Reparations in reverse: Afghanistan pays, Vatican prays, US preys | Opinions


What higher illustration of the perversities of “justice” underneath colonial modernity, than the grotesquely disparate therapy of Afghanistan versus the Vatican in relation to exacting recompense for worldwide crimes.

Afghanistan is being additional immiserated by its former US occupier within the title of compensating 9/11 victims; whereas the Vatican, enriched by colonial plunder, continues to evade paying reparations for hundreds of years of anti-Indigenous genocide underwritten by papal edicts just like the Doctrine of Discovery (PDF).

Afghanistan has had $3.5bn of its international reserves “protected” i.e. commandeered by the US for 9/11 funds, as Afghans starve by the thousands and thousands; the Vatican’s atonement has been restricted to prayers and an apology – issued earlier this month after years of Indigenous advocacy – for the involvement of “a variety of Catholics” in Canada’s church-run residential “colleges”, the place tens of 1000’s of Indigenous youngsters have been despatched to pressured labour, torture, indoctrination, and demise. (Related establishments additionally operated within the US.)

US courts have ordered billions of {dollars} in damages in opposition to the Taliban for 9/11 – the “debt” for which the Afghan persons are being collectively punished and impoverished to pay. The Vatican, in distinction, stays sheltered from lawsuits in international states by the doctrine of “sovereign immunity”: the aegis underneath which state violence is insulated from authorized legal responsibility.

Though the American and Canadian authorized methods have carved out “terrorism” exceptions to sovereign immunity, these have been utilized solely in opposition to choose Muslim international locations and different designated official enemies, to not the fear inflicted by the colonial state itself.

For instance, underneath the US’s “terrorism” exception, states could also be stripped of their sovereign immunity and sued for “extrajudicial killing” and “torture” – however provided that named on the US authorities’s blacklist of “state sponsors of terrorism”. In the meantime, the US’s personal self-granted international prerogative to extrajudicially kill and torture en masse is enshrined behind partitions of legalised impunity.

In earlier colonial eras, it was the “Barbarian/Savage” (one would possibly say BS) label that was used to mark these excluded from sovereign standing, and subsequently topic to sovereign violence nearly with out restraint. As we speak, it’s the “Terrorist”. “Terrorism” is the brand new BS.

Below this regime of inverted accountability, Sudan was made to pay $335m to the US final yr as restitution for “terrorism”, in trade for being faraway from the “terrorist” states checklist.

Conversely, efforts to hunt authorized redress for US aggression in opposition to Sudan – such because the annihilation of the al-Shifa pharmaceutical manufacturing facility, which produced 50-60 p.c of the nation’s medicines, and was mistakenly tarred and focused as an al-Qaeda plant – have been dismissed by US courts for elevating impermissible “political questions”.

Now, Sudan is going through a multibillion-dollar lawsuit trying to carry it answerable for 9/11, wherein the al-Shifa manufacturing facility is astonishingly cited not as a casualty of US incursions in opposition to Sudan, however as supposed proof of Sudan’s alleged “incubation” of al-Qaeda.

In earlier US judgements, comparable paucities of proof and logic have been no obstacle – as an illustration, in holding Sudan responsible for $5.9bn for al-Qaeda’s 1998 bombings of US embassies in East Africa. That is regardless of the decide’s admission that “nothing means that Sudan particularly knew of or supposed to trigger the bombings” and that “the plaintiffs’ allegations are considerably imprecise as to the causal connection [of Sudan’s actions] with the terrorist act.”

Libya, likewise, was required to pay $1.5bn right into a fund for American victims of “terrorist” acts, such because the 1988 Lockerbie airplane explosion. Then again, a lawsuit introduced by 55 civilian victims of the US’s bombardment of Libya – which preceded the Lockerbie assault – was thrown out by a US courtroom as not merely “frivolous” however “audacious”.

Apparently, the “audacity of hope” is a privilege reserved for the US presidents who command bombings, not the populations who expertise them.

The US has not solely didn’t pay reparations to Iraq for its unlawful 2003 invasion and occupation, however quite the opposite, extracted $400m from Iraq to “guarantee compensation for any meritorious claims [by US nationals] based mostly on terrorist acts dedicated by the Saddam Hussein regime”. That is on high of the $633m in “reparations” that Iraq was made to pay to US companies – together with occupation profiteers comparable to Halliburton and Bechtel – by the UN Compensation Fee, as a part of Iraq’s recently-completed settlement for the First Gulf Warfare.

As for the Iraqi victims of US navy acts of terror – prolific drone and checkpoint killings, widespread radiation poisoning, dwelling and important infrastructure bombings – removed from being “ensured compensation”, they’ve been actively denied and ruthlessly suppressed.

