Saturday, July 08, 2006

What's an Iraqi Life Worth?

Not much:

Certainly, Nahiba Husayif Jassim's death helped clarify her brother's perspective on the war. "God take revenge on the Americans and those who brought them here," he declared after the incident. "They have no regard for our lives."

He was being unfair, of course. It's not that we have no regard for Iraqi lives; it's just that we have much less regard for them. The current reparations policy -- the payment offered in those instances in which U.S. forces do own up to killing an Iraq civilian -- makes the point. The insurance payout to the beneficiaries of an American soldier who dies in the line of duty is $400,000, while in the eyes of the U.S. government, a dead Iraqi civilian is reportedly worth up to $2,500 in condolence payments -- about the price of a decent plasma-screen TV.

For all the talk of Iraq being a sovereign nation, foreign occupiers are the ones deciding what an Iraqi life is worth. And although President Bush has remarked in a different context that "every human life is a precious gift of matchless value," our actions in Iraq continue to convey the impression that civilian lives aren't worth all that much.

The author proposes a solution, but I think even he knows it's too little too late. Plus the truth of the matter is that most Americans do think that an Iraqi life is worth considerably less than the lives of our soldiers, that it's okay to blast a car speeding up to a checkpoint and kill two women-one pregnant-than risk the deaths of even a single American soldier. What are they, distant people who don't look like us, who don't talk like us, who don't act like us, who frequently curse or shoot at our soldiers, what are they to us? Not much really. Despite the fact that we supposedly invaded Iraq partly to liberate these people, we're perfectly okay with acting like an occupier and treating them as a conquered people and killing them all out of proportion to the threat they represent to our troops. Does that tell you what we really think of why we're over there? Yeah, I think so. It says to the world all it needs to know about us.

1 comment:

adam said...

Sad, but true.