Thursday, May 31, 2007

CIVIC Releases Devastating Report on U.S. Military Claims System for Civilians

A child is held by an anti-Taliban solider December 14, 2001 on the road to front lines near the Tora Bora area of Afghanistan. Clouds of smoke from U.S.-led bombing billow over Al-Qaeda positions as American and anti-Taliban forces continue to try to dislodge troops loyal to Osama bin Laden from the mountainside.EPIC holds a standing partnership with the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), which aids small, community-based projects assisting families directly affected by U.S. and coalition actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Specifically, we have teamed with them in promoting the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act (S.594). This act would prohibit the use of U.S.-made cluster bombs in civilian areas, where they cause untold devastation.

Today, CIVIC released a white paper on U.S. military successes and failures regarding Iraqi and Afghan civilians, based on the more than 2,000 pages of documents released to the ACLU in April 2007 under the Freedom of Information Act. CIVIC found the U.S. military system "inconsistent and arbitrary," and points out "major problems with the way the US compensates civilians harmed by its military forces."
CIVIC’s findings include:

1. Ad hoc application of the two programs used for compensating (one for in-combat and one for outside of combat);
2. Low and seemingly arbitrary valuations of life;
3. The exclusion of important documentation backing up civilian cases (such as witness reports)
4. Denial under one program of compensation without referral to the other more appropriate program.

EPIC agrees with and supports these findings, and joins with CIVIC in calling on the US military to "keep as transparent and accurate account of civilian casualties as possible, release all documentation referring to civilian casualties in times of war, fairly valuate lives lost, install a consistent system of claims adjudication for civilians harmed as a result of US actions, and provide better training to military lawyers who deal with civilians in wartime."


Roscoe said...

I agree with all your points but EPIC must guard against getting into some "Hate America" campaign. Please don't lose sight of who the real "bad guys" are - the fanatical Muslim criminals.

L said...

In the background of your blog picture is a hand holding an AK-47. That rifle is NOT US Military issue. The picture is heart rending but also speaks a thousand words.

Anonymous said...

It is very difficult for Americans to highly value human lives in the Mideast when, in general, the Arabic culture and possibly the Muslim religion have so little regard for human life. We should be able, as Americans, to rise above their criminality.

Emily Stivers said...

Roscoe - we don't hate America or anyone else. We are campaigning to protect Iraqi civilians, and "bad guys" to us are those who harm the innocent and thwart peacebuilding initiatives. Whether American or Jihadi, we are drawing attention to the causes in need of attention.

I - can you really tell from the butt of the gun in the picture what kind it is? If so, I'm impressed. But the circumstances of why that gun is in that picture are unknown to any of us, so don't jump to conclusions.

Anonymous - to say that either the Arabic culture or the Muslim religion do not value human life is just plain wrong. It is true that Islam places higher value on the good of the community than the individual, and some extremists value Jihad above their own lives. However, Muslims love and need their families just as much as we do ours, and should be compensated justly for losses we cause.

L said...

The magazine of the weapon is showing, not the butt of the weapon!

Emily Stivers said...

OK, my mistake. We still can't say why the gun was in the picture, so it doesn't matter.

jt said...

Sad commentary.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the cluster munitions act, what types of other weapons would the military use alternatively in these situations. And also, wouldn't it be better to have international cooperation on the issue? Materials I read stated that only Belgium has banned the weapons, and several other European countries had similar legislation that was unlikely to pass.

Anonymous said...

The article from CIVIC refers to an 'economic calculus' that we should be using to determine the value of life in the settlements. How does this system work and would this lead to dramatically higher awards? The awards like $2,500 in the article are obviously small in terms of the US economy, but in Iraq I am assuming they have a much higher value for the US dollar, can you give us an idea of what the difference would be?

Emily Stivers said...

Regarding the gun, I did a little research and it turns out that the East German-made MPiKMS-72, a folding stock variant of the AKM, is used by U.S. Marines - as you can see in this picture:

This variation of the AK-47 is in fact used by the US military and has the same cartridge (or "magazine") size as the AK 47.

Marla B said...

I: Regarding the photo, it was taken by my friend Chris Hondros in December 2001 in Afghanistan. According to his image caption: "A child is held by an anti-Taliban solider December 14, 2001 on the road to front lines near the Tora Bora area of Afghanistan. Clouds of smoke from U.S.-led bombing billow over Al-Qaeda positions as American and anti-Taliban forces continue to try to dislodge troops loyal to Osama bin Laden from the mountainside."

Emily Stivers said...

Thanks, Marla. I added that caption to the photo.

Marla B said...

Anonymous: Regarding the cluster munition act... what the act really aims to do is to protect civilians from the dangerous aftermath of cluster munitions. It DOES NOT forbid the US from using them, it only aims to ensure they are using the most up to date technology and not using them in places where civilians are likely to be.

For example, currently cluster munitions have dud rates (non explosion on impact) of 1-40%. What the bill asks is to ensure that new techology is utilized and dud rates are limited to 1%.

In fact, there is international work on this. This an exerpt from a draft white paper CIVIC is working on:

In November 2006, after the states party to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) failed to agree on a mandate to start real negotiations addressing the humanitarian problems cluster munitions cause, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre invited a large spectrum of states and organizations to a meeting in Oslo. The Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions was held in February of 2007 with representatives from over 49 countries, the UN and many major human rights organizations. From the conference arose the Oslo Declaration, committing 46 states to finalize an international treaty prohibiting the use of cluster munitions and minimize their effects on civilians by the year 2008 . China, Russia and the United States, the largest manufacturers of cluster bombs, were the only nations in attendance to oppose the ban.

In May of 2007 a follow up to the Oslo Conference was held in Lima, Peru with even broader attendance from delegates, NGOs, academics, government representatives and Nobel Laureates speaking out in support of the cause. "We applaud bold initiatives that tackle such issues -- and lend our full support to this new process determined to eliminate cluster munitions," said Jody Williams, a US nobel prize laureate, on behalf of five other nobel peace prize winners to a supportive crowd in Lima. "While so many of the world's arms cause so much human misery, cluster munitions deserve to be singled out as an especially pernicious weapon of ill repute.”

Marla B said...

Anonymous: Actually, the article from CIVIC refers to an 'economic calculus' THE MILITARY claims they are using. We are still in the process of requesting information on this 'calculus' as it does not seem it is used neither for FCA claims (where it is US law to value both 'economic and non-economic loss') nor for condolence payments.

We believe if done correctly in Iraq this would indeed lead to higher payouts. The problem with the $2500 cap is that in Afghanistan (where the per capita income is $800 a year) that might be (and i stress might be because it depends on the family situation etc.) sufficient. However, in Iraq, where the per capita income is $2100 it seems quite low (again... i stress that each incident must be separately studied). For example in the US economy (where our PCI is $40K, there are routinely civil payouts in the millions).

Again, i can't tell you specifically what we think the payouts should be. As we all know, there is no amount of money that would bring back a loved one lost. All we are asking is that the military actually use a fair and appropriate method in figuring out how much a family should receive. We beleive showing that type of respect to the families after a tragic incident goes a long way towards showing our humanity as Americans.

Anonymous said...

Have we ever paid reparations for victims of war before?

Emily Stivers said...

Marla b - thanks so much for your thoughtful responses. We really appreciate the work you are doing over at CIVIC!

Anonymous - the Foreign Claims Act was enacted in 1942, prior to U.S. entrance into WWII, and claims of atrocities at the hands of U.S. troops have been successfully processed through it. I'm looking for some more data and examples on that, and will get back to you.

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