……. is somewhere between US$500 and US$ 2500 in occupied Iraq. Yes, I know that power was “handed” over, but as long as the US Armed forces remain on Iraqi soil, with the kind of mandate that they have – Iraq will remain occupied.
In one of the most numbing articles I have read in a long time, foreign correspondent James Meek describes, in The Guardian, the situation on the ground. The promo for the article – reads like something out of a Woody Allen farce, except that it is not funny.
The rebels attack because the marines are there. The marines are there because the rebels attack. In an extraordinary dispatch, foreign correspondent of the year James Meek describes life in a Catch-22 world where a human life is valued at $500, the mercury rarely falls below 40 and the daily carnage goes largely unreported
Meek acts as a fly on the wall. He starts the report with negotiations between US army lawyers and bereaved families for compenation for Iraqis killed by mistake. (oops my trigger finger slipped)
He describes the interaction
“Coalition forces regret the loss of your brother,” said the lawyer. His name was Captain Jonathan Vaughn. “We understand it is a great loss to your family. We wish to offer something to you by way of sympathy and sorrow to help your family to rebuild after the loss of your brother. My commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Buhel, has authorised me to pay you $500 as sympathy for your loss. We understand that it is not enough money and nothing can replace the loss to your family. We wish that this small gift will help in some way. Much of the money that we had previously, the coalition forces have transferred to your government to help rebuild. We wish the best for you and your family and your country as you do rebuild. Thank you very much.”
He adds that:
The marines don’t like to call it blood money, but it is money paid for human blood spilled. A lot of blood, Iraqi and American, has been spilled in Karmah and Fallujah, in the heart of rebel country. The marines in this area have paid out roughly $3.5m in compensation for damage, death and injury since April. The money is paid at the local marine commanders’ discretion, and since it comes from the same funds that buy fresh food or air conditioners for the commanders’ troops, and since it is possible that at least some of the Iraqi casualties were part of the armed resistance to the American presence, the incentive to pay out is not great. There is a limit of $2,500 per death but now the marines are paying much less.
While I am still willing to believe that the US administration went in with good intentions, there is something tragically wrong in the way they are going about it. It seems like a jittery, jumpy and incompetent army that is so terrified that it will kiill anyone to stay safe, and will pay to wash blood off its paperwork.
You end up feeling for the American soldier, someone who I really believe has got a raw deal out of this whole sad affair. There is an amazing quote from a young Captain,
“It’s a snake eating its tail,” said Captain Clark that evening. “We are here to help the people but it’s difficult. If we left, would the IEDs go away? I think they would stop targeting us and start targeting the local authorities. It would be just another regime that ruled by intimidation and fear. If I didn’t believe in the mission, it would be like Columbus not believing in Copernicus.”
But, the fact remains that the mission was terribly compromised right from the beginng. the moment Bush and Blair began the war against the WMD, and then tried to pass it off as the war on terror. An army badly trained for keeping peace, a population that is jumpy about losing soldiers, and a occupied territory where fundamentalism is rearing its ugly head – sounds like a receipe for a horror film.
Finally, if it was my family – my father, my brothers, my sister or my mother that was accidently shot by the occupying force, I wouldn’t want USD 500, I would want someone’s head – prefrebly after i had hacked it off the body myself. And I am a pacifist., atleast I believed I was