America Pays Out.
February 6, 2002 11:30 AM   Subscribe

America Pays Out. $1000 each to the families of the 18 Afghans mistakenly killed by the fine folks at "Damage, Inc."
posted by delmoi (23 comments total)
$1000? jesus christ! where is the money gonna come from?
posted by mcsweetie at 11:45 AM on February 6, 2002

That absolutely disgusts me. Not that our country would ever place a dollar amount on human life, of course. Shit, I guess I'd rather be killed in a terrorist attack than in a US Army fubar; a million dollars to my family versus $1000?

I can just picture the army staff handing the families their $100 bills right now. Here, sorry we messed up, killed some of your family. But hey, you're poor, you don't really mind, do you? Here's a thousand bucks. That's more money than you'd see in your lifetime, so we're cool now, right?
posted by gramcracker at 11:53 AM on February 6, 2002

OK, dismount your high horse for a second. First, that's what has already been paid (without fanfare), not necessarily all that will be paid. Second, per capita income in Afghanistan is reported to be between $250 and $500, so $1,000 is equivalent to two to four years' pay. Third, I haven't seen the Taliban or Al Qaeda make similar offers. In fact, I'd be hard pressed to think of another country that would acknowledge its mistakes in such a public fashion, let alone bother to address them monetarily.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:58 AM on February 6, 2002

delmoi: extra points for the Metallica reference!
posted by Dark Messiah at 11:59 AM on February 6, 2002

hm. of course it took many denials and press reports to the contrary to get the pentagon to actually admit they made a mistake. if they hadn't got outed they would have kept claiming the target was legit.
posted by zoopraxiscope at 12:01 PM on February 6, 2002

Could the military involved be tried for War Crimes? Even if it was bad intelligence, this was still murder. I know, I know, the winner in a war never goes to jail... but I hope these people get a lawyer.
posted by panopticon at 12:05 PM on February 6, 2002

Let's wait for a hollywood movie (Turbanhead Down) about it, so that the money can be recouped ethically.
posted by bittennails at 12:12 PM on February 6, 2002

I can't blame the Pentagon for wanting to be sure before acknowledging a mistake, particularly in Afghanistan where (as noted) who is friend and who is foe can be hard to determine (and can change from minute-to-minute).

Note also that the NPR article quotes an Afghanistan official as suggesting the mistake might be attributable to an error by Afghans themselves.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:12 PM on February 6, 2002

Is $1000 more or less than families of civilian victims of US military errors have historically received? Some kind of context would be useful here.
posted by kindall at 12:23 PM on February 6, 2002

Just to follow up (and highlight) my prior point, because I think it shouldn't go unnoticed:

"Many of the villagers say the Americans attacked buildings that had become headquarters for two competing political factions. Each faction accuses the other of feeding false information to the U.S. military, tricking the soldiers into destroying its opposition. Other Afghan officials describe the raid not as a conspiracy, but a mistake -- an "Afghan mistake," one official says, suggesting that Afghans inadvertently gave the American forces flawed intelligence." (emphasis mine)

So the United States is apologizing and compensating for a mistake that it most likely didn't cause. How evil can you get?
posted by pardonyou? at 12:38 PM on February 6, 2002

American forces relying on Afghani thats uproarious, thank you for reminding me to laugh out loud.
posted by bittennails at 12:43 PM on February 6, 2002

The surviving family members are getting screwed. The dead guys are each worth at least 12, maybe 13 hundred bucks.
posted by dack at 12:43 PM on February 6, 2002

kindall: Depends. Generally, civilian victims of military errors (in time of war, that is) get nothing, and like it. The victims of Iran Air 655 averaged about $200,000 each, but that was a much more blatant US error. In the current Afghan situation, it appears that the US had at least a kinda good reason to believe that they were going after the right people, possibly due to one faction tipping the Americans off against another. In the Iran Air incident the crew of the Vincennes was blatantly incompetent.
posted by jaek at 12:44 PM on February 6, 2002

Seems like since the military is admitting their mistakes, it's only right to admit one of my own.

Up until now I've been getting pretty pissed off when people talk about how it's ok that we kill their civilians, but a horrible act of evil when they kill our civilians, because I thought that it implied that people (especially the government) thought American lives meant something and Afghani lives were meaningless.

