One of my gentle readers responded to my last post and got me thinking.  Who do people sue when they are injured in an act of war?

Apparently, they don’t have to sue anyone.  The Federal government has chosen to pay outright.

After 9-11, Washington set up a Victim Compensation Fund which ultimately paid each individual or family an average of $1.85 million.  When it was pointed out by patriotic Americans that this was far more than our military heroes and their families qualify for or receive, the compensation for them was increased substantially.  (Still not as high as the 9-11 VCF, but at a more reasonable level).  And apparently insurance policies for both groups have paid out the specified benefits without much of a fight.

There have been some victims of the terrorist attacks who have sued because they think that the government payments have been too low; and there are some gay partners who were not considered family members who are currently suing to receive payment.

I do not begrudge these victims their payments.  While the Bible does not command the government to make payouts to its people, it does expect the rulers to be an encouragement and blessing to those who do right (Rom. 13:3), and innocent victims of terrorist attacks certainly deserve recognition for their sacrifice, willing or unwilling.

But it does raise a question of a historical nature:  when did the US government begin these compensation funds for civilian victims?  Were the 123 US citizens on the Lusitania compensated?  (There was a notice warning them not to board, so perhaps they did not qualify.)  Were the victims of the German sabotage of Black Tom Island in 1916 compensated?  (7 dead, hundreds injured)  Were civilian victims of the attacks on Pearl Harbor or Manila compensated?  Were the civilian/Aleut victims of the Japanese attacks on Alaska compensated?  Are civilian contractors working today to support US troops in countries like Afghanistan compensated, and to what degree?

I wish I were a better historian.  This topic deserves a much fuller treatment.  The question in my mind is this:  at what point did the American perception of death by act of war/terrorism change from “noble, tragic sacrifice” to “entitlement to government compensation”?  And what caused our society to change its view?  I have my guesses, but I would rather anchor them in fact before I begin ranting ignorantly.  I welcome any comments on the issue.

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