The Wall Street Journal reported today that the U.S. has 170K troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. That falls short of the 202K contractors, who are doing more than just laundry and food service chores. A fast-growing component of the contractor world is “secret programs” or “black” contracts. That work includes manning secret prisons, doing interrogations and guarding CIA and National Security Agency personnel. It's dirty business with little accountability.
The privatization of Iraq is a key reason why there is no end in sight to the U.S. occupation. Without contractors, U.S. troops would have been home a while ago. There is just no way the public would support a 379K soldier force of occupation for five-plus years. We invaded Iraq in 1990 with 700K troops (9,200 contractors). Those troops didn’t stick around because President Bush I understood the folly of running an Arab country.
The contractor force has reduced U.S. soldier casualties. We don’t have a firm fix on how many contractors have died in Iraq. The numbers range from 1,000 to 442 from the authoritative Iraq Coalition Casualty Count. They died the same way American troops did. Contractors perished from small arms fire, rocket attacks, mortar fire, suicide bombings and roadside bombs. ICCC counts 4,142 dead American soldiers, 176 British troops and 138 soldiers from other members of the “coalition of the willing.”
The privatization of Iraq has allowed Big Media to “cut and run.” That point hit home yesterday when my 13-year-old daughter returned from day camp. She had worn a shirt with the message “Send Texts, Not Troops” to camp. Her friend, a media savvy kid, asked, “What’s up with the shirt?” Emma replied that she wants President Bush to bring our troops home. Her friend said, “The war is over.”
The war is not over, but it is out-of-mind for millions because the media have failed us. The New York Times reported today that the Big Three network anchors are buzzing about accompanying Barack Obama on his photo-op to Iraq. Who cares when Katie, Charlie and Brian get to sit down with Barack? The trio should stick around a couple of weeks after the Democrat departs to report the daily carnage in Iraq and the rising insurgency in Afghanistan. That would be a valuable public service.