Clearly, I was wrong. It is simply that American lives are worth 1,500 times more than Afghani lives. For all the people I may have offended with this incorrect assumption, I am truly, truly sorry. Unless you are from a different country, in which case I'm only a liiiiiiittle bit sorry.
posted by Hildago at 2:33 PM on February 6, 2002

And yes, I know they weren't civilians in the same sense that the victims of the wtc attacks were, and that not every family is getting 1.5 million from the government, but for rhetorical purposes..
posted by Hildago at 2:35 PM on February 6, 2002

Hildago, sorry buddy, but you've really got the apple/orange thing going on. First, please tell me you can appreciate the difference between a deliberate, intentional mass killing and a mistaken (albeit tragic) accident? Second, the analogy on the dollar amounts is faulty -- the $1.5 million amount is what the U.S. is paying its own citizens. A true comparison would be to what the Afghan government is paying its citizens. What the U.S. pays to the citizens of another country (as compared to its own citizens) doesn't suggest a different estimation of relative worth.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:53 PM on February 6, 2002

Pardonyou.. "Buddy"--

Sure, I recognize a distinction between accidental homicide and murder in the first degree, but I do wonder whether, in a more meaningful way, such distinctions are even relevant. Dead is dead, after all, and it hardly matters to the family of the victim how their loved one died, nor is the need for compensation after the loss of the leading bread-winner somehow less urgent simply because he was killed by government-sponsored soldiers rather than the soldiers of a private terrorist organization.

Because the government has gotten into the business of compensating people for the loss of a family member, I merely question why we pay some groups more than others, if we are not, in fact, making qualitative evaluations about the worth of those groups.

Indeed, in a moral sense, I would think we would be at least as obligated to compensate the kin of those who we actually had a hand in killing as we are to compensate those were merely killed while under our protection. This is not, of course, to say that the wtc survivors are undeserving of remuneration.

Regarding your last point, I would argue that if our sentiment in giving any money at all to the families is to put right what we honestly believe is wrong, then it doesn't matter at all what country the people are in. Depending on the generousity (or ability to be generous) of another country in no way shows remorse on our part. Neither does it show a commitment to seeing that justice is done. My belief would be that our obligations--if we choose to oblige ourselves, as we have--are our own.

Hope this clarifies my point for you.
posted by Hildago at 3:42 PM on February 6, 2002

American forces relying on Afghani Intelligence

This is approximately how the entire war has been fought so far, according to the mainstream press.
posted by sudama at 4:20 PM on February 6, 2002

pardonyou is right. Apples to Apples:

Amount paid, by America, to the families of Afghani soldiers mistakenly targeted, during a war, due to bad information from other Afghanis: $1000

Amount paid, by the Taliban, to the families of American civilians delibrately targeted in New York and Washington: $0.

Average amount paid, by the American government, to the families of Americans killed during the terrorist acts of 9/11: $1,500,000.

Average amount paid, by the Taliban, to Taliban citizens killed by the response to their actions on 9/11: $0.

Very odd that considerable pains would be taken to use the American gesture to cast the US in a bad light, by comparing different things and analyzing them according to some ideal ("we should value all lives the same") that has never been seen in practice on earth. Any democratically elected government that said it saw no difference between it's own citizens and the rest of the world would very likely not be a democratically re-elected government.
posted by MidasMulligan at 7:04 PM on February 6, 2002

Hildago, did you not say: "Up until now I've been getting pretty pissed off when people talk about how it's ok that we kill their civilians, but a horrible act of evil when they kill our civilians"? My point on the difference between intentional and accidental was addressed to that statement. I just can't see how you can be "pissed off" that people would make a distinction between one and the other. It was a horrible act of evil when they intentionally killed thousands our civilians. It was not a horrible act of evil when (if) we mistakenly killed Afghans. Failing to appreciate that there's a difference is what boggles my mind.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:22 PM on February 6, 2002

A true comparison would be to what the Afghan government is paying its citizens.

What Afghan government? The one the US was busy dismantling? This entire thread fails to make on many levels. I've always thought the purpose of payment for wrongful death was to make up the money that person would have made in a lifetime so that the widow and children can get high-ticket luxury items like food and shelter.

I really don't know if the $1000 is a great gift from the generous people of the US or an insult to the dead. Most likely Hamid Karzai just dropped the ball on this one.
posted by skallas at 8:56 PM on February 6, 2002

bittennails: Turbanhead Down

Am I dense and missing the witty twitting of stereotype-laden Hollywood productions? Or is this just a racist poster's idea of funny, and I'm the only one who felt like saying so instead of not biting at the troll (to mix metaphors)?
posted by Zurishaddai at 10:30 PM on February 6, 2002

Zurishaddai, I am half sikh and half hindu, on my maternal side, my family are turbanheads (the men). It was a joke, maybe not in the best of tastes but a joke nonetheless, no racism at play. I just find $=lives kind of sick.
posted by bittennails at 5:17 AM on February 7, 2002

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