Breaking the Shield

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The US treasury department has slapped at least two American Human Shield workers with $10,000 in fines for violating US sanctions on Iraq. The Treasury Department has contacted an undisclosed number of human shield workers who entered Iraq and “engaged in commerce” prior to the US invasion in March, according to the Washington Post. ABC News put a number on it, saying that the department has contacted at least 5 Americans.

Treasury spokesman Taylor Griffin denies that the fines are politically motivated, saying “Choosing which laws to abide by and which to ignore is not a privilege that is granted to anyone in a society supported by the rule of law.”

Signing up as a “human shield” was arguably the most direct action taken by protestors in the anti-war movement. The shields attempted to “stand side by side with the Iraqi people” to discourage the U.S.’s use of military arms. The 300-person human shield that was formed included citizens from countries worldwide. According to Faith Fippinger, one of the US human shield workers who faces the Treasury Department’s fines, approximately 20 Americans served as human shields.

Continuing their non-violent protest, Fippinger and 26 year-old Ryan Clancy, a Milwaukee man who also faces the $10,000 fine, have refused to pay up and could face up to 12 years in prison, according to the Associated Press. Clancy was informed by the Treasury that he would be allowed to contest his fines before a federal judge, Weisman reports:

“[Clancy] spent much of February and March in and around a food silo in Taji, Iraq. ‘They seemed to be open to some kind of negotiations and asked me if I had any suggestions. I told them I had a suggestion for them, but it didn’t have anything to do with giving them money.'”

Griffin said that “those who violate the established international and U.S. sanctions can expect the law will be fully and fairly enforced,” Reuters reports. The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control tracked human shields by their customs records, travel documents, and “high-profile activities.” The Treasury Department has fined other organizations for violating sanctions. Voices In The Wilderness, a sanction-opposing group that has provided medical supplies to Iraqis since 1996, was notified of a $20,000 fine in late July. Weisman writes that Playboy Enterprises and others have been fined for doing business in Cuba, but that individuals fines are not posted on the Web in an effort to “protect their privacy.”

Whether or not the fines are politically motivated, when faced with another round of calls from the national press, Tom Andrews, national director of the antiwar group Win Without War, told Weisman: “Let things roll.”

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