While the official statements in the US surrounding the March 11 Kandahar massacre make a point to present it as an isolated incident, and one that is absolutely not going to change policy, inside Afghanistan the US military is doing very much what it always does when it kills civilians: cut a check to the relatives.
The payments this time are considerably larger than normal, perhaps owing to the extremely high profile of the massacre and the number of children involved. Families are being paid $50,000 per slain Afghan and $11,000 each for the wounded, meaning a payout of $916,000.
The practice of US and other NATO members paying “blood money” to the victims of massacres, night raids and assorted air strikes has been controversial. The US military in particular has often made a show of paying extremely trivial sums under the rationale that Afghan civilians would exaggerate the tolls of massacres to up the payout.
This has had the side effect of the victims often rejecting the “blood money” payment on general principle, something the US clearly couldn’t afford to have happen in this high profile case.
The wild variation in the value of a human life by US estimations certainly will remain a subject of discussion. Many Afghans have been offered $2,000 for the lives of family members in past killings, and even the $50,000 offered in this case is dramatically less than the Raymond Davis murders payout, $2.34 million for two victims. In the end such payments are an attempt to buy silence, and silence is clearly getting more expensive in Afghanistan.
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