A dangerous thing to do, for he\’s much brighter than I am. However, he\’s got the wrong end of the stick here.
But that would not be the right answer, because £5,000 will buy much more in Afghanistan than it would buy in Britain – according to international price comparisons, perhaps four or five times as much. Let\’s say five times. Even with that adjustment, it is going to take 32 Afghan lives to be worth the same as one British life.
There is nothing unique about Britain in this respect. The Guardian has reported that the US generally pays no more than $2,500 in compensation for the loss of an Afghan life. In contrast, after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the US government set up a Victim Compensation Fund. The average payment it made to families of victims was $1.8m. Adjusting for purchasing power at a 5:1 ratio suggest that the US regards the life of an American as equivalent to the lives of 144 Afghans.
He then goes on to suggest that compensation to the familes of Afghans killed by coalition forces should be compensated at the same rate as the levels we do here at home.
One small problem would be that, well, let\’s not beat about the bush here, what do you think would be the effect of offering $360,000 for each Afghan purportedly killed by coalition troops? I think we\’d find a number of idiot cousins and the like being snuffed out and troops set up for it, don\’t you?
But leave that aside for a moment.
The point is that compensation should indeed be paid for wrongful death. But not at the value that we put on wrongful death here in the UK: but at the level that Afghans put on wrongful death in Afghanistan. Look at it the other way around. If an Afghan kills someone in the UK, do we think that Afghan levels of compensation would be appropriate?
And we do know what the price of a life is in Afghanistan. They\’ve actually got a system which provides such a value, \”diyya\”, a part of Sharia law. Blood money if you like. Not a million miles away from our former Anglo Saxon system in fact.
The real point is that no, all lives are not equal in value. Their value is the value that is put on them in the society where they live. Not us deciding what is the value of an Afghan life, but Afghans deciding upon the value of an Afghan life.