Westernism Brings Lawyers


It seems, in addition to freedom and democracy, the U.S. has given Iraqis another Western phenomenon: lawyers and plenty of lawsuits.

In the 15 months following the Iraq war, some 16,000 compensation claims against the coalition were made by Iraqis. Half of those claims were rejected, but $3 million was dished out in 5,000 settlements. Another 3,000 are pending. The U.S. military even opened a claims center in March to handle the volume.

The cases surround everything from destruction of personal property to loss of limbs and deaths of family members. According to one legal administrator in the U.S. military, around 90 percent of the claims he sees relate to vehicle damage caused by coalition activity (Spectator, July 10).

Indeed, the Iraqis picked up the compensation habit from the coalition itself, against which the first claims from the war were made by coalition soldiers. Soldiers’ complaints included such things as side effects from vaccinations, and injury from “friendly fire.” Now, American lawyers are considering suing the Department of Defense “for causing some U.S. troops to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, presumably by sending them to fight in Iraq” (ibid.).

Spectator journalist Brendan O’Neill opines, “[I]n the past [these misfortunes] would have been seen as ugly facts of war, as risks that soldiers take when they go out on to the battlefield. Today it seems that the compensation culture is so deeply ingrained, the notion that someone else is always responsible for our misfortunes so widely accepted, that even armies can be sued by their own soldiers for making them do unacceptably risky things or causing them to suffer from stress” (ibid.).

“[I]n the compensation culture someone else is always to blame,” he says. “[T]he one thing [America and Britain] have successfully projected on to Iraq is contemporary Western decadence—our widespread sense of victimhood and injury, where we are given to weeping and complaining in the face of misfortune.”