The General Wefare Clause
SLevinson at law.utexas.edu
Sun Mar 19 08:07:41 PST 2006
>From a fascinating story in today's Washington Post:
Administration Blocks Ex-Hostages' Bid for Damages From Iran
By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 19, 2006; A01
At an emotional meeting this month at the State Department, steps from the office of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a group of former American hostages released by Iran a quarter of a century ago, accompanied by lawyers and some relatives, confronted two of Rice's most senior aides.
The families' grievance: Why has the Bush administration, which has labeled Iran one of the world's most dangerous regimes and has called the hostages American heroes, fought their efforts to win damages for their ordeal from the Islamic republic?
The answer is rooted in diplomatic obligations and a wariness about favoring one set of terrorism victims over others. U.S. officials express sympathy for the former hostages. But the administration has thwarted every effort in the courts or in Congress to win a monetary judgment against Iran, even as other victims of Iranian-linked terrorism have secured hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation....
Even if a victim of terrorism wins at trial, it is almost impossible to collect damages. Iran's assets in the United States, for instance, are worth only about $20 million, mainly diplomatic property, according to State Department officials. So Congress in 2000 passed legislation authorizing the payment of $380 million in U.S. Treasury funds to claimants in cases involving 14 victims who were held hostage or killed by Iranian-supported groups such as Hezbollah, according to the Congressional Research Service. Lawmakers ordered the State Department to try to get that money reimbursed by Iran someday.
So my question is this: What part of the Constitution, correctly understood, authorizes Conress to give away $380 millioin dollars to 14 victims of foreign terrorism? How does this comport with any notion of "general welfare" beyond "whatever Congress says is the general welfare just IS the 'general welfare'"? If political conservatives on this list defend this kind of giveaway to the victims of admitted injustice, then I assume that they concede that any and all redistributive programs passed by Congress equally legitimate, as a constitutional matter. Concomitantly, I presume that political liberals can't really object to such giveaways (which seem to net out at approximately $17 million/each of the 14 hostages or estates) and can only envy the political clout that they had with Congress. (Recall that the US gave only $20,000 compensation to each of the Japanese and Japanese-American who were "detained" during WWII.)
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