Casualties among private contractors in Iraq have soared to record levels this year, setting a pace that seems certain to turn 2007 into the bloodiest year yet for the civilians who work alongside the American military in the war zone, according to new government numbers.
At least 146 contract workers were killed in Iraq in the first three months of the year, by far the highest number for any quarter since the war began in March 2003, according to the Labor Department, which processes death and injury claims for those working as United States government contractors in Iraq.
That brings the total number of contractors killed in Iraq to at least 917, along with more than 12,000 wounded in battle or injured on the job, according to government figures and dozens of interviews.
Any death in Iraq is appalling, but the political realities behind military contracting requires a deeper understanding of the reasons they are there in the first place. Simply put, the US government prefers highly unaccountable corporate forces able to operate without legal sanction.
Another under-reported reality in Iraq is the violence committed by Western soldiers in the war-torn nation:
The British Army is facing new allegations that it was involved in “forced disappearances”, hostage-taking and torture of Iraqi civilians after the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein.
One of the claims is made by the former chairman of the Red Crescent in Basra, who alleges he was beaten unconscious by British soldiers after they accused him of being a senior official in Saddam’s Baath party.
The family of another Iraqi civilian claims he was arrested and kidnapped by the British in order to secure the surrender of his brother, who was also accused of being a high-ranking member of the party. He was later found shot dead, still handcuffed and wearing a UK prisoner name tag.
Both cases are being prepared for hearings in the High Court in which the Government will be accused of war crimes while carrying out the arrest and detention of alleged senior members of the Baath party.
We will only see in years to the come the ways in which American, Australian, British and other Western soldiers have abused, raped and traumatised the Iraqi people. Like Vietnam, these incidents will not be as isolated as we will be led to believe.