Glenn Greenwald is the author of a great book called With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful, and a recent column he wrote for the Guardian provides a textbook example of that distortion of the rule of law. It’s the story of an Iraqi-American who is now in prison for sending money to his family in Iraq, who were starving as a result of American sanctions.
Such is the case with the treatment of Dr. Shakir Hamoodi, an Iraqi-American nuclear engineer who just began a three-year prison sentence at the Fort Leavenworth, Kansas penitentiary for the “crime” of sending sustenance money to his impoverished, sick, and suffering relatives in Iraq – including his blind mother – during the years when US sanctions (which is what caused his family’s suffering) barred the sending of any money to Iraq…
The sanctions regime decimated Hamoodi’s family. His elderly blind mother was unable to buy basic medication. His sister, one of 11 siblings back in Iraq, suffered a miscarriage because she was unable to buy $10 antibiotics. His brother, a surgeon, was earning the equivalent of $2 per month and literally unable to feed his family.
Hamoodi was earning a very modest salary at the time of roughly $35,000 per year from the university, but – as would be true for any decent person of conscience – could not ignore the extreme and growing suffering of his family back in Iraq. Because sending money into Iraq from the US was physically impossible, he set up a bank account in Jordan and proceeded to make small deposits into it. From that account, small amounts of money – between $20 and $100 – were dispersed each month to his family members.
When other Iraqi nationals in his Missouri community heard of his helping his family, they wanted to help theirs as well. So Hamoodi began accepting similar amounts of money from a small group of Iraqis and ensured those were disbursed to their family members suffering under the sanctions regime. From 1993 until 2003, when the sanctions regime was lifted after the US invasion, Hamoodi sent an average of $25,000 each year back to Iraq, totaling roughly $250,000 over the decade: an amount that fed and sustained the Iraqi relatives of 14 families in Columbia, Missouri, including his wife’s five siblings.
Nobody, including the US government, claims that these amounts were intended for anything other than humanitarian assistance for his family and those of others in his community. Everyone, including the US government, acknowledges that these funds were sent to and received only by the intended recipients – suffering Iraqi family members – and never got anywhere near Saddam’s regime, terrorist groups, or anything illicit.
Hamoodi goes to prison for sending money to his starving relatives and helping others do the same, money that served no purpose other than that. Meanwhile, Dick Cheney violated American sanctions against several countries, including Iraq, Iran and Libya in ways that clearly helped those regimes as the CEO of Halliburton and not only has he not suffered one bit for it, he became vice president. Because the rule of law only applies to the plebes, not the rich and powerful.