Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Private stories

While it does not change the fact that they are the unseen element of this war, I was curious about what they do, and the attitudes of these private contractors in Iraq. There was one surprising revelation from this research, but first off is a return to the story that started me looking at this situation.

The story that started it A sense of the senselessness

A 58-year-old San Antonio man who signed on with a private contractor in Iraq partly to raise money for retirement was killed in a "friendly fire" incident, his family said.

Hector C. Patio was shot by armed guards Saturday morning at a checkpoint outside of the Australian Embassy in Baghdad, his family said.

The Australian Defense Department didn't name the victim of the shooting but described the incident in a statement.
Melissa Norcross, a spokeswoman for KBR Inc., confirmed that an employee was killed at a coalition control point in Baghdad. She did not name the worker. She said the victim was the 96th employee or subcontractor of the Houston-based company to die in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.

Contractor in it for the troops

A Nebraska man has been memorializing American and coalition troops killed in Iraq by cutting out copper leaves, etching the names on them and attaching the leaves to a copper tree.
In a September 2004 story by The Associated Press, Bill Deane of Papillion explained why he got started on his 7.5-foot-tall memorial: "It makes the war real for me."
But he got to thinking that he wasn't doing enough to help U.S. soldiers.
So the 58-year-old put his sheet metal skills to work for a U.S. contractor and spent the past year in Iraq, bringing cool mechanical breezes to troops who routinely endure temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit and more.
Deane never thought he was in much danger because he spent most of his time on installing air conditioning at U.S. bases.

Entrenched electronic wizards

A team of technicians from Azbell Electronics, based in Fort Hood, TX, is on active duty in Iraq this year, providing command & control support to the United States Army’s 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), a major subordinate command of the Army’s III Corps.
It was Azbell’s fourth deployment overseas and once again the team is making use of a mobile command & control shelter the company has developed especially for combat support applications.
For Azbell Vice President of Business Development Barry Crum, sending company people to a combat zone for a year is a costly and inconvenient proposition, but sends an important message.

Trucking on

Craig Kramer, 38, is in Iraq as a civilian contractor.
Now in his final stage of training, he will be relocated to a permanent site in the next few days, where he will be a heavy truck driver assigned to a convoy.
Kramer said contractors, unlike military personnel, "don't use heavy artillery," though they do wear bullet-proof vests and helmets.
He said his decision to become a contractor was a financial one.

Not so secure

A Hungarian private security firm employee died in western Baghdad yesterday in an attack on the convoy of the Washington-based not-for-profit National Democratic Institute.

The contractor, who was working for Unity Resources, had been assigned to protect the group. Six Iraqis, one Croatian and one female US employee also died in the attack. The man is the third Hungarian to die in the Iraq war.

But then another issue pops out of the woodwork – a third hidden army and one more troubling.

The third army

The third American army in Iraq is an invisible army, driven not by duty, or greed, but by need. An investigation by the Chicago Tribune revealed some of the ugly truth about the sub-contractors that are paid to do the menial work for the bigger U.S. and other military contractors. An international network of such companies has apparently brought thousands of laborers to Iraq. The Tribune reporters found that “subcontractors and brokers routinely seized workers' passports, deceived them about their safety or contract terms and, in at least one case, allegedly tried to force terrified men into Iraq under the threat of cutting off their food and water.” The U.S. military has confirmed that laws banning human trafficking have been violated and has ordered contractors “to return passports that have been illegally confiscated from laborers on U.S. bases.” From Foreign Policy In Focus

Bear in mind that in addition to 100,000 estimated contractors there are these, so far uncounted, sub-contractors and possibly virtual slaves. The tragedy of Iraq just keeps getting worse; the greed of the Coalition leaders and their cronies more blatant.

The public focus has slowly moved to the obvious and painful acceptance of military casualties. Shifting that focus deeper into the Iraq mess won’t be easy, but it would certainly raise the stakes against those who planned, executed and profited from this insane conflict.


reality-based educator said...

Weird. I saw Tuesday 1/23 on your post and blinked. Then I realized you're blogging from Australia.

Good point about the contractors and sub-contractors. KBR was flying in people from really poor countries and paying them just a few bucks a day and getting away w/ it because of the "emergency situation." In the meanwhile, you have all these unemployed Iraqis who need work and the U.S. contractors don't want to hire them because it's too expensive. The Iraqis won't work for a few dollars a day the way Sri Lankans and Laotians will.

Cartledge said...

"blogging from Australia." Weird is one way of putting it, though I would be inclined to add a few qualifying expletives.

abi said...

Another good post on contractors, cartledge. There's not nearly enough attention paid to this by the MSM.

Praguetwin said...

Very good D,

Indeed it will be difficult to shift the focus, or expand the focus if you will.

I used to read FPIF almost every day. I need to start doing that again.

Kvatch said...

Excellent post Cartledge.

And to address Abi's sentiment, "...There's not nearly enough attention paid to this by the MSM." Well that wouldn't be "good news from Iraq" now would it?

Cartledge said...

Thanks all for your kind words. I'd feel happier if I didn't have this sense of preaching to the converted and otherwise pissing into the wind.