Condolence payments have been back in the news after UK forces were linked to deaths of nearly 300 Afghan civilians. Here BISA Director, Juliet Dryden, talks to Thomas Gregory (University of Auckland) to find out more about research on this emotive topic.
Thomas' 2019 article: The costs of war: Condolence payments and the politics of killing civilians' traced the strategic imperatives that underpinned this programme and shaped its development. Thomas also discusses whether condolence payments continue to objectify and devalue the lives of Afghans and Iraqis by treating them as a means to an end rather than an end in themselves.
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Full article abstract
Coalition forces have spent upwards of $50 million on condolence payments to Afghan and Iraqi civilians. These condolence payments were intended as an expression of sympathy rather than an admission of fault, and the programme itself has been criticised for the arbitrary, inconsistent, and low valuation of civilian lives. Rather than focus on the practical problems associated with condolence payments or normative arguments about whether belligerents ought to compensate those harmed, this article will trace the strategic imperatives that underpinned this programme and shaped its development. As coalition forces began to recognise the strategic costs of civilian casualties, they used a variety of tactics to mitigate the effects of civilian casualties on the success of military operations. This article will argue that condolence payments should not be seen as a humanitarian gesture designed to recognise and respond to the suffering of ordinary civilians, but will argue that condolence payments should be viewed as a weapons system aimed at securing specific military goals. As such, this article will argue that condolence payments continued to objectify and devalue the lives of Afghans and Iraqis by treating them as a means to an end rather than an end in themselves.