Calculating life for a dying empire
By Francis Shor / March 2, 2010
$2000 per dead child! That’s the amount of compensation offered by the Pentagon for the “collateral damage” which it has caused in Afghanistan. As the war escalates and more innocent victims of Washington’s aggressive actions accumulate in number, the U.S. military calculates what it will take to placate grieving Afghan parents.
Eight years into a war deemed “necessary” by both Republican and Democratic Administrations, the death and destruction visited upon Afghan civilians seems reducible to neat and cheap compensation packages. And, yet, the real physical and psychological damage inflicted by the war-makers remains strangely abstract and without comprehension of the very real unintended consequences.
The anger of Afghan families in the earliest days of U.S. military intervention undoubtedly persists and may even fuel the continuing insurgency. According to a June 28, 2002, Los Angeles Times story about one Afghan who had lost his wife, mother and seven children to a US air attack, he bitterly lamented: “I put a curse on the Americans who did this. I pray that they will have the tragedy in their lives that I have had in mine.”
While not suffering this kind of tragic loss in just one family, U.S. families have paid a price with increasing numbers of dead and wounded in Afghanistan. More generous with their compensation packages to families who have lost a loved one in military operations in Afghanistan, even the $100,000 offered cannot excuse the needless loss of life promulgated by the Pentagon and their so-called civilian bosses.
The squandering of billions of dollars, however, in prosecuting this war and the other imperial campaigns in the Middle East and Central Asia is responsible for other hidden costs to children in the United States. In 2009, the U.S. continued its falling ranking in infant mortality to 33rd in the world, behind the much poorer, but medically wiser, nation of Cuba. In addition, infant mortality among African-Americans is estimated to be twice as high as that of whites.
On the other hand, the terrible toll on Iraqi children, as a consequence of policies pursued by the United States since the first Gulf War, has been enormous. From the use of depleted uranium by the Pentagon under Bush Sr. and Jr. to sanctions preventing medical supplies from entering Iraq under Clinton, the death and disease suffered by Iraqi babies is directly attributable to the United States.
Even in the absence of war and aggressive policies pursued by Washington, the imbalance between the United States and the developing world, made worse by the recent financial crisis, is deplorable. It is estimated that the average inhabitant of the United States uses 250 times the resources of the average Nigerian. That average U.S. citizen, if a baby born in the 1990s who reaches 75 years of age, will have generated 52 tons of garbage while utilizing close to 4,000 barrels of oil. The amount of energy consumed by the average U.S. resident would be equivalent to 531 Ethiopians.
When UNICEF reported, as it did in 2002, that 10 million children under the age of five died each year from preventable causes, such as malnutrition, unsafe water, and the lack of the most basic health care, we should, in the words of ethics philosopher Peter Singer “know that others are in much greater need… and learn to think critically about the forces that lead to high levels of consumption and to be aware of the environmental costs of this way of living.”
Yet, to attain that level of consciousness would require confronting the legacy of being part of an empire and benefiting from its ostensibly unequal privileges. Trying to come to terms with all of the human and planetary consequences of empire as a way of life may be especially difficult now that the empire is dying. Let’s just hope that we can help to diminish the further destruction produced by an empire in its death throes.
[Francis Shor is author of the recently published, Dying Empire: US Imperialism and Global Resistance. Excerpts from the book can be found at dyingempire.org.]
Source / Common Dreams
Thank you to Deva Wood / The Rag Blog
I was waiting for one of the usual Right Wing objectors to, well, Object to the portrayal of merciless bloodthirsty goons who pay $2000 a pop to go on a Kid Safari, as being, well, Merciless bloodthirsty goons who would pay a couple of grand to off a kid. Maybe they’d pay extra to have a little “special enhanced interrogation” session if the kid is pretty enough. So far none have taken the bait. Maybe they’re still so shocked that somebody would write something so contrary to the “obvious” fact that of course Rich Kids are worth more than Third World kids who are, after all, not quite as human as First World kids, And are all future Terrorists anyway, might as well kill them while they’re young…
The guy who is quoted as saying “kill the women because they breed and kill the young because nits make lice” Colonel Chivington, of the Sand Creek Massacre, is actually honored as a hero is this town (Colorado Springs) But only by some.
Still, they exist and they see nothing wrong with a little advanced “Manifest Destiny” being applied around the world.
But this article is very well written, if anything far too polite in describing the actions.
There are commenters and authors on this site that are responsible, thoughtful and articulate. They have a POV I often disagree with, but I respect their intellectual honesty and reason. There are folks here, Bother Jonah being one of them, that really prevent any sort of meaningful debate or exchange. There wasn’t even anyone to attack, so Brother Johan created his own opposing commentary as a foil.
He and some others here are simply well trained left wing attack dogs. The only possible dialogue with them is a screaming match. There are plenty of right wing attack dogs as well on conservative blogs.
I think the world would have a far better chance at making progress on thorny issues without attack dogs of either stripe.
In other words, there’s nothing defensible about the Global Terror War on the poor, especially children.
I was wondering if somebody would come and try to defend it, there have those who try defending the Bhopal “Largesse” in giving the residents of Bhopal about $500 apiece for the initial victims of the Union Carbide Corporate Murder, maiming and poisoning of their land. That,too, is among the building blocks of the Failed Empire. Seems some believe that a Third World childs life can be quantified as being worth so much less than the child of a Billionaire
So now the Empire is outright shooting at the kids and then paying a pitiful “reparations” for the death of each child or Other Civilian. They deserve to be mocked, DHS, and more.
