Monday, November 24, 2003

60 Minutes ran a piece last night that pissed me off in about every way possible. The story was about a group of soldiers who were captured and tortured in Gulf War I. At some point, U.S. courts decided that former POWs could sue their captors, and that's just what these guys decided to do.

The first thing that pisses me off is the fact that our courts decided that we can sue countries and leaders when they do naughty things like violate the Geneva Convention. The theory behind it is that if you can extract large amounts of money from people who do shit like this, that it will potentially improve the treatment of American POWs in the future.

This is a weakly-based and very dangerous assumption. It's weakly based because what we have here is the notion that dictators like Saddam are fearful of the same things that we are. Namely, litigation. Well, that's just fucking retarded. Saddam was obviously crazy enough to not be afraid of the fucking U.S. military, so what's to make us think that he's going to be afraid of getting sued? Odds are, this isn't going to do a fucking thing to better the treatment of our POWs in the future. No one is going to be like, "You know, I was gonna hook this guy's nuts up to a car battery, but then I realized that he might come back and sue us some day." When people are at fucking war with us, interested in nothing more than torturing and killing our people, the last thing on their mind is whether or not Jack McCoy is going to hunt them down someday.

Okay, maybe if Jack was going to come after them at some point, that would put the fear of God/Allah/Mickey Mouse into them. But nothing short of that is going to have any effect.

The arrogance which is shown by this ruling is what is dangerous. If we continue to assume that others around the world, especially nutcase dictators torturing and guys who are "just following orders," are going to behave and respond to things in the same manner that we would, then we are in serious fucking trouble.

And, of course, that's why we're in serious fucking trouble. We never take the time to really understand the enemy or to see where they're coming from. Some people dismiss this by saying "Fuck that. Why do we need to understand the enemy? Let's just fucking kill them already." That's just shortsighted nonsense. If we took the time to understand our enemies, maybe we could A) fight them more effectively and B) not make so many more in the future.

Another glaring problem with allowing POWs to sue captors is the blindingly obvious question: How the fuck are they going to collect when they win their suits? I say when not if, because there's pretty much no way anyone can lose a suit like this. In "Heroic American soldiers vs. Saddam," the outcome of that case is pretty much decided from the get-go. Any sort of "trial" is a waste of time.

Anyway, they have come up with some ideas on how soldiers can collect on their lawsuits. One way is to use seized assets from the offending country to pay out. That's exactly what was going to happen in the case of these soldiers, until the Bush administration decided to play what sounded like nothing more than legal tiddlywinks. The seized Iraqi assets, which were going to be used to pay the over $900 million settlement this particular group of soldiers were going to receive, were transferred to the Treasury Department. At that point, they were no longer considered Iraqi assets, and were now earmarked as money for Iraqi reconstruction. As such, the money was no longer eligible to be used to pay the POWs.

This shuffling of money is really irritating. It looks like a move that blatantly screws over some veterans, even if that wasn't the intent. The administration has been building a nice reputation for fucking over people who were willing to fight for this country, and this just adds to it. Also, what is this bullshit that we need all of that money to pay for reconstruction? I wonder if that money factored in to Bush's $87 billion handout from congress?

The soldiers, of course, know that Bush could change all this if he wanted to. But when pressed by Mike Wallace on the issue, the former POWs remained mostly silent. One guy tried to stick up for Bush, saying something along the lines of how Bush wouldn't screw the POWs on purpose. That may be true, but it was avoiding the issue of how Bush could fix the problem by taking personal action. I understand the need to support your commander in chief and all, but it still frustrates me to see people holding back when they could (or maybe even should) be lashing out. Yet another reason as to why even if they were to fire up a draft, they're better off without me.

The final thing that pissed me off was the fact that these former POWs are fighting so hard for the money (they're now suing John Snow to try and get their money) that it's beginning to look like it's just about the money. Believe me, I'm not insensitive to what these guys went though, and my knee-jerk reaction is that these guys deserve some sort of repayment for it.

On the other hand, though, these guys weren't drafted or forced in any way. They weren't civilians who got caught up in a bad situation. They were soldiers who got captured in the line of duty. They voluntarily put themselves in this situation, and they knew the risks. Again, I really am sorry for what they went through, but what were you guys expecting? It's fucking war.

In the end, their insistence on getting paid makes it look like they're more interested in getting cash than helping future soldiers. Yes, I could be wrong about this. I could be right, though, because we have a tendency of trying to turn tragedy into monetary gain. Columbine, September 11th, etc. Victims and survivors looking to cash in. Like I said, I can cut them some slack, since in some cases it's like, well, giving them some money is the least we can do. It never takes too long, though, before it looks like crass American greed has taken full control of the situation, and it's no longer about suffering and loss, it's about how can I profit from this?.

So, there you have it. That's what I get (and you, subsequently) for watching network TV on Sunday night.

No comments: