Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Two Thousand Bucks

There is something truly grotesque about a nation that spends $12 billion a month on wars in two countries and then offers a few of the families of local victims of its wars $2000 a piece for those killed. There is an ugly racist math involved, too, when one considers the compensation given to US victims of 9/11. However, equally grotesque is a "public" media outlet - NPR - praising this crass use of blood money to supposedly win hearts and minds.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Afghanistan on Wednesday's ATC with Michele Norris introducing the story. "Deaths from NATO raids and air strikes have badly damaged relations with the Afghan people, so the US is trying to make amends" Norris assures us.

Nelson then comes on to say how one US raid killed six people, "including a mother and two children." The local governor, she tells us "is not happy...but he's determined to help the military right this wrong, lest the insurgents gain from the tragedy." She describes how US military teams meet with locals who lost family in the raid:
"And so begins a tough 40 minute meeting, a meeting that under international law doesn't have to take place. Nor do American payments need to be made to relatives of the dead which in this case amounts to $2000 for each of the six people killed, but the Americans believe such meetings and payments help keep Afghanistan from ending up back in the hands of the Taliban."
In case you're like me, and thinking that our government and Pentagon leaders are really sick and soulless individuals, Nelson props up the morality of such payoffs by tagging them with an endorsement from Sarah Holewinski, the executive director of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict. Nelson also includes a bit of justification for the killings by touching base with Col. Martin Schweitzer, head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and noting that "he says in this case some of the dead...were insurgents linked to hundreds of Afghan deaths."

To be fair, Nelson did convey the weight of the losses suffered by the local people in this Afghan village - and relates their anger. She mentions that one adolescent boy at the meeting lost both parents and that his uncle must now raise him and several orphans. But the human tragedies were undermined by her insistence on the overall morality and noble intentions of the US military.

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