Update on Contractor Deaths

One of the many issues surrounding contractors in war is the lack of transparency. The recent FOIA denial of contractor names (individuals and firms) involved in incidents — which some argue grants more privacy than soldiers enjoy when involved in the same or similar incidents — highlights a lack of institutional accountability. Civilian control of these private military forces (to call them a single force is misleading) is largely lost as these (private) military units slip further from the bonds of the civil-military relationship on which this country is based.

It is fascinating that when we talk about "military science" and the "art of war" — the new "hot topic" with the latest ‘distraction’ of Israel & Lebanon — the calculus of effectiveness includes killed and wounded. However, in Iraq, because the government didn’t fully rally the American public into war (how has life been interupted if you don’t fly commercially?), to prevent and deflect media attacks, and so on, KIAs (not to mention wounded) have been hidden. Understanding and getting "into" the ‘science’ and ‘art’ requires a complete picture on the ground and KIA’s are important to this. As agents of our mission in Iraq, there is — intentionally — only one real system to track what is happening to the contractors, a law requiring insurance coverage oddly enough.

Is this a detriment of the contractor (shooter or truck driver)? Yes. Is this a detriment to the US citizen who is screened from the actual scope of mission? Yes. Is this detrimental to the overall project in Iraq? Most definitely. We have excluded a substantial number of agents (combatants and non-combatants alike… i.e. the contractors who carry weapons and those who do not) from our calculations on how we are doing and how we are to proceed.

With this in mind, Pratap Chatterjee of CorpWatch compiled this report (Contractor Deaths) based on the only real tool available to track contractors in Iraq. This tool is the Defense Base Act of 1941. From Pratap:

You may be interested in the total number of contractor deaths and injuries in Iraq broken down by company to date. The grand total is 608 and another 6,000 plus injured. Quite a few of them are probably Iraqi, especially for Titan corporation Titan/L-3 who supply the translators. Their total number of deaths is at 199.

These are Department of Labor figures based on the company requests for compensation and are generally considered to be lower than the real figure. For example KBR/Halliburton’s figures on this list indicates that Halliburton (represented here by their Cayman island subsidiary, Service Employees International) has suffered 40 deaths, while the company considers its total to have exceeded 77 for all operations (includes Afghanistan and Kuwait, although these are generally low caualty theaters) as of November 2005. (see http://www.halliburtonwatch.org/news/deaths.html)

For a more detailed breakdown by name and incident go to Iraq Casualty Count (note that they only have 342 versus 608): http://icasualties.org/oif/Civ.aspx

In case you are curious, note that the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq stands at 2592 today according to DoD stas gathered by Iraq Casualty Count. Other country deaths stand at 230 (not including Iraqis). See http://icasualties.org/oif/PieCountry.aspx

Explanation of acronyms in the list:

NLT = no lost time
LTO = lost time 3 days or less
LT4 = lost time 4 days or more
DEA = death
COP = salary continuation
OTH = other or unknown

Note: The report is for Iraq only from 3/03 to 7/06. The data is sorted using the "Rule of 7" (6 or less omitted by name but counted toward the total) to protect privacy of the claimants.