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الأحد، 11 أكتوبر، 2015

After Airstrike on Afghan Hospital, a Look at U.S. 'Condolence Payments'

After Airstrike on Afghan Hospital, a Look at U.S. 'Condolence Payments'


The New York Times
Georgia Novello, a nurse in Kabul, comforted an 8-year-old girl wounded, along with her mother, in an airstrike in Kunduz. CreditVictor J. Blue for The New York Times

The Pentagon said on Saturday that it would make “condolence payments” to the survivors of the American airstrike earlier this month on a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz, Afghanistan, as well as to the next of kin of those who died in the attack.
Condolence payments are a way for the United States, without admitting any wrongdoing, to compensate civilians who have been injured, lost a loved one or suffered property damage at the hands of the military. This is not the first time the United States has made a condolence payment after causing civilian casualties, but there has been no public, systematic account of how frequently it has made them or how much money it has spent on them.
A number of cases in Iraq and Afghanistan have been documented by journalists and advocacy organizations, in particular the American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained records of almost 500 civilian casualty incidents under the Freedom of Information Act. Some payments were made after highly publicized incidents such as the killings in Haditha, Iraq, in 2005 or the airstrike in Kunduz. But most civilians who received condolence payments were caught up in smaller-scale incidents, most of which never made the news. Here are a few examples.
  1. A Man Shot by U.S. Soldiers on His Way to Shop
    The United States military paid an Iraqi woman in the city of Bayji $2,500 after her husband was killed by American soldiers as he drove to Mosul to buy supplies for his shop on October 2, 2004, according to documents obtained by the A.C.L.U. Soldiers signaled to him to stop his car and then fired into its engine block. “As a last resort,” the report said, soldiers, “shot and killed the driver.” The woman also filed a claim for $7,000 that she said her husband took with him on his shopping trip, but the documents did not say whether her claim was successful.
  2. A Child Killed As She Played
    In April 2006 the military paid $2,500 to the parents of a 4-year-old girl in Samarra, Iraq, who they said had been killed one year earlier by American gunfire as she played in her front yard. Her parents said that American forces, on foot patrol and in a Humvee, opened fire in the street to clear a traffic jam. They said their daughter was killed when one of the bullets ricocheted off a wall and hit her. In documents obtained by the A.C.L.U, military officials said the claim from April 2005 was “too old to verify,” but they authorized a condolence payment anyway.
  3. “10 kids!”
    A man with 10 children was shot and killed as he approached a checkpoint near a police station in Balad, Iraq, on June 16, 2005, according to documents obtained by the A.C.L.U. His wife told the military that the checkpoint was located on a curving stretch of the road and that her husband, driving around the bend without realizing it was there, did not have enough time to stop. American forces said they saw the car approach and fired, killing the driver. The military made a $2,500 condolence payment on Feb. 14, 2006. In the margin of the paperwork authorizing the payment, a military official wrote, “10 kids!”
  4. Payment for a Husband, and a Car
    The U.S. military approved a condolence payment of $2,500 for the death of an Iraqi man on Oct. 31, 2005. The man was shot by an American soldier while he was driving in Kirkuk with his wife and two children, according to documents obtained by the A.C.L.U. The man’s car was similar to one that the soldier’s convoy had been warned was being driven by a possible suicide bomber. The military also paid the man’s widow $300 for damage to the family’s car.
  5. The Killings in Haditha
    On Nov. 19, 2005, United States Marines killed 24 civilians, including women, children and an elderly man in a wheelchair, in Haditha, a city in Iraq’s Anbar Province. Investigators and residents of Haditha said the marines over-reacted to a roadside bomb and went house to house killing civilians, only one of whom was armed. The episode drew international condemnation and was compared by some to the 1968 My Lai Massacreduring the Vietnam War.
    The initial Marine Corps report claimed that all the civilians were killed by the roadside bomb, and it was not until early 2006 that military investigators began to examine the deaths. Charges were brought in December 2006 against four Marines, but when the prosecution ended in 2012 none had been sentenced to prison.
    Within weeks of the killings, the military paid $38,000 in cash to the families of 15 of the 24 victims. The relatives of each victim were paid $2,500 for the loss of their loved one, and the military paid an additional $250 to the parents of two children who were injured.

  6. Pentagon: $19.7 million for 600 cases in 2005
    A Defense Department report presented to Congress in spring 2006 said that the Pentagon made $19.7 million in condolence payments to Iraqi civilians in connection with more 600 separate cases of property destruction, injury or death during the 2005 fiscal year. The report did not specify, however, which of those episodes involved the deaths of civilians. That was a sharp increase from the year before, when the military made roughly $5 million in condolence payments.
    Almost half, $9.5 million, compensated for harm caused by Marines in Anbar Province, which was the center of a Sunni insurgency. That total included millions paid to residents of Falluja after devastating combat there in late 2004, but it excluded the $38,000 paid to the relatives of those killed in Haditha. Those killings took place several weeks after the 2005 fiscal year ended on Sept. 30.
  1. A Dozen Afghan Civilians Killed After Suicide Blast
    A Marine platoon killed roughly a dozen Afghan civilians after a suicide bomber struck their convoy as it rumbled down a highway in northeastern Afghanistan in March 2007. (The bomber killed one bystander and wounded one Marine and three Afghans in a nearby vehicle.) Among the victims of the Marines’ actions were a 16-year-old girl walking through a field and a 75-year-old man, both of whom were far from the scene of the suicide bombing. The Marine Corps made a condolence payment of $2,000 to each of the victims’ families and Col. John Nicholson, an Army brigade commander, publicly apologized for the incident, saying he was “deeply ashamed.”
  2. “If There Was Collateral Damage, I’m Very Sorry”
    American forces killed 15 Afghans during a raid in the village of Inzeri, north of Kabul, on Jan. 19, 2009. Eight days later, American officers returned to the village to distribute $40,000 in cash to the relatives of the deceased. Families were paid $2,500 for each member who was killed, two wounded men were paid $500 for their injuries, and the village as a whole was given $1,500 to make general repairs. A military spokesman, Col. Greg Julian, accompanied the officers handing out the cash to tell the villagers that the American soldiers had been fired upon first, according to The Associated Press. “If there was collateral damage, I’m very sorry about that,” he said

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