April 16, 2003

Compensate for Civilian Deaths

It has occurred to me in recent days that the U.S. should make compensation payments of some sort to the families and/or survivors of civilian dead in the war in Iraq. The numbers themselves attest to the unprecedented attention paid by coalition troops to minimizing civilian deaths, but those thousand or so innocent people are still just as dead.

In fact, the numbers (variously estimated to be between 1000 and 1500) make it realistic and economically quite manageable to make significant payments for each civilian death. Gregg Easterbrook of TNR makes the case in his latest Best Laid Plans column, and compares the cost to that of our bombs. An excerpt:

Considering the cost-no-object ordnance showered on Iraq, it would be an outrage if we didn't pay at least a relatively small amount for those wrongly killed. If 1,300 is the number, the United States could even pay $100,000 per death for a total expense of less than one night's bombing during the campaign. In addition to being the right thing to do, think of the effect such payments might have on Arab public opinion--communicating that we really do care about typical Iraqis, and that, unlike Arab governments, which kill without compunction, we really do grieve over our errors.

Easterbrook is consistently good, so read it all. And while I'm at it, it seems to me The New Republic has been a consistent, principled, and rational voice for American liberalism during this war. I would like to think that they better represent the views of mainstream Democrats in the U.S. than do the more "visible" Hollywood types. Based on GWB's most recent approval rating of 73%, I suspect they do.

Posted by dan at April 16, 2003 1:13 AM