Saturday, July 31, 2004

The Fog Machine and the Contractors 

Most of us lefty types have been scrupulous about following the rule of "love the soldier, hate the war."

But ever since Kos's superb essay a few months back about mercenaries the subject of contractors has been a touchy one. Do contract workers, from American companies at least, fall into the same category as soldiers for purposes of moral evaluation? We here at corrente have concentrated mostly on following the money trails, figuring out where the loot is winding up. Or trying to track the chains of command at places like Abu Ghraib.

The individual contract workers themselves have not gotten much attention, with the exception of the Mississippi truck driver who was taken hostage. We see no faces, we hear no names, the stories and the obituaries run only in small-town papers across America.

Guess what? These folks are being screwed. We knew that already, but we didn't know just how badly.

(via WaPo)'s Renae Merle
At least 110 contractors working for U.S. firms have died in Iraq, according to industry estimates. Experts say the number of casualties could be far higher, given the tens of thousands of private contractors who have taken over duties for the military. The Pentagon does not keep an official count, and many companies do not announce when their employees in Iraq are killed.

Contractors are paid more than soldiers are, but their life insurance policies are usually not as generous or as ironclad. A dead soldier's family is guaranteed life insurance and death benefits.

And although the military generally transports soldiers' and contractors' bodies together from Iraq to Kuwait, they are treated differently upon arrival. The military aims to fly soldiers' bodies to Dover Port Mortuary in Delaware within three days of their arrival at the Kuwait processing center. Contractors generally have to find a commercial flight to ship the bodies, and that can take time.
This story is grim in the extreme, which is probably why it's being buried in a Saturday edition.

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