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Wednesday 28 November 2001

Expenses of identifying WTC dead

In her article in today’s Guardian headlined The hierarchy of death, Anne Karpf complains that too much money is being spent on identifying the dead in the rubble of the World Trade Center. Her first paragraph:

They say death is a great leveller. They’re wrong. Inequality pursues us after life too. Consider Ground Zero. While international attention has shifted to Afghanistan, the vast project of body-part retrieval in Lower Manhattan is probably the most exorbitant expenditure on the dead in our lifetime, and yet remains almost entirely exempt from criticism or debate. Ground Zero has been cordoned off, not only physically, but also politically and financially, though it’s a provocative message to the rest of the world, where death comes cheaper.

Ms. Karpf goes on to ask “How does it feel to the rest of the world to see the care lavished on the parings of American bodies in death, such as no complete third world body ever receives in life?”

Simultaneously, the article hints that it’s wasteful for the U.S. to take this kind of (expensive) care in identifying its dead, while suggesting that the same care would be nice to have in “developing” countries.

It seems to me that the “developing” countries are free to do what they like with their dead without fear of interference from the United States. If these “developing” countries have not yet found a way to make enough money to make mass DNA tests — or decent hospitals, or whatever else it is that they’re lacking — possible, perhaps that, and not some moral failing of the United States, is the problem.

Posted by tino at 12:59 28.11.01
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