Our Civilians Are More Valuable Than Your Civilians

    The public's unsurprisingly sad and easy acceptance of their nation murdering untold thousands of innocent Afghan civilians in our undeclared but lethal quasi-war in Afghanistan raises one very important question.  That concerns the rather odd attitude that our dead civilians are somehow more important than their dead civilians.  Somehow, the public has come to see the deaths of women and children who had no say in where bin Laden or anyone else kept company with their government has just an insignificant component of the larger picture of killing Talibans and Osama bin Laden.  It seems that we have become comfortable with the notion that, in our blind rush to wreak vengeance upon the perpetrators of these crimes, if a few thousands or tens of thousands of innocents have to die in the crossfire then so be it.  It's our God given right to kill in revenge but we accept no one's right to attack us in turn.

    When the Taliban refused, because of religious and political ideals, to turn bin Laden over to America's system of justice, every human being in Afghanistan became either a target or a potential "soft casualty".  Sadly, too many Americans seem to see little difference between the two concepts.

    An interesting corollary to the average Afghan's plight can be found in our not so distant past.  When the Shah of Iran, a murderous and evil dictator that the United States installed on the Peacock Throne in Iran, was deposed by the Ayatollah Khomeini's followers, the United States immediately whisked him away to Mexico City and, from there, into the United States.  The Ayatollah and his millions of followers demanded that the Shah be returned to Iran in order to stand trial for the tens of thousands of citizens who were tortured and murdered and to account for those who simply disappeared at the hand of the Shah's secret police.

    America refused, claiming that they were only offering him political asylum (sound familiar?).  Within days, Iranian students stormed the American embassy in Tehran and took the entire staff hostage.  From the first day, the students stated that they would release the hostages unharmed when the Shah was returned for trial.  These hostages had no part in any of the decisions made by their government but they were left to pay the price, anyway.

    We all know how this episode turned out after the death of the Shah from cancer.  The world watched in stunned horror as Reagan made secret agreements with the Iranians that kept the hostages in limbo until Reagan was elected and in office so that it would appear that the senile old B-movie actor had caused some miracle to occur.  But that's old news, isn't it?  What the point remains is that we were told to hate Iran because they took hostages, whom they never harmed.  We, on the other hand, are just killing anybody that happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and then denying any culpability.

    Another related issue that needs careful consideration is how, just a few years ago, the airline industry and your Federal Aviation Administration got together and did a study on what monetary value the government should put on a human life when comparing it to the cost of repairing or replacing or upgrading airliners.  Somehow, the value that they attached to your existence was a meager one million dollars.  Their conclusion was, therefore, that a plane load of, say, one hundred passengers carried a price tag of one hundred million dollars in the event of a crash.  Extending that logic to its foregone conclusion, if it would cost the airlines one hundred and one million dollars to ensure the safety and reliability of its fleet of aircraft, then the work wasn't deemed "cost effective".

    This rather warped theory of mere human value versus sacred and holy profits has carried over into most of Corporate America's dealings with the public although it is very seldom acknowledged as such.  If it costs X millions of dollars to clean up the polluting effluent from a factory but it results in only X minus one deaths, then there is no need to reform nor to even inform.  This greedy view of the world has become just a part of the grain in the wall between the haves and the have-nots.

    Sadly, though, I'm hearing the same sort of rationalization from otherwise relatively intelligent American people in their effort to compare the thousands of  American lives lost in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to the thousands of innocent Afghani civilians being wasted in our stupid and useless destruction of Afghanistan.  Somehow, the horrendous death of an American at the hands of a terrorist is far, far more valuable in the grand scheme of America's vision of things than some undernourished and uneducated Afghan child.  We seem to believe that an unseen child's life is of little value if it is powerless to hide from the misguided smart bombs that work so well in news briefings but whose accuracy becomes pretty suspect once the human damage is totaled and confirmed after the fact (ala the Gulf War).

    Nevertheless, perhaps we can agree that we are all related to one another, either through the old Adam and Eve fairy tale or the evolution of humanity throughout the eons.  With either as a foundation from which to begin the quest for wisdom, how can one place a minimal value on another's life if it is equal to your own? 

