U.S. Wins Fight to Keep Money from Gulf War POW's

Bump and Update: The POW's lost. Bush won. Here's the opinion.

The Secretary's position that the POWs are unable to recover any portion of their judgment as requested, despite their sacrifice in the service of their country, seems extreme. Yet, he is correct that the Congress and the President have withdrawn TRIA as an available mechanism for the plaintiffs to use to
satisfy their judgment. Prior to the date the plaintiffs in this case obtained their judgment against Iraq and their corresponding ability to attach assets under TRIA, Congress and the President made TRIA inapplicable to Iraq. As a result, defendant is entitled to summary judgment on plaintiffs' TRIA claim.

(from our earlier post, 7/29/03)

The POW's from Gulf War I were awarded $1 billion dollars for their ordeal by a federal judge. Congress passed laws specifically allowing payment of such claims to be made from funds or assets the U.S. has seized from the responsible nation. The U.S. seized $1.9 billion from Iraq. Now the Bush Administration is in court fighting to not have to pay the money to the POWs. It wants to use the money to pay for the rebuilding of Iraq.

Congress' purpose in passing the series of laws that allows such recovery was not just to recompense the POW victims. It was also to send a deterrent message to other nations that they better not violate the Geneva Convention and laws against torture or they will pay dearly for it.

The Adminstration's argument is that Iraq is no longer a terrorist nation since May when it was liberated. They say Saddam and those in power when the injuries to the POWs were caused are no longer in power and the funds don't belong to them now. They also say that an Executive Order passed by Bush in March seized the frozen funds, and that the Patriot Act gives the Government the right to the funds over the POWs.

POW lawyer Stephen Fennell disagrees, and says:

....changing conditions in Iraq should be of no consequence. Under the Geneva Convention, he said, "these types of liabilities run with the states, not the governments."

We hope there is considerable political fallout to Bush from this. We think the POW's should get the money as Congress intended and the Judge decreed.

“It really is unthinkable that in the end that the reconstruction of Iraq should be done on the backs of the POWs who were brutally tortured (there),” said Stephen Fennell, attorney for the 17 former prisoners of war and their families who are trying to recover the nearly $1 billion in damages they were awarded earlier this month. “We need to deter the continued torture of American POWs,” he said.

The judge has issued a restraining order against the Government from using the funds for other purposes while he decides the issue. A ruling was not issued at today's hearing.

New York Times coverage is here, and here's more from MSNBC.

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