April 24, 2007:
In the last six years, the United States has
paid over $32 million to the families of people killed by U.S. soldiers during
military operations. The dead were caught in the crossfire. In the Middle East,
it's customary for cash payments to be made, if the victims family will accept
them, as compensation for a crime (and spare the perpetrator punishment.) But
in wartime, you take your lumps without possibility of compensation. Saddam,
however, changed the rules. When he was fighting Iran in the 1980s, he had to
depend on the Shia Arabs for most of his military manpower. Saddam represented
the Sunni Arab minority that had been dumping on the Kurdish and Shia Arab
majority for generations. So Saddam paid the families of Shia soldiers killed
fighting the Iranians. Either in cash or goods (a new car or house, or some
other useful stuff.) This helped keep the Shia loyal to Saddam. In the 1990s,
Saddam paid cash to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. This made
Saddam even more popular among Palestinians, and Arabs in general.
Some 98 percent of that
$32 million has been paid out in Iraq, mostly to Sunni Arabs. These handouts
were called several things, but the most common term was "sympathy
payment." The people receiving most of the money are the main support of
the local terrorists, and many formerly killed and terrorized Iraqis in the
service of Saddam Hussein. Why give money to these people? Because the payments
do build valuable goodwill in the Sunni Arab community. It encourages Sunni
Arabs to come back and take money for information on terrorist activities.
Money talks a lot louder in the Sunni Arab community since Saddam fell from
power. When the Sunni Arabs were in charge, most of the oil money went to the
Sunni Arabs. After Saddam lost power, the Sunni Arab community lost over 60
percent of their income. This was promptly taken advantage of by the terrorist
groups, who had lots of cheap labor for the terror attacks unleashed on Iraq.
With money harder to come by, any source got some respect.
While a lot of the
reconstruction money got stolen by government officials, the payments to
next-of-kin were paid directly, by U.S. troops. Cash in hand, literally. Best
money spent on the war, at least in terms of what was got back for it.