3 December 2012, 18:04

Afghanistan’s forgotten deaths: Why money won’t silence these civilians

Afghanistan’s forgotten deaths: Why money won’t silence these civilians

No one can put a price on life – except for the US army who has had their fair share of accidental kills. But, it is no matter, because if a bystander is killed the family will be given cash. Is saying sorry with money morally acceptable or is this tradition asking for trouble?

More than a decade has passed since the US set foot in Afghanistan, demanding retribution for the horrid terrorist attacks of September 11, but much has changed. In this Middle Eastern country, people walk the streets with worry on their faces, as they never know what day will be their last. The mission for US and British soldiers is to find dangerous rebelsand eliminate them, and yet somehow they completely miss their intended targets. The reality is that hundreds if not thousands of civilians have been killed because of the military’s carelessness.

If a civilian is killed by accident, the US army has been reported to pay between 2000 to 2500 dollars per death. Even though this amount of money doesn’t seem like a lot in the eyes of Americans, as well as many other foreigners—for Afghanis, it’s a large sum. That is exactly the issue here – the money.

“If most US citizens knew about these payments, if any person in the world hears about these payments, the irony is so blatant here. Why is the government invading a country and occupying the country, causing deaths and then feeling that they need to pay family members to compensate for deaths.” explained Buddy Bell, an activist, writer and organizer who is part of Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VCNV). He went on to say that the funds which are being wasted on weapons should be allocated to infrastructure and bettering the livesof the people there.

Though, Bell isn’t the only person who believes that compensation pays for death is highly illogical and harming more than healing. “I’ve been to Afghanistan twice for my work and I do have a quote from one of the youth who sometimes lives in Bamiyan and sometimes lives in Kabul. He was asked about the regret that the US claims they feel for “accidental deaths”. Zekrullah says that however much the regret, children will be killed again so their regret is unacceptable. And he also says the money shouldn’t be accepted because it doesn’t match up to the value of a person,” told Bell to the Voice of Russia.

We are concocting the perfect formula for retaliation from Afghanis – as each time their friends or family are murdered by mistake, and the more cash that’s thrown at them, the angrier they become. To be fair, it is not just American soldiers who are slipping up. British troops have had their fair share of gaffes, with payouts of over 2 million USD by the Ministry of Defence in 2010. The payouts covered those who were injured or killed by accident in Afghanistan, along with property damage costs.

And, if military personnel are pulling the trigger in the wrong direction isn’t enough, drones hover above. Attacks on either the wrong people or civilians nearby, getting the backlash from drone-strikes has also contributed to accidental deaths

Many human rights’ organizations are trying to make it clear to the armed forces that no matter how accidental these kills really are, they come with consequences. The nationalists of Afghanistan are considered collateral damage when in all reality it’s like pouring gasoline onto an open fire. Code Pink,is on a mission to ban the use of drone warfare, as they already know how much tension it brings to a society.

As well, a campaign is going on called 2 Million Friends. “The goal is to get 2 million people to sign onto a petition to ask the UN to ask Secretary General Ban Ki-moonat the UN to try to start the process of a UN brokered cease fire. We’re also getting people to, on December 10 which is Human Rights Day, to have coordinated actions happening globally to come in and educate themselves about what’s happening in Afghanistan,” stated Bells.

This coming week, when Human Rights Day is heard at its loudest, let’s take time to remember that there are good-natured people in Afghanistan too. They attend school, go to work, and have families just like everyone else. Taking away a loved one with a weapon by mistake and then paying them off is heartless. If we are going to fight, let’s do so responsibly. And yet, peace would be a lot better to deal with than having to worry who is the next innocent soul to die.

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