Afghanistan and the value of a life

March 28, 2009

Christine, a stalwart of the anti-war movement in Australia, shakes her head at the gross double standards of the mainstream media in Australia when it reports the casualties in the war on Afghanistan. She shakes her fists in anger and then gets on with organising the next anti-war protest.

"Of course it's terrible for the families of the young Australian soldiers who were recently killed, but the total number of Australian casualties in that war don't yet add up to even one of the several Afghan wedding parties 'accidentally' wiped out by the US and its allies, including Australia, in the invasion and occupation of that country."

Corporal Mathew Hopkins, who was buried in Newcastle on March 27, was the ninth Australian soldier to be killed in Afghanistan. His son Alex, who was born just six weeks ago, will grow up without his father. The body of the tenth Australian soldier to die in Afghanistan, Brett Till, was flown back to Australia on the same day.

Here is another picture: a grieving Afghan man. His brother and four other civilians were killed in a US raid in the Bati Kot district in Nangarhar province on March 19.

The US military claimed that in the raid, "Afghan and coalition forces killed five militants and detained four suspected militants … during an operation targeting a terrorist network in northern Afghanistan".

But the provincial police chief, Abdul Rehman Actash, told AFP reporters a different story. The five men killed were innocent civilians visiting a district mayor.

"They went into the mayor's house and killed his driver, two guards, his cook and a guest from Sari Pul province, and confiscated two weapons from the house."

We didn't see this, or any of the other sickening, regular reports of civilian deaths, splashed on the front pages in the Australian media.

The United Nations reported that 2118 civilians were killed in the war last year, but not one of them merited remotely similar media coverage to that of the 10 Australian deaths.

Amnesty International's report Getting Away with Murder? The Impunity of International Forces in Afghanistan, issued in February, also barely got a mention in the media.

Such different weighting of the value of human life systematically reinforces pro-war, pro-imperialist and racist prejudices. They serve to dull the sensitivity of the public to mass suffering and gross injustice.

With such double standards pervading the mass media, dissident voices like Green Left Weekly are invaluable.

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