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May 15, 2009


Afghan airstrike payments.jpg

Just to get this out of the way, I find the title of this NYT slide show “Recovering From the Airstrikes” almost cruel, at least where the photos involving reparation payments come into play. Otherwise, I found this photo just devastating, and far more searing than the photos of children — with their prominent crayon packages — in their hospital beds.

The relevant part of the caption reads:

Bibi Ghul, left, who lost a husband and two children during the air strike, received compensation from Afghan officials.

I just have a few thoughts. First, I wish I knew how to appreciate this photo given the gender roles in the country as well as the Granai village, and the fact Bibi Ghul is the only woman in the photo. Second, that baby’s got a lot to absorb. Third, could you ever imagine her looking at that money?

(Actually, I’m assuming we’re footing it.)

from: Villagers in Afghanistan Describe Chaos of U.S. Strikes (NYT)

(image: Joao Silva for The New York Times)

  • Genevieve

    Can’t imagine her actually keeping any of the money. Widows don’t fare very well in Afghanistan. The quartet of men in the background, don’t seem to be aware of her at all.
    “Relatives are being paid the equivalent of $2,000 for each person killed and $1,000 for each one injured. It is a small fortune by Afghan standards.”
    more here:

  • Carlo De Benedetti

    “I adore the destructive power of capitalism because it means more freedom to create wealth.”
    (chairman of Olivetti office equipment quoted in Fortune magazine)

  • waving wheat

    This photo is physically painful to me. I would have a good cry if I wasn’t at work.
    God help us all.

  • lytom

    The central figure, the female brings to mind Shakespeare’s Mercutio words…
    The collection of children, their pain, all caused by US airstrikes, all collectively say – I paraphrase -
    “A Plaque o’ all your houses!”

  • Tena

    I can’t imagine that she’d look at it or touch that money and I assume you’re right about our role.
    God these are the things that kill the soul. It’s almost too much – I have no control over things like this and yet they are my responsibility because they are everyone’s, really. But I feel especially responsible since my country did this to this woman.
    The thing pictures do that words don’t always is make it clear that you are that and I am that and all of this is that – we are all this woman and her suffering is our suffering and the only thing humans can do in this universe is try to avoid adding to the suffering that is inherent in being human.
    And that’s what we don’t do and I don’t understand. We do the exact opposite and I just don’t understand.
    I wish I could tell her how damn sorry I am – as if that would make any difference.

  • donna

    Pretty much sums up the situation of women and children in Afghanistan — surrounded by stupid men, all of whom are equally paid off by a corrupt government and blood money.
    If we had a brain in our collective government heads, we would be actively supporting the women of Afghanistan directly, instead of letting the evil bastards who suppress them run the country.

  • Tena

    donna – damn, you just caused me to look at something with an entirely new view – why not put the women in charge? They aren’t the ones with the blood feuds and the honor killings and the acid-throwing – and it just occurred to me that the most likely chance we’d ever have of having a government in Afghanistan that was not tribal would be to put the women in charge.

  • lytom

    Seems like you think airstrikes hit only women and children in Afghanistan!
    Seems like you are angry at men and have very simple solution, just get rid of the stupid men…
    You also seem to think that your country can (has a right to) solve the problems and select whom to support in another country… and that by the way is exactly what is done!
    Who is more guilty, the evil bastards or the bastards at home, who sent in airstrikes and army, all in the name of democracy…?
    By the way, who are the “evil bastards?”

  • Paul

    Amazing photo. One thing that strikes me is the disembodied pencil pusher, bottom right, who seems to be keepong the accounting for these payouts. One wonders whether every one of those sheets of paper represents a victomized family.

  • Russ Nichols

    I am wondering if that particular baby is an amputee. Can’t tell from the shot. Looks to me like he has lost a leg and maybe an arm. What will happen to kids like that in Afghanistan and iraq?
    Air strikes done in our name. By drones. Controlled by kids in air conditioned video game suites in Nevada.

  • [email protected]

    C’est Sublime

  • John Simon

    I hope this bitch burns in hell for what she did, compromising our freedom.

  • yg

    when i first pulled this image up and my machine was still adjusting to the resolution, i mistakenly thought the woman was being handed a sandwich. seeing the money was a relief.

  • Gasho

    What are the dynamics here? How many people are just out of the frame and what are they doing? Whoever is off the picture to the left is being perceived as “the bad guy”. He must be the person who explained the payoff.. the one who put a fair value amount on this woman’s family member’s heads.
    This is also an instance where the camera and photographer cannot be excluded from the picture. Is the picture being taken by the SAME man who’s handing out the money??? It kind of looks that way. Can you imagine the horror… giving this woman money for her dead husband and children and at the same time – cash extended – taking an extremely personal photo as proof that reparations were being made? WOW.
    The guy on the far right is registering a look of disbelief, while she is searching for any sign of humanity in a world gone mad.

  • yg

    the wariness in her eyes. she’s not only having to deal with grief but also has to contend with the worry of self preservation. is it wise to give such a large amount of cash in front of so many witnessess? isn’t this setting her up to be robbed later on? if there isn’t a banking system nearby, a more empathetic program would be to reserve her money and make available an allowance week by week. otherwise, one robbery leaves her completely without recourse.

  • Apple

    Beautiful child… ugly, ugly world.

  • yg

    if you zoom in and do a mental cropping of mother and child, it’s reminiscent of mary and jesus.

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