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Iraq

Local Bay Area reporter in Iraq: Civilian Claims Process
by Rob Eshelman
Friday Jan 30th, 2004 11:26 PM
The Bay Area reportage continues to flow in from Iraq. Rob Eshelman reports.
Smoke And Mirrors: The Civilian Claims Process In Iraq
By
Rob Eshelman

As the US military convoy crested over the bridge in Baghdad’s al Adahmiya neighborhood, Kasim Husain steered his white Toyota sedan to the side of
the road. The final Humvee had just passed when the military convoy came to an abrupt stop. Soldiers exited the rear vehicle and, without warning,
opened fire. Bullets smashed through the windows of Kasim’s car killing
his cousin, Ali, instantly with a bullet slug to the head. Kasim’s 20-year
old son, Akeel, ran from the vehicle and was cut down with two shots to
the stomach. As Kasim cradled Akeel’s head in his arms by the roadside,
the dying young man asked his father to take care of his wife, who he had
just married.

The soldiers suspected that their convoy had come under attack. They were
mistaken. No kalashnikovs were found in Kasim's vehicle, no explosives
either. Kasim, his son, and cousin were not resistance fighters - they
were just returning home. In the new Iraq, this type of tragic accident or
military overreaction is more common than one might think. Roadside
shootings, unexploded ordinances, abusive house searches and traffic
accidents between civilian cars and US tanks are creating a wide
population of "post-war" collateral damage.

To manage the emotional and political fallout of these intentional and
unintentional US military depredations the Coalition Provisional
Authority, which runs Iraq, has set up a quasi-judicial grievance and
compensation process. But thanks to rule by capricious bureaucrats and
tight fisted compensation awards the claims process has become little more
than a Kafka-esque, paper-work laden runaround that victimized Iraqi
civilians say only adds insult to the mounting number of injuries.

The al Rasafah Civilian Military Operation Centers is one of a dozen
so-called CMOC offices throughout Baghdad. This is where Iraqi victims, or
their families, bring their claims files bulging with medical records,
forensic photos and laboriously produced and translated witness
affidavits. After hours in line they will, if lucky, be able to make their
quick pitch to a military judge who will determine whether the military
used inappropriate force. If the answer is yes, which it rarely seems to
be, then the CMOC judge will award some amount of compensation. The claims
submitted to a CMOC must be for incidents occurring after May 1st 200