New reporting by The Intercept published Friday offers a rare window into the death and destruction caused by the U.S. military in Afghanistan since 2001 by reviewing the records of so-called “condolence payments” disbursed to Afghan victims and family members killed or harmed by the ongoing war and military occupation.
As journalist Cora Currier reports:
The documents were obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by The Intercept and cover “several years’ worth of recent data.” Alongside Currier’s reporting, the data was compiled into this digital graphic.
According to Currier’s review of the data, “in fiscal years 2011 through 2013, the military made 953 condolence payments totaling $2.7 million. $1.8 million of those were for deaths, and the average payment for a death was $3,426. Payments for injuries averaged $1,557.”
However, when the numbers say so little about the true human tragedy involved in countless incidents over more than a decade, The Intercept also offered this devastating and concise accounting of specific, individual incidents that resulted in payouts by the U.S. military:
As Currier notes in detail throughout her reporting, the programs that administer the payouts, and the documents themselves, are both imperfect and incomplete.
According to Jonathan Tracy, a former judge advocate for the military who handled thousands of similar claims in Iraq and reviewed the data compiled by The Intercept, the system he knew was chaotic and left little room for documenting the complete human tragedy represented within each episode of violence.
“Each [entry into the government’s database] took maybe 30 seconds to enter,” Tracy said. “There wasn’t really room or time to put in a narrative.”