A lawsuit filed on behalf of members of the U.S. military who were injured or killed by attacks between 2005 and 2009, at the height of the Iraq war, contends that major American corporations which cooperated with the Iraqi government during the war and have provided it with free drugs and medical devices. Those drugs and devices, according to The New York Times, later became the source of funding for a Shiite militia that targeted American troops.
The American companies General Electric, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, as well as the European drug-makers AstraZeneca and Roche Holding A.G., are accused of winning contracts to sell their products to the Iraqi Ministry of Health with the understanding that they also provide additional medical supplies and medicines for free. Followers of a firebrand cleric and leader of the Mahdi Army, Moktada al-Sadr, were then controlling the Iraqi health ministry. According to the lawsuit, Sadr’s lieutenants were selling samples on the black market to gather money for their attacks on American forces.
Leaked diplomatic cables, press accounts, contracts between the companies and the Iraqi government, as well as testimonies of informants are among the evidence filed along with the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington. The lawsuit was filed by lawyers from a firm, which has been investigating the allegations for more than a year, and the litigation firm of Kellog Hansen.
They argue that the companies must have known that the Iraqi health ministry had become a de facto terrorist organization and should have insisted that contracts are structured to guard against diversion and corruption.
The Mahdi Army and other Sadrist militias are not designated as terror organizations but are linked to Hezbollah. In the U.S. it is illegal to knowingly fund terror groups. Pfizer’s spokeswoman denied the allegations.
“Our mission is to provide medicines to patients to help better their lives,” she said.
Johnson & Johnson did not want to comment, while a spokesperson for General Electric said that they’re still reviewing the allegations.
Sadr’s militia was also known as the Pill army because its fighters were often paid with prescription medicines and used hospitals as staging areas and ambulances to launch attacks.