    Most assuredly, some humans have been extremely fortunate within the cosmic conspiracy and were serendipitously brought into existence on a part of this planet that is currently occupied by nation-states that are far wealthier and economically comfortable than their fellows on other parts of the planet.  America is a perfect example of the former and Afghanistan of the latter.  That does not, simpleminded patriotism and jingoism aside, make one life more valuable for that good fortune nor less valuable for finding oneself in less auspicious circumstances.

    Then, one might ask, how in the world can anyone morally accept the taking of another's life for a mere political or religious theory?  And if one finds themselves being assaulted by another, how can one respond in a self protective way that doesn't also bring harm or cause death to those who have no responsibility for that assault?   Can anyone morally declare that the deaths of those innocents are justified, to use a really stupid phrase, as  "collateral damage"?  Is there any moral or ethical path down which a human can tread that offers forgiveness for the death of an innocent other than to rationalize the insanity of "An eye for an eye", a procedure that leaves all involved blind and helpless?

    Let's put this entire series of events into a slightly more personal vision in hopes of seeing our moral dilemma more clearly

    You were born in a very poor part of your town.  You and your children lack any form of real education in any art other than simple survival.  You and your neighbors live as simply as possible, having the lowest daily caloric intake in your entire town.  Nonetheless, you still find yourself too often the target of killings from outsiders who bring their petty squabbles to your small area of town.

    Your neighbors invite someone into their home.  This is none of your business and, of course, there is little you can do about it anyway.  The problem, you eventually learn, is that some families from the wealthy part of town are looking for that person in order to exact revenge for a truly staggering attack that left many in their wealthy neighborhood dead. 

    The wealthy families demand that your neighbors turn the villain over to them but your neighbors, who are well armed and who control the poorest neighborhoods through those arms, refuse.  To do so, they say, is to assure their visitor's death at the hands of outsiders and religious heretics.  Again, you have no power to alter this argument since the combatants are well-armed and you are not.

    With little warning, the wealthy families begin attacking your neighbor's house.  That attack, however, spills over and starts to destroy all the homes around it and begins taking many innocent lives.  When you cry out for justice and protection, you are told that your lives are insignificant compared to the lives lost by the wealthy families.  Since the wealthy families own the only newspaper and television station in town, you are kept from even begging for intervention from those parts of town so far uninvolved in this atrocity against your family and innocent neighbors.

    You witness the death of friends and children when the bombs being flung at the house miss their intended targets by hundreds of yards, destroying homes and schools and hospitals.  You are told over and again that these deaths and all the destruction that follows may be inadvertent but they are a necessary cost of a war, a cost that the wealthy families proclaim they are willing to bear.  Whether you are willing to bear the devastation is, again, of no significance to the wealthy and never spoken of in their media.

    Exactly how would you respond to such atrocities within your home and neighborhood?  How could you, as the source of these deaths, ever hope to explain to the orphaned children that the lives of their parents had to be extinguished in order to gain vengeance for crimes their parents had nothing to do with?  How do you explain to a parent that their child had to be sacrificed on the altar of thoughtless revenge for the acts of evil people that the child had never known?  How, for God's sake, can you ever justify such dishonorable deeds by a nation that pretends to be the pinnacle of civilized culture and moral behavior?  Speaking of the Christian God, how can you justify killing innocent human beings when one of the most important instructions that man was given by God was the simple and unmistakable "THOU SHALL NOT KILL"?

    What is being done in your name will reverberate throughout the world.  Just because you hear nothing of the hatred and rage filled indictments of our immoral and undeclared war on innocents in Afghanistan does not mean that we, on any level, are the beloved of the Islamic world.  Nor are we anything but resented within the massive world of poverty and fear.  This nation is in a state of delusion and denial about the effects from this stupid "war" that the moron and his petty band of idiots started.  For some reason, we cannot or will not acknowledge the evil that will come upon us far into our future.  Gentle readers, you haven't seen how devastating it can become, but you will.  That I both promise and fear.


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Copyright 12/05/01