The Uncounted Contractor Casualties
The paper attempts to total contractor casualties to date. They leave out certain categories such as contractors working for other states or governments or non-military/non-contractor U.S. civilian deaths, such as fatalities amongst non-uniform employees of the U.S. Department of State, the Agency for International Development, or the various Defense Department agencies so the following figures understate the total. Still, the number is more than large enough to merit attention. According to the data, more than 2,300 contractors have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan (in addition to another 58 contractors killed in Kuwait) between 2001 and the first quarter of 2011. Another 51,000 contractors have been injured; more than 19,000 at least somewhat seriously. This reflects the startling fact that contractor deaths now represent over 27 percent of U.S. fatalities since the beginning of these wars.
In Iraq more than 1,537 contractors, about a quarter of the overall U.S. death toll in that country, have died since 2003. In Afghanistan, the 763 dead contractors represent approximately one third of U.S. deaths in that country.
What is even more striking is that—in both Iraq and Afghanistan—contractors are bearing an increasing proportion – annually and cumulatively – of the death toll. DBA fatality claims by contractors in 2003 represented only four percent of all fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan. From 2004 to 2007, that number rose to twenty-seven percent. From 2008 to the end of 2010, DBA [Defense Base Act] fatality claims accounted for an eye-popping forty percent of the combined annual death toll. In 2010, contractor fatality claims represented nearly half (forty-seven percent) of all fatalities. In the first quarter of 2011, contractors represented forty-five percent of all fatalities.
So contractors get killed you say. Certainly tragic, but one can say the same about regular military casualties Why do contractor casualties matter then? The answer, according to the authors, is:
All of this matters because of the idea, inherent in our democratic notions of governance, that public support (or public consent) is critical to any successful military action abroad…. Unfortunately, the number of military casualties no longer tells the whole story of human sacrifice associated with military actions… In fact, a massive contractor presence permits the administration to suggest, and the public to believe, that our military presence on the ground is smaller—by as much as half—than what is actually required to accomplish the mission.
Thus high contractor casualties produce a substitution effect that artificially reduces the public’s perceived human cost of our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan—quantified by some exclusively as soldier casualties.
There is a lot of fascinating detail in the paper which I don’t describe here due to space limitations so let’s go to the author’s conclusion:
An honest, accurate tally of the human toll of military conflicts plays a critical role in a representative democracy. Yet the public, the media, and American policy-makers currently lack relevant, accurate data. The pervasive deployment of contractors on the modern battlefield requires the injection of contractor deaths into the casualty sensitivity equation
Perhaps most importantly, we encourage the media to report responsibly on the true human costs of the government’s contemporary military actions. This tally, particularly to the extent that it proves inconsistent with conventional wisdom, is important for the public—and Congress—to grasp and internalize both the level of the military’s reliance on contractors and the extent of contractor sacrifice. Increasingly, contractors make the ultimate sacrifice, and that sacrifice merits respect and gratitude. Ultimately, the public weighs the intangible benefits of achieving foreign policy objectives against the most tangible costs imaginable—the lives of those sacrificed to achieve those objectives.
In weighing that balance, all lives must be counted. (click HERE for the original article)
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