The Value of Life vs. War and Mayhem. How Many Deaths Are Worth The Price?

When former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was asked whether half a million dead Iraqi children who perished under US sanctions was a price worth paying to try to remove Saddam Hussein, she replied that it was.

Ask David Cameron or Nicolas Sarkozy whether the destruction of Libya and all the lives lost was also a price worth paying (for cheap oil and for smoothing a path into Africa for AFRICOM – although they would never admit to this, preferring to hide behind the notion of ‘humanitarianism’), they would no doubt also reply in the affirmative. To this day, Tony Blair still stands by his illegal and baseless decision to stand shoulder to shoulder with George W Bush and his neo-con cronies and bring hundreds of thousands of deaths to Iraq.

From Vietnam and Afghanistan to Mali, Congo and Syria, our so-called elected representatives bring murder and mayhem to countries half a world away with their armies or proxy armies of terror and are protected by their lawyers, courts and media. Whether it’s false flag terror incidents which take the lives of innocent civilians in West Asia or drone attacks with similar outcomes in Pakistan, human life means nothing to these politicians and their corporate backers who regard stealing resources, amassing wealth and self aggrandisement as much more important.

And many of us are aware of this.

Recall the millions who took to the streets across the globe to protest about the decision to invade Iraq and the tens of thousands who took part in the Occupy Movement. All over the world, groups of people are standing up to be counted over workers’ rights, ongoing wars, land grabs, genetically modified crops and any other number of issues.

But there are also those who look the other way, do not want to be bothered or bury their heads in the sand as they drive their cars, talk on their cell phones, but their garments and wear their jewellery. Whether its oil, cotton, coltan or diamonds, someone somewhere has been killed in order for powerful corporations to extract and appropriate the resources for the products purchased at the pump or on the high street store.

Burying one’s head in the sand or looking the other way by watching Murdoch’s millionaires kick a ball in the English Premiership or tuning into X Factor or some other mind numbing dross is a matter of choice, so these people might tell you. It’s harmless. It’s all good fun. They might also say what’s the big deal if they choose to spend their hard-earned cash on Coca Cola, the latest cell phone gadget, the newest model of car, those nice cotton jeans or that exotic food on the supermarket shelf. It’s not like they are selling weapons, poverty or an oil-thirsty war-driven system of consumer capitalism with its rapacious appetite for endless resources, is it? Of course it is, but they don’t see it – more apt, they don’t want to see it.

Think of all those dead or impoverished Indian farmers whose GM cotton courtesy of Big Agra went into those ‘made in China’ jeans. Think of the land given over to produce those exotic fruits for export while leaving those who planted and harvested it with little food in their own bellies. As Vandana Shiva says, it’s no coincidence that most of the world’s hungry are involved in food production!  Think of the ongoing mayhem in Congo that went into that latest cell phone production. Think of the GM syrup, the trampling on workers’ rights or depletion/contamination of water resources in countries where water is scarce that went into making that fizzy drink. And so on.

Better still, do not think about it!

I know someone in the UK who holds a relatively well-paid position with the Indian company Tata (it makes cars in the UK). When I told him about a 2009 Indian government report commissioned by the rural development ministry about companies like Tata and Essar being blamed for a corporate takeover of tribal lands that constitutes part of the biggest land grab ever, he turned to someone else and said as an intended putdown to me “How am I supposed to put up with that!” He has no debt or family responsibilities. He still works for Tata.

Whether its buying stuff at Primark or many other British high Street stores or companies that have been found time and again to be exploiting foreign labour abroad and flouting their own stated regulations, regardless of claims about ‘ethical standards’ or ‘corporate social responsibility’ or some other media-friendly soundbite policy, or whether it’s working for some criminal corporation that pushes the GM agenda or imperialist war policy by being part of ‘think tanks’ like the Brooking Institute, Chatham House, the Trilateral Commission or the Council on Foreign Relations, many people are quite happy to do so. And the justification – I have to eat, to wear clothes, to earn money.

We all do. But it’s how far we are prepared to compromise and how much we are prepared to stay silent. Otherwise, we are just as complicit in buying into the bogus merits of international capitalism and the mentality that supposes countless dead children are worth much less than a highly profitable barrel of cheap oil.


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Articles by: Colin Todhunter

About the author:

Colin Todhunter is an extensively published independent writer and former social policy researcher. Originally from the UK, he has spent many years in India. His website is

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