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Wednesday, March 16, 2005 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | NEXT: Rep. Adam Smith: "The Israeli Government Did Not Do...
2005-03-16

Family of Rachel Corrie Sues Israeli Government and Caterpillar Inc. Two Years After She Was Crushed by Military Bulldozer

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Today is the second anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie–the American peace activist killed by an Israel military bulldozer when she attempted to block the demolition of a Palestinian home in Gaza. Now, her family is suing the State of Israel and Caterpillar–the U.S. firm that manufactured the bulldozer that crushed her. We speak with Rachel Corrie’s father and older sister and the attorney representing them in the suit against Caterpillar. [includes rush transcript]

Today is the second anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie. On March 16, 2003, the American peace activist was killed when she attempted to block an Israeli military bulldozer from demolishing the home of a Palestinian doctor in Gaza.

Eye-witnesses say Rachel was sitting directly in the path of the bulldozer holding a megaphone and wearing a fluorescent jacket when it ran her over, crushing her to death. She was 23 years old.

A U.S. congressional resolution demanding an independent inquiry into Rachel’s death was buried in committee for months before it expired at the end of the 108th Congress, leaving the Israeli military’s investigation–which cleared itself of any wrongdoing–as the only official investigation.

Now, on the second anniversary of her death, Rachel Corrie’s family is suing the State of Israel and the Israeli military. In the lawsuit–which was filed in Haifa Tuesday–the family is asking for roughly $324 thousand in direct damages, as well as punitive damages. They also said they have yet to receive all of the material from the IDF investigation.

This comes as Amnesty International today called on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to support an independent investigation of Rachel Corrie’s death.

In a separate lawsuit, the Corrie family is also suing Caterpillar, Incorporated–the US firm that manufactured the bulldozer that crushed Rachel. The federal suit alleges that Caterpillar violated international and state law by providing specially designed bulldozers to the IDF that it knew would be used to demolish homes and endanger people.

In response, Caterpillar released a written statement saying, "Caterpillar shares the world’s concern over unrest in the Middle East and we certainly have compassion for all those affected by political strife. However, more than 2 million Caterpillar machines and engines are at work in virtually every region of the world each day. We have neither the legal right nor the means to police individual use of that equipment."

In a moment we will be joined by Rachel Corrie’s father, Craig and her older sister, Sarah. But first we wanted to bring you Rachel Corrie speaking just days before her death. She spoke at a mock trial for George W. Bush in Gaza on March 5, 2003, held by a group called the Young Palestinian Parliament.

  • Rachel Corrie, speaking in Gaza on March 5, 2003.
  • Sarah Corrie Simpson, Rachel Corrie’s older sister.
  • Craig Corrie, Rachel Corrie’s father.
  • Jennie Green, senior attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

For more information go to RachelCorrie.org

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: In a moment, we’ll be joined by Rachel Corrie’s father, Craig, and her older sister, Sarah, but first we wanted to bring you Rachel Corrie, speaking just days before her death. She spoke at a mock trial for George W. Bush in Gaza on March 5, 2003, that was held by a group called the Young Palestinian Parliament.

RACHEL CORRIE: George Bush — George W. Bush was born on July 6, 1946 in New Haven, Connecticut, to George Herbert Walker Bush and Barbara Bush. He grew up in Texas and went on to own a small oil company, Arbusto Energy, which later became part of a larger oil company, Harken Energy. Both oil companies did business in Colombia and had connections to the Colombian government when it was massacring its civilian population. George Bush went on to work on his father’s campaign for president and then to become the governor of the State of Texas. During the time when George W. Bush was governor of the State of Texas, Texas was one of the last states of the United States of America in terms of provision of health care to its people, in terms of environmental quality, in terms of education, and it was also the state with the highest number of inmates sentenced to death on death row, predominantly African American men.

AMY GOODMAN: Rachel Corrie, speaking 11 days before her death in Gaza. We’re joined in Washington, D.C. by Rachel Corrie’s father, Craig Corrie, and her older sister, Sarah Corrie Simpson. In New York we’re joined by Jennie Green, the senior attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who is representing the family in the lawsuit against Caterpillar. Later in the program, we’ll hopefully be speaking with Washington Congress member Adam Smith. I want to begin with Sarah Corrie. Your thoughts on this second anniversary of your sister’s death?

SARAH CORRIE SIMPSON: First of all, just hearing Rachel’s voice, I think, on that tape you just played brings everything back sort of in a rush, so it’s hard to comment after that. I think today, as we’re walking through Congress here in Washington, D.C., we’re trying to not only remember Rachel and remember why Rachel was in Rafa, but also remember the people that she was there for, and particularly the family of Dr. Samir. And for me, that is really the most important information that I hold with me today. It’s not only Rachel’s image, but also the image of Dr. Samir and his three children that were in the home that day that Rachel was trying to protect.

