Gulf War Veteran Will Sue For Food


Jeffrey N. Zaun, the Navy A-6E Intruder navigator best known for having his bruised and swollen face displayed on TV as he delivered pro-Iraqi propaganda during the Gulf War, is now unemployed and living with his parents in Cherry Hill, NJ. As this Philly Inquirer article notes, and as has been a matter of public record since shortly after the Gulf War ended, Zaun's wounds were partly self-inflicted and partly the result of a violent bailout from his airplane; none of them were rendered by his captors. So why is he joining in a class-action POW lawsuit that seeks $910 million from the Iraqi government?

The Washington law firm of Steptoe & Johnson is seeking hard evidence and good testimony about prisoner abuse from Gulf War POWs, and it faces an uphill battle. Although several former prisoners report being beaten and abused, and one recounts what can be considered formal torture, with a contraption called "the Talkman," these are scattered tales, and there is no case for uniform mistreatment of prisoners. Jeff Zaun, for example, has no ill-treatment to report. Melissa Rathbun-Nealy, the war's most famous woman POW, was well-treated by the Iraqis, though she later received death threats from Americans outraged that she had married a black man.

Although this is a civil suit, it's a good indicator of the sort of high-sounding and idealistic excuses the state will advance when it gets seriously down to the business of stealing everything in Iraq that isn't nailed down. I don't see how holding enemy combatants prisoner during wartime can be grounds for a lawsuit, but I have no doubt Jeff Zaun and the gang will win the case when it is argued in Washington, or even Cherry Hill.

The Inquirer quotes Zaun as supporting regime change; his financial interest in said change must be inferred by the reader.

NEXT: Chasing the Bug Chasers

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  1. Say, wasn’t then-Major Rhonda Cornum, the US Army flight surgeon who was shot down by Iraqis, sexually assaulted by her captors, and later wrote a book (“She Went to War”) about her experience the “war’s most famous” POW of either sex?

    She was even named as one of twenty modern “heroes” by US News & World Report in 2001.

    But since she was assaulted by Iraqis rather than receiving death threats from Americans, she didn’t serve your political agenda for this item, did she?

    Don’t worry about your distortion: Fighter guys themselves never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

  2. Gosh, I’m ever so happy that a liberal works for a libertarian web site/magazine. Now I get to read their screwy posts at web sites I used to feel at home with.

  3. “Stealing everything that isn’t nailed down”…, shame to see the guys and girls at Reason magazine starting to sound like a bunch of conspiracy-theorists. Now I’m as big a skeptic about war and government as any other libertarian, but puh-leese, spare us the “blame-America-first” bs.

  4. Libertarians go looney left…what has happened to Reason? Now most unreasonable. What is most shocking is the suppositions–steal everything–based on nothing more than vile political posturing. Reason now has the kind of anti-American, anti-Bush rants and cant that have made sites like Hesiod and Atrios juvenile circle jerks along the lines of the Democratic Underground.

    (Notice how the anti-free speech lunatics on the left act on their own websites…all opposing views are banned, but their minions troll freely at libertarian and Republican sites. Doncha love hypocrisy? )

  5. Why do you assume only liberals oppose war in Iraq? There are a great number of libertarians both inside and outside the party who oppose it as well.

  6. A basic misunderstanding: there’s money to be won whether the US goes to war or not–perhaps more if we don’t.

    As for stealing everything from Iraq that isn’t nailed down: is that some sort of cryptic reference to the inspections regime, which is paid for by sales of Iraqi oil? Is that what you’re opposed to? Please let us know…

  7. Just wait until the attourneys get to Guantanamo Bay.

  8. SM: Gosh, I’m ever so happy that a liberal works for a libertarian web site/magazine. Now I get to read their screwy posts at web sites I used to feel at home with.

    JS: Well, I mean, just take Tim’s posts with a grain of salt–understand the biases contained therein or something.

