03 January 2007

Afghanistan: the killing ratio

According to Reuters, 4,000 Afghans died in 2006 as a result of the hostilities in that benighted country, approximately one-quarter of them civilians. About 160 foreign soldiers also died. This means that for every foreign soldier killed, about two dozen Afghans die. If we exclude the fighters, the ratio is about six to one. It is worth keeping in mind that when we mourn the loss of one of our soldiers, Afghans are mourning the loss of six innocents. Or, if we generously include the Taliban, who are Afghans too after all, they are mourning the loss of 24 of their own.

This is a common pattern in modern war. The estimate of Vietnamese dead during the war in that country ranges up to 3.000.000, the number of Americans 60,000. An article in the British medical journal the Lancet estimated 650,000 Iraqis have died as a consequence of the U.S. occupation compared to 3,000 Americans.

This poses a question for NATO, and indeed for us as well: How many Afghans are we prepared to sacrifice in order to save them from themselves? Not, I hope, 650,000.

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