Back in April, we told you about EPIC's partnership with the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) and the legacy of CIVIC's founder, Marla Ruzicka. Marla was a great champion for innocent civilian victims of U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, advocating proper compensation for their families. Tragically, she was killed by a suicide bomber in 2005, at the age of 29.
Following her death, Congress established the Marla Ruzicka Iraqi War Victims Fund, giving money to small, community-based projects assisting families directly affected by U.S. and coalition actions. Meanwhile, CIVIC continues Marla's work, and 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.
However, even with these steps forward, an article in today's New York Times entitled "Sometimes in War, You Can Put a Price on Life," by Jon Tracy, proves we still have a long way to go in protecting and compensating civilian victims of U.S. aggression.
Tracy, a military lawyer who spent 14 months working with Iraqis claiming various combat- and non-combat-related injuries, points to the shocking Pentagon failure to adequately compensate Iraqis for deaths and injuries clearly resulting from the wrongdoing of U.S. forces.
In 2005, 24 civilians were massacred in Haditha at the hands of U.S. troops, and their families received only about $1,500 each. Just last year, a teenage girl in Mahmudiya was raped and then murdered along with her family. Their relatives received nothing, despite two U.S. soldiers confessing to the crimes. (read EPIC's statement on this tragedy here.)
In contrast, consider that the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund awarded an average of $1.8 million per family of each victim. Do we really believe Iraqi lives are worth that much less than those of Americans?
What disturbs Tracy more than the meager amounts being offered is the fact that it is in the form of condolence payments rather than official compensation under the Foreign Claims Act. The latter acknowledges wrongdoing, while the former considers the incident an accident of war. "Imagine the feelings of the families...devastated because a foreign soldier has brutalized a loved one, and then the military grossly insults them by offering a token sum with no acknowledgment of the egregious wrongs committed."
Adding insult to injury in this way breeds even more resentment in the Middle East and further damages U.S. credibility abroad. We can and must do more to fulfill the legacy of Marla Ruzicka, and properly compensate and protect innocent Iraqi civilians.