Nearly 800? Holy crap!
Laboring in a war with no discernible front line, more than 770 civilian contractors have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion began in March 2003.
Statistics kept by the Labor Department indicate fatalities among civilian contractors working for American firms escalated rapidly late last year, with at least 301 dying in Iraq in 2006 — including 124 in the final three months.
U.S. military deaths totaled 818 during the year, the Defense Department has reported.
[T]he Pentagon estimates… [that] 100,000 civilians [are] working for U.S.-based contractors in Iraq.
Supplementing the 130,000 American troops serving in the country, these civilians provide a wide variety of functions, including serving up chow and interrogating prisoners.
The 100,000 figure is an estimate because, nearly four years into the war, the Pentagon is just now conducting its first survey to determine how many civilian contractors are working in Iraq.
And Pentagon officials, citing military regulations, don’t track contractor deaths.
Civilian contractors killed in Iraq are often eligible — and many have received — the defense secretary’s Medal for the Defense of Freedom, the so-called Purple Heart for civilians working on behalf of the military.
But their names are left off the Pentagon’s Iraq casualty rolls.
If they were counted, the U.S. military’s official casualty figures — 3,063 as of Friday — would be 25 percent higher.
“Since Day 1, the administration has been very, very comfortable artificially deflating the human cost of our effort in Iraq,” said Steven Schooner, co-director of the government-procurement law program at George Washington University Law School.
The Pentagon’s failure to report contractor deaths angers some family members whose loved ones died working in Iraq.
The 770 tally — representing fatalities (including deaths by natural causes) between March 2003 and Dec. 31, 2006 — was tabulated by the Labor Department’s Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation.
Last year’s contractor fatalities represent 39 percent of the deaths reported by the Labor Department.
Besides those killed, another 7,761 civilian contractors had been injured in Iraq as of Dec. 31, the Labor Department said.