May 19, 2007

Invisible casualties

DH and I've got a friend who after at least a year of searching for a decent paying job in Nevada with no luck, took a job as a private contractor in Iraq. We email back and forth as he is able. We worry about him. A lot. The emails try to downplay what he is experiencing, but it feels to me like he's getting worn down. And so this article (NYT) doesn't come as any surprise to me. I know that there are some who see any private contractor as some sort of evil being, but many, if not most, are like my friend: just trying to support their families.

The numbers, which have not been previously reported, disclose the extent to which contractors — Americans, Iraqis and workers from more than three dozen other countries — are largely hidden casualties of the war, and now are facing increased risks alongside American soldiers and marines as President Bush’s plan to increase troop levels in Baghdad takes hold.

As troops patrol more aggressively in and around the capital, both soldiers and the contractors who support them, often at small outposts, are at greater peril. The contractor deaths earlier this year, for example, came closer to the number of American military deaths during the same period — 244 — than during any other quarter since the war began, according to official figures.

“The insurgents are going after the softest targets, and the contractors are softer targets than the military,” said Lawrence J. Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense for manpower during the Reagan administration. “The U.S. is being more aggressive over there, and these contractor deaths go right along with it.”
They are less protected and if they complain they are basically told to "Put up or shut up."
Many contractors in the battle zone say they lack the basic security measures afforded uniformed troops and receive benefits that not only differ from those provided to troops, but also vary by employer. Weekly pay ranges from $60 for Iraqi translators and laborers to $1,800 for truck drivers to as much as $6,000 for private security guards employed by companies like Blackwater. Medical and insurance benefits also vary widely, from excellent to minimal.

Conditions in Iraq are harsh, and many civilians who arrive there, drawn by patriotism, a sense of adventure or the lure of money, are overwhelmed by the environment. If they raise questions about the 12-hour workdays, the lack of armor plating on trucks or the periodic shelling of bases, supervisors often tell them to pack up and go home.

1 comment:

TomCat said...

I have nothing against the contractors (employees). It's the contractors (companies) that rob the taxpayers blind and fail to provide for the security of their employees that disgust me.