It seems the only “justification” for this policy and for the continuance or even the START of the war is being given, along with a demand that nobody question their answers, by the same people who brought us the WMDs canard.
And by a coincidence had been saying for a decade prior to 9/11 that they needed for America to suffer a “new Pearl Harbor” so they could justify taking over Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran with the aim of economic domination of the entire world. People like Karl Rove.
Morally deficient doesn’t begin to describe them. To be fair to the ChickenHawks, some of them are willing to sell their own kids for the GI insurance policy. It’s called “buying the farm” for a reason,
And of course, all of the Chickenhawks are willing to sell OUR kids. Oops, I mean “sacrifice”.
Oh, I’m supposed to be non-confrontational and not call the ChickenHawks “chickenhawks” either, because name-calling is a privilege of the Far Right.
But, Extremist, at least you didn’t try to defend it. I think. Maybe.
It is very difficult to look upon dead children. Any dead humans in fact, there’s a natural horror involved in it. There’s no stench quite like the stench of Dead Human and we recoil from it, built in by evolution or creation or both. Because if you come across a dead human in the woods or fields, the Thing or Persons who killed him might be and probably still are lurking around waiting for another meal to walk up.
Seeing a dead child like that, it’s very difficult not to utter the words Baby Killers.
So, I figure, why try? If they kill babies, they’re babykillers and there’s not much room for “responsible” debate on that no matter how it’s framed.
It shows up the inherent immorality of War in general, and War for Profit specifically.
Since this current war is very thinly disguised as something Other than war for profit, and apparent to any who are honest enough to look, the War Mongers are very much setting themselves up to be targets. Can they blame one if one shoots back?
“Buy off?” What do you suppose is being “bought off?” If the parents are inclined to blame the US to the degree that they will support the Taliban, do you really think a piddly ex gratia payment would make any difference?
Do you think American GIs set out with the purpose to kill children? If you do, you’re nuts.
Do you think the ex gratia payments are too small? If so, is this the way to get them increased?
Conclusion: you use people killed accidentally to argue against the US being in Afghanistan at all.
No American POTUS could have escaped impeachment for NOT invading Afghanistan in 2002. It was legal and it was as moral as the use of force ever is, which is not very.
However, the current commitment is subject to reasonable debate. My position is that we ought to cease and desist.
But this piece is not a contribution to the debate that will get is out of there.
I respect their intellectual honesty and reason. There are folks here, Bother Jonah being one of them, that really prevent any sort of meaningful debate or exchange.
I would like the sources to things stated in this article please….
1. $2,000 paid for each “collateral” (civilian) death.
2. $100,000 paid for each U.S. soldier lost in combat.
3. That both Republican and Democratic administrations declared that the war on terrorism in Afganistan is unnecessary.
I am pretty sure #3 never happened, I think that #2 is not true – I think the policy is that it’s just part of a soldier’s “duty” and getting life insurance EXCLUDES war or hazardous duty I think. I want to know more about the process and amount of compensation for collateral damage.
These are important things to throw out there as “facts”, so please supply the source material for these statements.
I’ve always thought that you had an unusual clairity of thought and a debate process that I admired, but I gotta admit you got me stumped on this one.
I am glad you asked the questions ’cause of course I’ve got some answers. I hope you were being rhetorical, the answers are so obvious.
“Buy off?” What do you suppose is being “bought off?”
U.S. public opinion of course. The pentagon PR boys have created this scam to continue the myth of your troops “caring” about the people they murder. Do they pay for the rapes, torture, and other war crimes too?
“Do you think American GIs set out with the purpose to kill children?”
Duh..Yeah. When someone fires their weapon willy-nilly (recon by fire) into a bilding or a crowd and their bullet kills someone (say a kid) that is not an “accident” that’s murder! A lawyer told me that. I hope you taught that to your law students.
“Do you think the ex gratia payments are too small?”
No, I think they are silly. I think that the parents would feel better if the depraved shooter were found and hung. But these particular murderers have impunity. Call me nuts, you ain’t getting any cherry there.
“No American POTUS could have escaped impeachment for NOT invading Afghanistan in 2002.”
Hummm…That’s a tough one. Send that illiterate drunken cowboy back to his coke stash or…create thousands of damaged collaterals for fun and profit. He couldn’t have been impeached the repb’s had the edge and he was seting us up for a trillion dollar ripoff, they would never blow that.
“It was legal and it was as moral…”
Of course it was legal, everything Hitler did was “legal” he took the precaution of passing a “law” before he got on with his deeds. So did Bush. As for the morality of baby killing, I think your sense of morality has lost some ground over the years.
Just saying. Aren’t you glad you asked.
from the article ” It is estimated that the average inhabitant of the United States uses 250 times the resources of the average Nigerian.” I dont know what the source of that is, but lets assume its true.
from MSNB “..JOS, Nigeria – Rioters armed with machetes slaughtered more than 200 people including a 4-day-old infant, residents said, less than two months after sectarian violence in the volatile region left more than 300 dead.”
Perhaps we in the USA use more energy because we are creating products, services, and technologies that feed, clothe, manage, operate, care for and protect much of the rest of the world. Dirt farmers attacking each others with machettes dont use much energy, nor do they produce much that improves the world either.