PHOENIX - A former oil worker who was held hostage in Iraq in 1990 said he's pleased about receiving $1.75 million from Iraqi funds in damages, but that the award is bittersweet because people are again dying in an Iraqi conflict.
"I am immensely upset about our own kids being over there fighting," Jack Frazier, 65, who went partially blind and suffered nerve damage while in Iraq, said Thursday. "It just puts a littler damper on the joy that would be there otherwise."
Frazier, who lives in Lake Havasu City in western Arizona, received the largest award among the 180 former hostages who successfully sued the Republic of Iraq in a U.S. court for illegally detaining them before the 1991 Gulf War. The former hostages were awarded a total of $93 million, which their lawyer says has grown to $95 million including interest.
All 180 have now received checks for their damage awards, said Daniel Wolf, a Washington attorney who represents them.
"I am extremely gratified that justice has finally been served and that the victims of the Iraqi terror can finally put this awful chapter behind them," Wolf said.
About $47 million for the awards came from Iraqi government funds held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; the money was ordered released by a federal court. Last week, the Treasury Department released an additional $48 million to the plaintiffs.
Besides using the money to pay bills and fix his leaky roof, Frazier said he plans to drive to Montana with a friend this summer to visit his parents' graves.
His wife, Deanna, 62, said she bought a yellow Hummer on Wednesday night with silver lightning flashes down both sides and chrome and gold trim.
"Saddam is paying for what he has done to victims of terrorism for the first time ever," Mrs. Frazier said. "We got Saddam in his pocketbook. Hopefully Bush can get him in his hands."
Frazier, a diabetic who was denied insulin during his three-month detention, was awarded his share in 2001 by a federal judge. He received the first half last week, and the final payment was deposited into his bank account Tuesday.
Frazier was working for Bechtel Corp., which was building a crude oil refinery in Iraq in August 1990, just before Iraq invaded Kuwait. He said he and co-workers were awakened on Aug. 18, 1990, and detained in the empty U.S. ambassador's home. Soldiers would not let anyone out for medicine, he said.
Because he couldn't get insulin, Frazier went blind in one eye and lost 60 pounds. His muscles and nerves began failing. He has no sensation from his knees to his toes or from his fingertips to his elbows. Frazier now lives in a nursing home, where he is undergoing therapy.
"When I was incarcerated is where my health started to fall. Saddam didn't shoot me but he killed me anyway," said Frazier, who said he is steadily wasting away.
Although U.S. law allowed hostages to sue foreign countries, it did not provide a mechanism for releasing frozen assets from those nations. That changed when the Terrorism Insurance Bill became law last year.