Contractors' deaths aren't counted among the tally of more than 350 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. No one is sure how many private workers have been killed, or, indeed, even how many are toiling in Iraq for the U.S. government. Estimates range from under 10,000 to more than 20,000 - which could make private contractors the largest U.S. coalition partner ahead of Britain's 11,000 troops.More on the unreported cost of the IRAQ war
In Iraq, private contractors do just about everything a soldier would do. They sling Spam in mess tents. They tote guns along base perimeters. They shoot. They get shot. Sometimes they get killed. And it's not just in Iraq, but around the world - in conflict zones from Liberia to Kosovo to Afghanistan - that the United States is putting hired help behind the front lines to ease the burden of its overworked armed forces. By paying civilians to handle military tasks, the Bush administration is freeing up U.S. troops to fight. But the use of contractors also hides the true costs of war.
Their dead aren't added to official body counts. Their duties - and profits - are hidden by close-mouthed executives who won't give details to Congress. And as their coffers and roles swell, companies are funneling earnings into political campaigns and gaining influence over military policy - even getting paid to recommend themselves for lucrative contracts. For the civilians handling these soldierly jobs, the risks are high.
A contractor near the Iraqi city of Fallujah died and an American engineer was wounded when their vehicles came under attack Monday - possibly by U.S. soldiers, said the British-based company, European Landmine Solutions. U.S. officials said their soldiers weren't responsible. The chief military contractor in Iraq, Kellogg, Brown & Root, has had three workers killed in Iraq, two of whom died in ambushes. Another top U.S. military contractor, DynCorp, saw three of its workers killed in an ambush by Palestinians in the West Bank this month. In Afghanistan, two civilian contractors working for the CIA were slain in an ambush Saturday.