"Sorry We Shot Your Kid, But Here's $500"
For the entire war in Iraq, the press has been kept largely
in the dark concerning the number of civilians killed by our
forces, and what happened in the aftermath. Now several hundred
files posted online reveal some of the true horror while raising
questions about lack of compensation.
Recommendation: The claim is denied.
By Greg Mitchell
04/12/07 - The most revealing new information on Iraq --
guaranteed to make readers sad or angry, or both -- is found not
in any press dispatch but in a collection of several hundred
PDFs posted on the Web this week.
Here you will find, for example, that when the U.S. drops a bomb
that goes awry, lands in an orchard, and does not detonate --
until after a couple of kids go out to take a look -- our
military does not feel any moral or legal reason to compensate
the family of the dead child because this is, after all, broadly
speaking, a "combat situation."
Also: What price (when we do pay) do we place on the life of a
9-year-old boy, shot by one of our soldiers who mistook his book
bag for a bomb satchel? Would you believe $500? And when we
shoot an Iraqi journalist on a bridge we shell out $2500 to his
widow -- but why not the measly $5000 she had requested?
This, and much more, is found in the new PDFs of Iraqi claims,
which are usually denied.
Last June, The Boston Globe and The New York Times revealed that
a local custom in Iraq known as "solatia" had now been adapted
by the U.S. military -- it means families receive financial
compensation for physical damage or a loss of life. The Globe
revealed that payoffs had "skyrocketed from just under $5
million in 2004 to almost $20 million last year, according to
Pentagon financial data."
In a column at that time, I asked: How common is the practice?
And how many unnecessary deaths do the numbers seem to suggest?
It's necessary to ask because the press generally has been
denied information on civilian killings and, in recent years, it
has become too dangerous in much of Iraq for reporters to go out
and investigate shootings or alleged atrocities.
Now we have more evidence, thanks to an American Civil Liberties
Union (ACLU) request for files on payments by the military. The
FOIA request produced 500 case studies, which deserve broad
An Army spokesman told the New York Times that the total
payments so far had reached at least $32 million. Yet this
figure apparently includes only the payments made in this formal
claim process that requires offiical approval. The many other "solatia"
or "condolence payments" made informally at a unit commander's
discretion are not always included.
The ACLU site, www.aclu.org, now features a searchable database
of reports (the ACLU is seeking more of them in case this is
just the tip of the iceberg).
The New York Times comments today: "There is no way to know
immediately whether disciplinary action or prosecution has
resulted from the cases. Soldiers hand out instruction cards
after mistakes are made, so Iraqis know where to file claims.
Exploring the case reports quickly turns disturbing. They often
include the scrawled claims by a victim's family member
detailing a horrific accidental or deliberate killing (all names
blacked out) and then a ruling by a U.S. Army captain or major
with the Foreign Claims Commission.
Occasionally the officer orders a payment, although it can still
make you scream, as for example: "Claimant alleges that her two
brothers were returning home with groceries from their business,
when U.S. troops shot and killed them, thinking they were
insurgents with bombs in the bags. I recommend approving this
claim in the amount of $5,OOO."
More often the officer denies the claim due to alleged lack of
evidence, or threatening behavior by the deceased (usually just
failing to stop quickly enough while driving) or the death
occurring in some sort of vague combat situation. Many of the
denials seem arbitrary or unfair, particularly when the only
reason cited is a "combat exemption" -- as in the case of the
dead kid in that orchard.
Then there's this example:
"Claimant's son and a friend were fishing, in a small boat, 15
kilometers north of Tikrit on the Tigres river at 2200 hours on
31 March 2005. The claimant and his son had fished the Tigres
many nights recently, but the father did not join his son this
night. U.S. Forces helicopters were flying overhead, like they
usually did and there were no problems.
"A U.S. Forces HMMWV patrol pulled up to the beach near where
they were fishing. The patrol had spotted and destroyed a boat
earlier in the evening that had an RPG in it. They set off an
illumination round and then opened fre. The claimant's only son
was shot and killed. His friend was injured, but managed to get
the boat to the other side of the river. At the small village
across the river they received medical help and were taken to
the hospital. But, it was too late for the claimant's son.
"The claimant and his son were huge supporters of democracy and
up to this day held meetings and taught there friends about
democracy. The claimant provided two witness statements, medical
records, a death certificate, photographs and a scene sketch,
all of which supported his claim.
"Opinion: There is sufficient evidence to indicate that U.S.
Forces intentionally killed the claimant's son. Unfortunately,
those forces were involved in security operations at the time.
Therefore, this case falls within the combat exception."
Sometimes the Army officer, perhaps feeling a bit guilty for his
ruling – or the whole war – authorizes a small payment in
"condolence" money, which does not require admitting any
wrongdoing on our part. One of the PDFs notes that a U.S. army
memo states a maximum condolence payment scale: $2,500 for
death, $500 for property, $1,000 for injury.
To give you more of the flavor, here are some excerpts (with a
few typos corrected).
Claimant filed a claim for $5,500 on 3 Sept. 2005.
