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15 Sep, 2010 09:31

Iraqis outraged at payout for US victims of Saddam’s regime

Iraq has agreed to pay $400 million to American citizens who say they were tortured or traumatized by Saddam Hussein’s regime after he invaded Kuwait in 1990. Locals are outraged.

It comes as a shock to the millions of Iraqis who are still suffering from the US-led campaign – especially since many have received nothing for their suffering.

The deal will finally settle claims by the American citizens who were caught up in Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait and became subject to torture and psychological abuse. Many have since sued the Iraqi government for compensation.

The timing of the deal is significant, says RT’s Middle East correspondent Paula Slier.

“It’s widely seen as a push by American citizens and government as a key requirement for the United States to push for an end on UN sanctions,” Paula explained.

Iraq has been put under Chapter 7 of the UN sanctions as a result of the 1990 Iraq invasion of Kuwait and subsequent first Gulf War. The country has remained subject to 73 UN resolutions ever since.

As part of the Status of Forces Agreement between Iraq and the United States, which provides the legal basis for the presence of American troops there, the US committed itself to helping Iraq emerge from Chapter 7.

The question arises as to where the war-torn country is getting hold of money it can ill afford.

“There are some $900 million in frozen assets and that the money will largely come from there,” Paula explained, adding, “This is the Iraqi money that has been held by the US government under the ‘Oil for Food’ program.”

On the question of reparations for Iraqis, Entifadh Qanbar, a member of the Iraqi National Alliance party, says there is cash in the country – it just needs to be better distributed.

“Iraq is not short of money. The poverty we see in Iraq is caused by a great degree of mismanagement on the Iraqi government’s part and huge corruption,” Qanbar said. “I think the issue is not if there is money or not – if we increase oil production we can double or even triple our income, but the problem is how the money is managed. The Iraqi government is in complete control of the Iraqi state’s money. The government is extremely rich while the Iraqi people are extremely poor.”

The Iraqi government has been avoiding too much attention to the issue, but some comments have still leaked. Iraqi officials are saying that this is a way to stop and stem future Iraqi assets overseas, such as those in banks, from being frozen in the future.

By doing this, the government is trying to put a positive spin to the issue that sparked massive outrage among fellow citizens.

Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, says the payment is an “insult” to Iraqis.

“Iraqi people can’t find electricity. They can’t find water. They can’t find proper education: 50% of them are illiterate.” Atwan said, adding, “There are a million widows in Iraq. There are about four million orphans. The whole country is dismembered. So I think the Iraqi people will see this as a ‘milking’ of the money, which goes to the Americans who destroyed Iraq.

Brian Becker from the US-based anti-war ANSWER coalition says the payout reflects the “colonial” nature of the treatment that Iraq has been subjected to.

There has been an ongoing looting of Iraq, and it just shows the servile character of the Iraqi government,” Becker said.

One out of every four Iraqis has suffered directly because of the war and there is no compensation coming to them,” Becker added. “The American government created these oceans of human misery and they have an obligation, an accountability… they in fact owe reparations to all the Iraqi people for this war of aggression.”