Could a legal eagle end war forever?

YOU'VE seen the ads. Where there's blame, there's a claim.Like McDonald's, Disney and the mania for war, litigation is an American disease that has infected Britain.

YOU'VE seen the ads. Where there's blame, there's a claim.

Like McDonald's, Disney and the mania for war, litigation is an American disease that has infected Britain.

We have not yet seen anything on the scale of the multi-million-dollar damages claims by sick smokers against tobacco firms.

And much as I loathe McDonald's, I am glad they won their case when sued by fat people blaming them for their own over-eating. You KNOW it's junk food, for pity's sake – take a little responsibility for yourselves.


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But I have nothing but sympathy for those sufferers seeking compensation and publicity for so-called Gulf War syndrome.

And here's an interesting new twist on the theme.

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The defoliant chemical Agent Orange was one of the nastier and more controversial things perpetrated by the Americans in Vietnam. Its nasty effects were not just felt by the intended victims.

In 1984, Dow Chemical and other manufacturers paid out $180million to US servicemen still affected by the poison.

Now the fund has run out, and there are moves to sue Dow again on behalf of sufferers whose symptoms have come to light in the last 19 years.

A lot of big US companies are watching the development of this case very closely indeed. And well they might.

Imagine you were an Iraqi civilian and you were innocently going about your daily business when America (for argument's sake) happened to drop a large bomb on your neighbourhood.

You are not the target, but you are injured. Could you sue General Dynamics (for example) for manufacturing the bomb that injured you?

What if the bomb was a "smart" one? If a "smart" bomb fails to hit its intended military target and hits your house instead can you sue the bomb's manufacturer?

After all, the whole point of said bomb is that it will only hit "legitimate" targets. Presumably if it hits the wrong target (as most of them do), somebody somewhere is to blame.

And as we know, where there's blame…

If some legal eagle in Baghdad (or Washington) can develop this practice, perhaps the companies who trade in death might find war was a less attractive financial proposition.

Now that would be a battle worth winning.

***

IN 1095, Pope Urban II called upon the Christian West to unite in a Crusade against the infidel and destroy the Muslims in the Holy Land.

A fundamentalist madman in the world's most powerful job calling for vengeance and death in the name of God and right.

So began 177 years of brutal history, of massacres and counter-massacres, including some of the worst atrocities ever known – at least until the 20th century.

Some of the Arab leaders were vile, ruthless and calculatingly murderous. Some of the Christians – notably Richard the Lionheart – were worse.

("Good King Richard" was a vain, treacherous, bloodthirsty Frenchman who barely set foot in England, using the country only to pay for his costly adventures in the Holy Land. How he ever entered our national mythology as a glamorous hero is a question for another time and place.)

All this, of course, took place long ago. We are used to the past being a bloody and horrible country.

But fast-forward 908 years to 2003 and what do we find?

A fundamentalist madman in the world's most powerful job calling for vengeance and death in the name of God and right.

Meanwhile, the Pope – still a powerful position, though not quite as powerful as George W Bush –appeals for reason, negotiation, justice and peace.

At least the Catholic church has moved out of the middle ages, even if the United States hasn't.

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