Even circumstances involving probably the most egregious and acknowledged practices of abuse – for instance, Iraqi and Afghan detainees who have been crushed, stabbed, burned, starved, electrocuted, mock executed, locked bare in phone-booth-sized containers for days, assaulted with lions and navy canine, hooded, hung chained from the ceiling, sexually tortured, and raped at Abu Ghraib and different US-run jail camps – have been rejected by US courts.

Judges have dominated that the perpetrators are shielded as state officers by immunity, and that the US Structure’s prohibition in opposition to “merciless and weird punishment” solely covers those that have been convicted of against the law – not these, just like the Iraqi and Afghan detainees, incarcerated and tormented with none façade of a authorized course of in any respect.

In distinction, a lawsuit claiming thousands and thousands of {dollars} in opposition to Iraq for “materials help” for 9/11 – underneath the “terrorism” exception to sovereign immunity – was permitted to succeed. The minor element that the plaintiff’s grievance contained “few precise info of any materials help that Iraq truly supplied”, because the decide within the case conceded, was no bar. No proof? No drawback.

This is identical working precept underneath which US courts have additionally awarded billions of {dollars} in 9/11 damages in opposition to Iran, on the energy of the testimony of “professional” witnesses comparable to Islamophobic conspiracy-theories-peddler Claire Lopez, and Patrick Clawson, the court-described “foremost professional on all issues pertaining to Iran” who has advocated false-flag operations in opposition to Iran to impress a struggle.

In American courtroom selections, Iran is accused of making an attempt to “break the spine of the American financial system”, because the US devastates the Iranian and varied different economies by imposing suffocating sanctions – described by UN Particular Rapporteurs as a type of “financial warfare” – largely with out test.

Peoples denied sovereignty underneath occupation, just like the Palestinians, are sued in US courts for “terrorism”; whereas the tortures and massacres of their occupiers are precluded from accountability, swathed within the sovereign immunity cloak. (Though Palestine and the Vatican have the identical standing as observer states on the UN, the Vatican is granted sovereign immunity within the US, however Palestine isn’t.)

Muslims and different “state sponsors of terrorism” are indicted for concentrating on US troopers, whereas the US’s personal killings of civilians in Afghanistan, Yemen, and elsewhere are perpetually written off – pushed underneath the carpet as “collateral harm”, paid off with paltry “condolence” sums, or pinned on Muslim “terrorists” for leaving youngsters and the aged in the way in which of US bombs.

Echoing many centuries of colonial reasoning, “their” violence is attributed to their “barbarism”, whereas “our” (better) violence is blamed on their “barbarism” as properly.

“It’s basically the character of the barbarian (or, for that matter, of the terrorist) and never his deed that’s regarded with horror,” because the eminent vital scholar of anthropology Talal Asad noticed. “The characterizations [commonly used to describe “terrorists”] apply additionally to state forces waging struggle, whether or not ‘simply’ or ‘unjust’. The principle distinction is that states can and do perform way more destruction than terrorists”: nearly a million killed instantly, many instances extra killed not directly, and 38 million displaced within the final 20 years from the “struggle on terror” alone.

The violence protected underneath sovereign immunity – struggle, torture, genocide – testifies to the violence embedded within the idea of sovereignty itself: rooted in centuries-old European doctrines developed to sanctify the colonial dispossession and enslavement of these deemed “unsovereign” and “uncivilised”.

In American legislation, the foundational jurisprudence on sovereign immunity was determined by the identical jurist, revered Nineteenth-century Supreme Courtroom Chief Justice John Marshall, who additionally declared Indigenous nations naturally subjugated to the “superior genius of Europe” and upheld the worldwide legality of the transatlantic slave commerce.

Then, as now, the sovereign privileges accorded to some have been predicated on the domination of others: the enslaved, invaded, and colonised who haven’t solely been subjected to “civilised” brutality with out recompense, however pressured to pay “reparations” themselves for the offence of resisting their oppression – from the Haitians penalised for his or her self-emancipation, to the Indigenous nations ordered to compensate oil companies depredating their waters and lands.

As a substitute of pursuing colonial sovereignty’s promise of power-through-domination-and-terrorisation, can we keep in mind, think about, and inscribe different potentialities for organising {our relationships} with one another and the world?

As the good thinker of decolonisation Frantz Fanon urged, “Allow us to not pay tribute to Europe by creating states, establishments and societies which draw their inspiration from her … If we would like humanity to advance a step farther, if we wish to convey it as much as a special degree than that which Europe has proven it, then we should invent and we should make discoveries.”

That is what real reparation – to make those that have been wronged complete once more – would entail: not a return to the earlier established order, however its radical transformation in direction of justice and peace.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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