An Iraqi single mother who says she fled her native country as a result of the U.S. invasion and that two of her brothers were killed by Iraqi militia in the conflict, is suing six members of the Bush administration including former President George W. Bush himself.
Sundus Shaker Saleh is the lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit, which alleges that Bush and his administration members Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Paul Wolfowitz acted outside the bounds of their legal authority when they waged war against her homeland.
But experts say the suit has little chance of success in a U.S. court, and the Department of Justice is invoking the 1988 “Westfall Act” which shields individual members of government from liability for their actions as long as they act within their “scope of employment.”
The DOJ argued in papers filed this week that nothing Bush or any of the other named defendants did fell outside their normal job descriptions.
The Westfall Act was enacted by congress after a Supreme Court decision allowed a man who was burned by toxic materials at an Army depot to sue the depot’s supervisors. The law passed by congress granted government employees “absolute immunity” from such legal actions.
The law was invoked in a 2011 case involving a former war prisoner who had been tortured during interrogation and who later sued former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Under the Westfall Act, Rumsfeld was exempt from facing the lawsuit.
Paul Stephan, a law professor who has performed consulting work for the State Department, is doubtful that Saleh’s lawsuit will gain any traction.
“If the expectation is that a federal court will declare that the invasion, although duly authorized by Congress, violated international law and thus violates U.S. law, I would respond that we walked up and down that hill with respect to Vietnam,” he told Yes! Magazine. “No federal court ever has recognized such a claim.”
SOURCES: PressTV, RT, Yes! Magazine, Harvard Law Review