A Moral Calculus

From October 7, when the bombing war in Afghanistan began, to December 6, two months later, 3,767 civilians were killed in Afghanistan. So says Professor Marc W. Herold, of the Whittemore School of Business & Economics at the University of New Hampshire. Professor Herold relies on numerous newspaper reports to make his estimate.

Had the United States set out with the idea of taking revenge for the attacks of September 11, it would now be well on its way toward a goal of an eye for an eye. Current estimates of the loss of life on September 11th run to about 5,000, so the United States is more than halfway to the hypothical goal. Even if we accept the original high estimates of around 7,000, the US is halfway there.

But wait… What if we look at it in proportion? The population of the United States is about 385 million, that of Afghanistan approximately 22.3 million, or one 13th that of the US. The United States has now passed the hypothetical goal seven times. Seven teeth for a tooth.

And that assumes that the people of Afghanistan are somehow responsible for the attacks.

Even if we accept this rather dubious justification for the war, it has now been more than accomplished. Seven lives for a life.


December 17, 2001

Charles Curley [send him mail] lives in Wyoming. Before reading this book he had been looking forward to SCUBA diving in the coral encrusted ruins of the U.N. building.

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