  9. Brian, you’re right. I should have included Major Cornum’s story. By her own account, while Cornum was being driven to a prison, a guy in the back of the truck with her started kissing and clumsily trying to fondle her. When she screamed, he stopped, which she says is because he didn’t want any of his comrades to know what he was doing. “And… I feel confident he knew he shouldn’t be doing what he was doing,” she says. “Because every time I’d scream, he’d quit. So I think the idea was that the guys in the front of the truck weren’t supposed to know … I suspect that … it was more he didn’t want to get in trouble. I think if the other guys hadn’t been there, he probably wouldn’t have stopped either way. But I don’t know that … I mean, a lot of people make a big deal about getting molested, and I’m … sure it’s a … it’s a big deal. …But in the hierarchy of things that were going wrong, that was pretty low on my list.”

    Not pretty, and not something I’d want anybody to go through, but hardly a case for a $910 million lawsuit. If anything, it argues against the claim that the Iraqi government approved mistreatment of prisoners. If you want to argue that the Iraqis are brutal to their own citizens, or to the Kuwaitis or the Iranians, or that they’re just a bunch of ruffians generally, you can credibly make that claim, but that’s not what we’re discussing here. (As your site routinely refers to Reason as the Criminal Website, I’m sure you’ll appreciate the need for scrupulous attention to legal detail.) I reiterate that up to now there is no evidence of anything other than incidental Iraqi mistreatment of American prisoners.

  10. Tim —

    Rest assured I am with you on the larger question of the lawsuit, which I consider frivolous. I was merely policing your supporting details.

    As to my habit of calling your enterprise a “criminal website,” I was struck by the fact that it is named for one property crime (“hit and run”) and its logo appears to be another (vandalism by spray paint). Rather disturbing for self-described libertarians, no?

    Hope you enjoy libertyblog as much as I enjoy your website.

  11. hey pinhead Tim Cavanaugh,
    You’re writing this crap in 2003 and you can’t get current sources or what?
    How bout checking out any of the interviews where Zaun recounts the beatings and electrical prods he was given?
    Instead of outdated DoD propaganda filtered accounts cleaned up for public consumption and neatness.
    Holy Crap, I know why, it’s because you’re an intellectually dishonest ass who sees news of horrifying things happening to other people in far off parts of the world filtered through you’re own prism of delusion.
    You know what happened to Zaun, though, right?
    Oh yeah, He earned an MBA at the age of forty and he’s joining the suit for finincial gain because he’s out of work, of course.
    It’s a symbolic lawsuit twit.

  12. Hey Listen up yo ……
    How would anybody have liked the experience of being a prisoner of war. I think if anybody listened to the testimonies of many former Gulf
    War POW’s that was aired on television one night a while back when the present war ” wasn’t looking good ” that you’d probably sue too. If you had your fingers threatened to be chopped off … your head in a “battery contraption” (The ‘Talkman’) … cigarette burns on your face and … food just enough to feed a mouse …. I guess you’d sue too. Saddam’s son … one of the quakos … was given authority over our prisoners in the first Gulf War. That hardly stands for conventional ( Geneva Convention to be exact )treatment for anybody or anything except dirt. That’s just some of the cruel things Iraqis did to American POW’s in the first Gulf War. And to their own citizens ( ooops… not no more you Iraqi crackbabies ) to say the least. If you think POW’s weren’t mistreated in the Gulf War ….. ya better Check B 4 U Wreck. Give Zahn some honor and respect. Afterall … he did go through something 99.9% of us probably never will. As did 20 some odd others. I’d wanna sue those crackbabies too. The treatment of our prisoners by the “regime” is a summary of their barbaric, sadistic way of living and thought process. Chill out on our guys who had served our country and “served” in the hands of the enemy. Have some heart.

  13. Those of you who have a word about Jeff Zaun or Rhonda Cornum deserve to be sodomized. No less.

    Unemployed? Jeff is a Navy Commander currently. He has amounted to more than any of you gutless bastards.

    And Rhonda is not one of the greater heroes of a decade? If you think not, may your mother be sodomized.

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