What’s a Life Worth? A Few Thousand Bucks If You’re An Afghan or Iraqi

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Trying to calculate the cash value of a human life is a morbid and even impossibly futile endeavor. As we found while researching our Iraq 101 feature, economists estimate that every life lost in the Iraq War is worth around $6 million. The reality, of course, is much different. The families of American soldiers killed in action can expect to receive $500,000 or more; contractors’ families can get $100,000 a year; yet Iraqi civilians whose relatives have been killed by, say, an American missile, can expect around $2,500 per person. That may be big money in Baghdad, but it’s hard to justify the magnitude of difference between the official valuation of an Iraqi kid and an American GI. And as Tom Engelhardt writes, this official stinginess also extends to Afghanistan, where the Marines recently paid $2,000 in compensation for each of the 19 civilians gunned down in an incident of what the military calls “excessive force.” If our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq are truly about spreading the ideal of human dignity, you’d think that coughing up a bit more for our blood debts would be an important gesture. Hearts and minds, hearts and minds…

And if you want some heartbreaking reading, see the excerpts of Iraqi civilians’ claims filed with the military, collected by Editor and Publisher. Like this one:

Claimant alleges that on the above date at the above mentioned location, the child was outside playing by their gate and a stray bullet from a U.S. soldier hit their son in the head and killed him. The U.S. soldiers went to the boy’s funeral and apologized to the family and took their information to get to them, but never did. The child was nine years old and their only son.

I recommend approving this claim in the amount of $4,000.00.

Find me an American who thinks their child is worth a measly $4 grand.

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Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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