Saturday, May 19, 2007

Outsourcing Casualties

By Cernig

Critics of the occupation of Iraq have often pointed out that the second largest occupation force isn't the Brits - it's private contractors. The mercenaries security consultants and logistical suppliers have enabled the Bush administration to outsource many functions that would otherwise have to be done by troops, further damaging an already impaired military. It's been a very lucrative arrangement for the firms concerned.

But it has also conveniently outsourced many combat deaths and injuries.
Casualties among private contractors in Iraq have soared to record levels this year, setting a pace that seems certain to turn 2007 into the bloodiest year yet for the civilians who work alongside the American military in the war zone, according to new government numbers.

At least 146 contract workers were killed in Iraq in the first three months of the year, by far the highest number for any quarter since the war began in March 2003, according to the Labor Department, which processes death and injury claims for those working as United States government contractors in Iraq.

That brings the total number of contractors killed in Iraq to at least 917, along with more than 12,000 wounded in battle or injured on the job, according to government figures and dozens of interviews.

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.
If those private contractors killed and injured had been part of the U.S. military establishment, and thus part of the official casualty statistics, it's doubtful whether even Republicans on the Hill would still be just wavering in their support for the neocon misadventure. The Pentagon are entirely unapologetic about it.
Military officials in Washington and Baghdad said that no Pentagon office tracked contractor casualties and that they had no way to confirm or explain the sharp rise in deaths this year.

Army Lt. Col. Joseph M. Yoswa, a spokesman for the military in Iraq, said in an e-mail statement, “the responsibilities for tracking deaths, injuries, locations and any other essential requirements lie with the contractor. Unless there is something specifically stated in the contract about accounting for personnel, there is no requirement for the U.S. government to track these numbers.”
Hint for the Dem leadership - put a requirement that the Pentagon start keeping and making monthly reports on such a count in the next version of the funding bill.

No comments: