”From the initial point, it has been our belief that this was a justifiable defensive action. We have seen no data or information to change that conclusion.”
Marlin Fitzwater, the White House spokesman
President Reagan has decided that the United States will pay compensation to the families of the 290 passengers killed when an Iranian jetliner was shot down by an American warship.
”The President remains personally saddened at the tragic death of the innocent victims and decided to offer compensation in keeping with the humanitarian traditions of our nation,” said Marlin Fitzwater, the White House spokesman.
But Fitzwater added that the President believes that the downing of the Iranian airliner was a ”justifiable defensive action.”
At the moment, the size of payments that twill be paid to the relatives is not known. It is not even known if the earning capacity and the number on dependents would be taken into account. The $20,000 limit on liability for civilian airplane deaths set by the Warsaw Convention has been mentioned. What is abundantly clear is that the payment would go directly to the families, not to Tehran.
”We will not countenance any impression that this is a payment to the Government or an admission of liability, or that it is in response to any other external pressure or external international political condition between our two countries. This is a matter of humanitarian compensation directly for the people,” Fitzwater said.
Three Americans out of five oppose offering compensation. And the fact has not escaped the attention of some politicians. ”I’m just generally not inclined to provide payments to Iranians,” Representative Tony Coelho of California said today. ”There is no way of guaranteeing that aid won’t flow to the Iranian Government,” Coelho added.
Many observers are wondering why the President has already made up his mind about the incident and the payment of compensation when the Administration said last week that the issue would not be addressed before the investigation is completed.
According to some officials, the announcement was moved ahead because the United Nations Security Council is scheduled to debate the incident on Tuesday 13, and the International Civil Aviation Organization is to take up the issue on Wednesday 14.
The Race to the White House
Today, Democratic presidential candidate Michael S. Dukakis tapped Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen as his running mate.
Dukakis is currently leading Bush by 47 percent to 39 percent. These results have remained unchanged since May.
As the public mood is far more supportive of social spending than military spending, Vice President Bush is suffering from a poor public image. Only 26 percent of registered voters have a favorable view of Mr. Bush. This is one of the lowest ratings he has received over the last eight years.
But do not count him out yet. The Bush campaign is aggressively attempting to undermine Dukakis’s public image. They paint Dukakis as ”a Sixties liberal” who favors higher taxes, a politician ”soft” on criminality, a person who lacks experience in foreign policy. Above all, Dukakis is criticized by the Bush campaign for opposing the death penalty.
Meanwhile, the Iran-Iraq war goes on. Today, the Iraqi army has retaken all Iraqi territory in the Musian border area.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
Poll Finds Public Is Wary Of Both Bush and Dukakis (NYT)