AMY GOODMAN: Craig Corrie, can you talk about the lawsuits? I mean, the last 24 hours, you filed two lawsuits against the state of Israel and also against Caterpillar, and this latest news that Condoleezza Rice has called for a full investigation.

CRAIG CORRIE: I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear the last part of that, but we did file a suit first in Israel and, of course, we were advised to do that by the then Chief of Staff to the Secretary of State, who said that the State Department could not help us in trying to find out what happened to Rachel and that we would have to sue in Israel. Of course, we worked for two years to have our government take responsibility for finding out what happened and, of course, the Israeli government has ultimate responsibility for telling us how they happened to kill Rachel. Two years did not get any help in that. We found out recently that, of course, the F.B.I. would have to do an investigation in the United States. We found out recently that the F.B.I. doesn’t even have a file on Rachel. She doesn’t exist in their system. So we had to do something ourself. Our family has suffered. We have suffered economically as kind of the least of it, but we can be compensated economically for that. So in terms of Israel, we are forced to do that, and we tried to do whatever we could other than that.

AMY GOODMAN: I just wanted to — I just want to correct something I said. Amnesty International is calling on Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, to call for an independent investigation. Have you gotten anywhere with that over this two years?

CRAIG CORRIE: Essentially, no, not yet. We are still working with that. We’ll be talking to some people in Justice and in the F.B.I. tomorrow, and we would like to pursue that. We think that’s the responsibility; when a U.S. citizen is killed, I think one of the first responsibilities of our government is to find out how that happened. And so, I’m disappointed that they cannot do that.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, aren’t they — isn’t the Israeli military saying that they didn’t see Rachel Corrie when the Israeli military bulldozer ran over her and then backed up over her again, crushing her twice?

CRAIG CORRIE: Well, they have said that and, of course, they have also said that they didn’t run over her. They said that she was killed by a wall falling on her. They have said a number of things. That’s why we need an independent investigation.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, but when we come back, we’ll continue to talk about Rachel Corrie, the circumstances of her death.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We are joined in Washington by Sarah Corrie Simpson and Craig Corrie, the father and sister of Rachel Corrie, who died two years ago today. Jennie Green in our New York studio, is an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights. Jennie, can you explain the Caterpillar lawsuit that has been brought in the last 24 hours against the U.S. company that made the Israeli military bulldozer?

JENNIE GREEN: Yes. The Caterpillar lawsuit charges Caterpillar with its role in the war crimes, the extra-judicial execution of Rachel, her wrongful death, and the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that she suffered before her death. We have charged Caterpillar, because as other U.S. courts have held, corporations, when they take part in human rights violations and war crimes, they can also be held liable.

AMY GOODMAN: We asked a representative of the Israeli government to join us on the show and also Caterpillar, and both declined, though they did make the statement, "We have neither the legal right nor the means to police individual use of that equipment," Caterpillar did. What about that? I mean, they can’t control who uses the equipment.

JENNIE GREEN: Well, the issue is they do control. They do profit from where their Caterpillar tractors are sold. And the argument that we have made, the allegations in the lawsuit, are that the attack on Rachel Corrie, as Sarah laid out, this was not a single incident, but a pattern of demolitions of Palestinian homes. Homes were demolished when Palestinians were still in there, and Caterpillar was on notice. They knew from reports from the United Nations, from human rights organizations, from citizens contacting them directly, that their equipment was being used for very dangerous purposes in Gaza, throughout the West Bank, yet they continued to ship that equipment. They continued to sell it. We have no information that they put any restrictions on it, that they attempted to address the horrific uses to which their equipment was being put. And the fact is is that U.S. courts have held that when a company knowingly provides substantial assistance in the commission of human rights violations, they can be held accountable.

AMY GOODMAN: Craig Corrie, have you spoken with Caterpillar? I know some peace groups have called for a boycott of Caterpillar over the death of Rachel Corrie.

CRAIG CORRIE: We wanted to speak with Caterpillar. We wrote a letter about a year ago to their chairman, and asked to speak with him. We even pointed out we would be in Peoria to speak with him with a few other people, and no, he declined to speak with us, and in fact, I think I counted 17 riot police out in front of their building to keep my wife and I, and my wife’s no more imposing than my daughter, from coming in and speaking to them, so we have asked that they pay attention to this. And they have said, of course, that they cannot control what happens to their bulldozers after they sell them. But I certainly agree that they’re responsible for continuing to supply the parts, for continuing to sell bulldozers, and they’re responsible for knowing how those bulldozers have been used, as well as may be used in the future.

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