans.

And if that is the case: I suppose the Libyan people should be refunded the restitution their gov't paid for Lockerbie?
But that government is still in power, while the one in Iraq is not.
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Old 02-20-2005, 11:19 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djtestudo
But that government is still in power, while the one in Iraq is not.
But the point is trying to claim that the money belongs to the people, not the gov't. So whether the gov't is in power has no bearing on the fact that the court has decided that the money belongs to some non-Libyans.

Either the same holds true here, or, the money gets returned to Libya. You can't have it both ways.
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Old 02-21-2005, 05:14 AM   #25 (permalink)
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We remove soverign immunity as a dog and pony show against terrorist states, let our POW's sue and win, then destroy the infrastructure of said country, freeze assets, and have our Supreme Court throw out the claim already awarded? They were captured and tortured on our behalf! Wow.
At least the Saudis are happy I guess.

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