An Afghan Life is Worth $5,000

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JAWED KARGAR/epa/Corbis

Reports of compensation figures in wrongful death suits often shock us. After all, we like to think of our own lives as intangibly priceless, and no one wants to imagine that they are worth less than, say, a used car. But even compared to other figures, the amount the German government is providing the families of those killed in a 2009 air strike seems pitifully small: 4,000 Euros (or $5,000) each.

The money is being paid to the families of Afghan civilians killed in the German-ordered bombing of two trucks that had been hijacked by Taliban fighters. As a negotiator for the German government told Der Spiegel, “The standard of living in Afghanistan is the key factor … We are talking about a foreign culture, and it’s important not to provoke envy there.”

According to the Spiegel, this is smallest such payment the German government has made in Afghanistan: Previously, the family of a woman shot by German troops was paid $20,000, and the family of a dead child was paid $33,000. The fall in prices was apparently due to complaints from other countries that Germany was inflating the market for dead civilians.

(Via Der Spiegel, which has an interesting look at the intricacies in negotiating the claim)

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