In conflict, casualties among soldiers are considered a part of the game. But what happens when abuse occurs involving civilians "suspected" of guilt, those whose homes are destroyed because suspects "might" be hiding there, or the hapless who are caught in the crossfire and killed simply because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? The lines are further blurred when some of the abuse, revenge attacks, and killing are perpetrated not by US soldiers, but by paid "contractors" and mercenary guards.
The Bush administration has decided to bestow on US troops and personnel immunity from prosecution by Iraqi courts for killing Iraqis or destroying local property after the occupation ends and sovereignty returns to Iraq, US officials said today.
How dare they? What right do they have to tell the Iraqis how to run their own legal system after "handing over sovereignty."
The administration plans to accomplish that step - which would bypass the most contentiou remaining political issue before the transfer of power - by extending an order that has been in place during the yearlong occupation of Iraq. No one has yet successful taken US soldiers to court because - with the chaos and disarray in that country and with no governing body, there have been no judicial bodies equipped to handle complaints and sue for justice on behalf of Iraqi citizens. While holding itself blameless, the US has made reparation payments to families of civilians; in the wake of the new edict from Bush, the government will not feel compelled to offer even the smallest amount of compensation. After all, it would be an admission that it had done something wrong.
Order 17 gives all foreign personnel in the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority immunity from "local criminal, civil and administrative jurisdictions and from any form of arrest of detention other than by persons acting on behalf of their parent states."
US administrator Paul Bremer is expected to extend Order 17 as one of his last acts before "shutting down the occupation next week", US officials said. Amusing, really, to say out of one side of his mouth that the "occupation" will end next week and, out of the other, that we will still maintain enough control to dictate what sort of criminal, civil and administrative charges can be brought against US troops. And that is only the tip of the iceberg (if you can picture an iceberg in the desert).
The order is expected to be kept in place for an additional six or seven months, until the first national elections are held. Bush's top foreign policy advisors, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, are debating the scope of immunity to be granted.
In a lame attempt to explain away its motives for the move, the administration said that it was taking the step "in an effort to prevent the new Iraqi government from having to grand a blanket waiver to one of its first acts, which could undermine its credibility just as it assumes power." Who says they have only one option - that they MUST offer immunity either through their own announcement or by accepting their occupier's edict? Some US officials warn that Washington's act could backfire, creating the impression (try "making obvious the fact") that the United States is not turning over full sovereignty, and further that it is giving itself special privileges.
Wednesday at the United Nations, the administration, citing opposition on the Security Council, withdrew a resolution that would have extended immunity for US personnel in UN-approved peacekeeping missions from prosecution before the International Criminal Court. The practical impact of the retreat was mitigated by the United States' signing of agreements with 90 countries not to surrender US personnel to the court.
The issue of immunity for US troops is among the most contentious in the Islamic world, where it has galvanized public opinion against the United States in the past. A similar grant of immunity to US troops in Iran during the Johnson administration in the 1960s led to the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who used the issue to charge that the shah had sold out the Iranian people.
The United States hopes to include some foreign contractors, many of whom are engaged in security operations, Iraqi officials said, while Iraq is pressing to retain the rights of sovereignty.
The biggest fear is that, with no fear of prosecution, there is no incentive to handle situations carefully. With no penalties, you can do whatever you please, causing the levels of hate, distrust, and alienation to rise to even greater levels.
Al Quaeda and other terrorist organizations with no love for the United States could not have asked for a better recruitment scenario.