Sunday, January 21, 2007

The private casualties of Iraq

One of my recent posts on the death of an American civilian contractor by Australian troops (A sense of the senselessness) raised the question of the hidden component of the Iraq conflict. We hear very little about this aspect of the ‘privatized’ war yet the figures suggest it is very significant. After some digging around, with the help of praguetwin I’ve come up with what could be regarded as a conservative tally.

According to insurance claims on file at the U.S. Department of Labor, 770 civilian contractors were killed in Iraq from the war's start in March 2003 through Dec. 31, and 7,761 civilian contractors were injured. The contractors include foreign workers.

The Pentagon has estimated there are 100,000 government contractors operating in Iraq, doing such jobs as serving meals, guarding convoys and interrogating prisoners.

Colation governments, including the USA, tend to mitigate the presence of contractors with the argument that they are essentially greedy bastards who are in it for the big money. Maybe so, but that only answers why they are there as individuals, not the scope of their presence.

Add the Pentagon’s estimate to the 150,000 military personnel and the on the ground numbers in Iraq come to a tide quarter of a million.

That this Washington Post article is from 2004 merely strengthens the argument that civilian contractors numbers and fatalities should have been recognised all along as a component of the personel executing this conflict, not just the military component.

Line Increasingly Blurred Between Soldiers and Civilian Contractors

While on missions in Iraq last year, 35-year-old Todd Drobnick was attacked by small-arms fire, grenades and makeshift bombs. Yet he continued to go out day after day, until he died in a vehicle crash on his way from one U.S. military base to another. For his loyalty and dedication, he was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
Thousands of Americans in Iraq have received such honors, but Drobnick's case was unusual: He wasn't a soldier. He was a private contractor working with a translation company

The article continues:

The occupation could not function without contractors. Construction giants such as Bechtel Inc., Fluor Corp., Parsons Corp. and Perini Corp., are rebuilding the country's infrastructure. Blackwater Security Consulting and Erinys, staffed with former Special Forces fighters, provide security details for occupation personnel. General Dynamics Corp. and Halliburton Inc. subsidiary KBR supply the military with support personnel who handle such diverse duties as repairing tanks and cooking.

Let’s not play semantics here, the simple fact is that at leas 250,000 personnel are on the ground in the Iraq conflict zone, regardless of whether they are bona fide military or privateers. The private aspects of this conflict must be recognised in the overall count.

Civilian contractor casualties can be tracked HERE.

Related (courtesy of Abi): A recent Boston Globe article reported on how companies like Haliburton and others are refusing to honor many claims for injuries suffered by their employees in Iraq. Employees have to go to court for compensation. Link here


Praguetwin said...

Good post and good digging. Glad I could help marginallly. Thanks for the link .

One thing that probably would help explain this is the amount of money that is available. Sure, one can say these guys are "greedy bastards" but so long as the government is waving that kind of money around, someone is going to take it.

Kind of makes you feel sorry for the normal grunts who do the same job except they get paid about 20% as much.

National Geographic is doing a special on contractors Sunday night. Your timing is impeccable.

abi said...

Interesting stuff. I wonder if the heavy dependence on contractors is one reason why Rumsfeld ignored Shinseki's estimate of the number of troops required to secure Iraq.

Related: A recent Boston Globe article reported on how companies like Haliburton and others are refusing to honor many claims for injuries suffered by their employees in Iraq. Employees have to go to court for compensation. Link here:

romunov said...

Soldiers differ from private contractors only in a fact that they're government contractors. I would bet that a lot of these guys n' gals don't enlist to defend the US, but to pay the bills, go through college or have nothing better to do.

Cartledge said...

PT thanks for the help

abi, that link isn't working :( If I can track it I'll post it in the story.

Rom, yes

abi said...

The text of the link didn't wrap. Try clicking this.

Filtnib said...

An Associated Press reporter published an article on this
on Feb 23rd, but you got the scoop more than a month earlier!!! They should give you the credit!

Anonymous said...

Have any of you been in the combat zone before? Not trying to offend anyone, I suggest you get out of your comfortable homes and try before posting these irresponsible comments.
Most of the contract employees out there work really hard, and are really proud at making a difference, supporting the troops and making the impossible possible, leaving their family and friends because their life has a different meaning now.
In return, serious companies like Halliburton, take care of their employees. Ask a serious employee to tell you what training each and everyone goes through before they reach to the combat zone, physical check is one of the most important ones too.
Ask me, because I have been one of those employees for 8 years and I love every minute of it. I am so proud of my company and so proud to be a part of it.