We all know war is a brutal business and that innocent bystanders get killed on a pretty regular basis but can anyone out there tell me just how much a life is worth?

Well, if you’re an Iraqi citizen and happen to be cut down in a hail of bullets or get blown to shit while standing around minding your own business as US troops battle the insurgency, apparently it’s about $2,500.00.

Not much if you ask me…

According to our friends at the Boston Globe, payments started in about 2004 and clocked in at just under five million dollars. At the end of ’06, that figure had quadrupled to almost twenty million.

Yes, war is a business.

According to the folks at the Department of Defense, these payments are done on a sliding scale. A severed limb might only fetch you a couple hundred dollars or so but if you’re killed, your family received the whole enchilada. Apparently, the military is trying to mirror a local Iraqi custom called “solatia” the premise of which compensates innocent victims for casualties suffered between warring tribes. To me, it sounds like blood money.

I wonder what twenty five hundred bucks buys you in downtown Baghdad these days?

The issue of “condolence pay” came to light after Marines were formally charged in the Haditha Massacre in which twenty four Iraqi civilians were killed. Many of them were kids ranging in age from one year old to fourteen years old. The oldest victim was a seventy six year old man. Apparently those in command at the site offered the survivors and the families of those killed payments right on the spot.

I know that sounds like hush money but I also know that war makes people do some very strange things. It’s one of the offshoots of being threatened with death every second of every day. I guess that while living under such circumstances, everybody has their own breaking point and who’s to say how you might react under those conditions? I know I can’t in good conscience play God and say for certain just how I would and I doubt the most seasoned veteran of war could say the same.

But still, where does the money come from?

Again, according to our friends at the Globe, there was a fund set up in 2003 that is called the Commanders Emergency Response Program. It was initially designed to provide a feeling of good will between Americans military troops and Iraqi citizens who suffered damage to their property and surrounding neighborhoods as a result of the conflict. The money was to go to the rebuilding of homes, schools, sanitation services, and just about anything else that was damaged as a result of the war. Unfortunately, it seems that the money in the fund (originally 700 million) now goes to pay for the restitution of civilians being killed in military conflicts.

It’s even sadder that nobody knows or nobody is willing to admit just how much money has been spent out of the fund and for what purposes.

There was a report that came out a day or two ago from the United Nations that estimated there were 34,000 civilian deaths in Iraq in 2006. Nobody knows for sure how many were wounded.

I know that every one of those deaths weren’t attributable to direct contact with American forces. The Shia’s and the Sunni’s have enough blood on their hands to fill an ocean. If they were though, the number would be $85,000,000.00. That’s not counting those payments that were made for those who were either wounded or got sick as a result of disease from eating contaminated foods or drinking contaminated water.

Even if the payments that were made were to total only a fraction of that cost, if you ask me, it still isn’t enough.