Tag Archives: damages

How Much it Costs to Kill Someone in Afghanistan

The United States usually pays up to $2,500 for civilians killed in lawful operations such as air strikes, according to an investigation by CIVIC, a rights advocacy group  The study, compiled two years ago, has been regularly updated…The payments are traditionally allocated in the case of accidental death….Historically, each time the U.S. goes to war, a decision is made about whether to authorize payments for civilian deaths. At the beginning of both the Afghan and Iraq wars, the United States Central Command declined to authorize claims for civilians suffering losses due to U.S. combat operations. Then in September 2003, the highest level of command in Iraq authorized what it called “solatia-like” payments. Two years later in November 2005, condolence payments were approved for use in Afghanistan.

Reuters has calculated a country-by-country breakdown of payments by the U.S. and major NATO allies.

United States: With 90,000 troops in Afghanistan, the United States pays up to $2,500 for civilian deaths and payments above that figure are rare. U.S. special forces, however, make no disbursements, but rely on other local U.S. or Afghan forces. Field commanders have significant control over payouts and sometimes U.S. forces pay even if it is unclear who was to blame.

Britain: Britain has around 9,500 soldiers, mainly in volatile Helmand province. British forces have paid between $210 and $7,000 for deaths. From 2007-2010, London paid 1,142 claims totaling more than $1.2 million – about $100,000 was paid in total for injuries and $150,000 for deaths. The rest was for damages claims.

Germany: Berlin, with 4,700 troops in Afghanistan, has no set policy for giving assistance to civilians harmed in operations. In August 2008, Germany dished out $20,000 in cash and a car worth $5,000 to a family after its troops shot dead three family members at a checkpoint.

Italy: In May 2009, Italy gave out around $13,500 to a family of a 14-year-old girl killed at a checkpoint. Like Germany, Italian forces also do not have a standard policy for paying victims. It has almost 4,000 soldiers in the country, based mostly in the west, near the border with Iran.

Other countries

Norway made a payment of $8,000 to a family of someone killed by its forces in 2009. Australia, the largest non-NATO troop contributor, disbursed around $120,000 for four incidents involving one or more deaths or injuries from 2001 through May 2009. Poland makes payments of up to $2,500. The Dutch, who have now withdrawn most soldiers, have paid about $475,000 for civilian losses from 2006 to 2010 and were responsible for at least 80 deaths and 120 injuries, mainly in southern Uruzgan.

Calculating the price of a civilian life in Afghanistan, CBS News, Mar. 14, 2012

Genetically Modified Food: contaminated fields and damages

Europeans are notoriously squeamish about genetically modified (GM) crops. In America, however, they reign supreme. Since farmers first planted GM soya in 1996, engineered crops have steadily conquered America’s vast farmland. Last year 93% of cotton and soya acres contained genetically engineered crops, as did 86% of corn acres. In the past the Agriculture Department (USDA) has placed relatively meagre limits on this expansion. This month, however, that may change.

Alfalfa, that humble feedstuff, is at the heart of an intense debate. The USDA will soon decide how to regulate Roundup Ready alfalfa, engineered by Monsanto to resist a chemical used to kill weeds. The department may allow GM alfalfa but, for the first time, set strict rules on the extent of planting allowed. This could be a model for the future, the biggest policy change for GM crops since their introduction. Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, says that the issue is not whether GM alfalfa is safe—the USDA maintains that it is. Rather, the question is how regulations might help engineered crops exist beside conventional and organic ones. It is a fraught endeavour.

The rule on alfalfa aims to ease growing trouble, on the fields and in court. America’s farms have seen two divergent trends over the past 15 years: the rise of GM crops and, on a smaller scale, an expanding market for organic products. Theirs is not a peaceful relationship. Wind has an unfortunate tendency to blow GM seed into organic fields. Farmers, like all good Americans, are stubborn and litigious. Lawsuits about contaminated fields have moved through the courts. One such case concerns GM alfalfa.

In 2005 the USDA approved Roundup Ready alfalfa. Opponents of GM crops filed a lawsuit soon after and, in 2007, a federal judge ordered the USDA to conduct a more lengthy review. After publishing a draft report in 2009 and receiving some 244,000 comments, the USDA issued its final report on December 16th. The department presented two preferred options. First, it may allow GM alfalfa to be grown freely, like GM corn or soya. In the second choice, it would approve planting with rules to prevent the contamination of non-GM crops. For example, five miles (8km) would have to separate GM alfalfa from conventional or organic alfalfa fields. The USDA will receive comments on the plan until January 24th. A decision is expected soon after, so that farmers can prepare for spring planting.

A frenzy of activity has followed December’s report, with Mr Vilsack encouraging further discussion among farm groups. At a meeting at the USDA on December 20th, organic advocates demanded more, such as compensation for farmers whose crops are contaminated. Big farm associations were horrified—by the proposed rule and by the meeting itself. “What the USDA did on December 20th was akin to the European process,” shudders Russell Williams of the American Farm Bureau Federation. Mr Williams fears that the rule on alfalfa augurs further limits on GM crops.

Mr Vilsack insists that his department does not prefer one type of farming over another. Rather, he wants to help them coexist more peacefully. Without any action, Mr Vilsack argues, courts will dictate the future of GM, organic and conventional crops. (In August a court halted planting of GM beets pending a review, and another lawsuit aims to stop GM eucalyptus trees.) Mr Vilsack’s course will not be smooth. Opponents of GM crops sued the department over its original decision on alfalfa. Now GM advocates may sue the department over its new one.

Rows over GM crops: Seed of Change, Economist, Jan. 8, 2010, at 32