Sunday, October 17, 2004

Legal Corruption

Guess who, now occupying a nation of desperate poverty, is sucking the marrow from its bones.

...well, this is a Republican Administration:

Since Saddam was toppled in April, Iraq has paid out $1.8 billion in reparations to the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC), the Geneva-based quasi-tribunal that assesses claims and disburses awards. Of those payments, $37 million has gone to Britain and $32.8 million to the United States. That’s right: In the past 18 months, Iraq’s occupiers have collected $69.8 million in reparation payments from the desperate people they have been occupying. But it gets worse: The vast majority of those payments, 78 percent, have gone to multinational corporations, according to statistics on the UNCC website.


Away from media scrutiny, this has been going on for years. Of course there are many legitimate claims for losses that have come before the UNCC: Payments have gone to Kuwaitis who have lost loved ones, limbs, and property to Saddam’s forces. But much larger awards have gone to corporations: Of the total amount the UNCC has awarded in Gulf war reparations, $21.5 billion has gone to the oil industry alone. Jean-Claude AimĂ©, the UN diplomat who headed the UNCC until December 2000, publicly questioned the practice. “This is the first time as far as I know that the UN is engaged in retrieving lost corporate assets and profits,” he told the Wall Street Journal in 1997, and then mused: “I often wonder at the correctness of that.”

But the UNCC’s corporate handouts only accelerated. Here is a small sample of who has been getting “reparation” awards from Iraq: Halliburton ($18 million), Bechtel ($7 million), Mobil ($2.3 million), Shell ($1.6 million), NestlĂ© ($2.6 million), Pepsi ($3.8 million), Philip Morris ($1.3 million), Sheraton ($11 million), Kentucky Fried Chicken ($321,000) and Toys R Us ($189,449). In the vast majority of cases, these corporations did not claim that Saddam’s forces damaged their property in Kuwait — only that they “lost profits” or, in the case of American Express, experienced a “decline in business” because of the invasion and occupation of Kuwait.

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