Facts: Claimant alleges that a CF [coalition force] dropped a
bomb in his orchard. The bomb allegedly did not explode upon
impact. Claimant's son went to investigate and was killed when
the UXO detonated. Claimant's cousin was seriously injured in
the explosion. A couple of hours later, CF allegedly took the
body and Claimant to LSA Anaconda for medical treatment. In
support of their claims, the Claimants have offered witness
statements, medical records from LSA Anaconda, and police and
Opinion: Under AR 27-20, paragraph 10-3, Claims arising
"directly or indirectly" from combat sctivities of the US. Armed
Forces are not payable. AR 27-20 defines combat activities as
"Activities resulting directly or indirectly from action by the
enemy, or by the U.S. Armed Forces engaged in armed conflict, or
in immediate preparation for impending armed conflict." Here, an
airstrike clearly constitutes combat activity. While
unfortunate, this claim is precluded from compensation under the
Recommendation: The claim is denied
Dec. 5 2005:
Claimant alleges that on the above date at the above mentioned
location, the child was outside playing by their gate and a
stray bullet from a U.S. soldier hit their son in the head and
killed him. The U.S. soldiers went to the boy's funeral and
apologized to the family and took their information to get to
them, but never did. The child was nine years old and their only
I recommend approving this claim in the amount of $4,OOO.OO.
April 15, 2005
Claimant alleges that on or about 24 February 2005, he was
riding in a mini-bus with his nine-year-old son on his lap when
Coalition Forces fired a round into the bus. The round allegedly
hit his son in the head, causing the son's death later on. Xxxxx
alleges that some Americans came to the hospital and apologized.
He also states that one of the HMMWV's had "32" on the side.
Claimant has enclosed an autopsy report.
Allow me to express my sympathy for your loss, however, in
accordance with the cited references and after investigating
your claim, I find that your claim is not compensable for the
following reason: In vour claim you failed to provide suflicient
evidence that U.S. Forces and not someone else is responsible
for your damages. Accordingly, your claim must be denied.
Incident occurred Jan. 6, 2005 at a bridge near Haifa Street
Claimant alleges that her husband, who was working as a
journalist, was walking across the bridge when he was shot and
killed by U.S. troops. She has documentation from CA confirming
that US. troops were in the area at that time. Also, a medical
report is attached stating that the round that killed the victim
was a 5.56mm round. The claimant has submitted sufficient
I recommend approving this claim in the amount of $2,5OO.OO.
(She had asked for $5000)
On 11 April 2005, Claimant's father was allegedly killed by CF
forces near the Samarra Museum&hellipClaimant says that his
father was deaf and would not have heard danger nearby. The
claimant did not personally witness the shooting and relies
solely on eyewitnesses. Eye witnesses related that victim was
shot by CF forces. The Claimant does not know if his father was
shot by CF forces responding to an AIF attack, or whether CF
fired directly on his father.
The claimant presented a claim in the amount of $4,000 on 21
RECOMMENDATION: this claim be denied.
Dec. 5, 2004:
The issue presented is whether claimant may receive compensation
for the death of his father, his mother, his brother and 32
In this case, the claimant has lost his entire family and his
herd of sheep that provide a means of income. In addition, the
claimant suffered gun shot wounds himself.
The claimant states that his family was sleeping when the shots
fired that killed his family. He claims that the family had only
one AK-47 that the father carried outside after his wife was
shot in the head The coalition force may have been justified in
shooting at another target where the claimant and his family
would be collateral damage to that combat operation. However,
the ROE require units to have positive identification of target
before engaging. In this case, reports indicate that over one
hundred rounds were fired that impacted around a flock of sheep
and his sleeping family. Accordingly, it appears that the
shooting, although not "wrongful", was conducted "negligently".
It is therefore my opinion that there is sufficient evidence to
justify compensation under the FCA.
I recommend that claimant be appoved in the amount claimed
On 11 April 2005, at about 11:30 am, Claimant's 8 year old
xxxx was allegedly killed by CF forces near the Al Khatib
Secondary School, Samarra. xxxx says that his sister was playing
near the school and was shot by CF. Deceased's death certificate
... she was killed by gunfire. The claimant did not personally
witness the shooting and relies solely on eye witnesses. Eye
witnesses related that victim was shot by CF forces by a "random
shot." During the interview, it was impossible to clarify what
the claimant meant by a "random shot." A SIGACTS investigation
revealed no activity or incidents in Samarra on that date.
RECOMMENDATION: Based upon the investigation by this FCC, it is
reasonable to conclude that the CF activity can be characterized
as combat activity. I recommend this claim be denied.
June 17, 2005
Claimant alleges that on the above date at the above mentioned
location, his brother xxxxx was traveling in his car with rugs
that he was taking to a rug store to sell. He was shot by U.S.
soldiers, and the rugs and cash on his possession were never
recovered...and his body left there.
I recommend approving this claim in the amount of $3,000.00
April 23, 2006, Samarra
Claimant alleges that Coalition Forces fired upon his two sons
as they were leaving the market. The claimants sons waived their
shirts and their underwear as a sign of peace. The claimant
provided death certificates, legal expert and witness statements
to substantiate the claim.
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