Saturday, January 27, 2007


We (us that is, America) have never used contractors the way we are now. We're using more people, doing more jobs in more dangerous conditions than we ever have. It's hard to get good statistics on just how many people are over there helping re-build, doing security work, transporting things, planning things, building things. They aren't all Americans of course, many are Iraqi, or people from nearby nations. Many are Australian or British, German or French.
[edit: Thanks for the link Susie (see comments). There are estimated to be 100,000 contractors working in Iraq alone. The government also hires contractors in Afghanistan, Columbia, and other conflict areas.]

Naturally it's not the first time contractors have been involved in a war zone, so you'd think someone would have figured out how things should be done by now. And in fact, there are some laws and guidelines in place, things that were written decades ago that spell out some of what needs to be done to make sure contractors are protected.

Every company that contracts with the government is by law required to carry insurance. This insurance is meant to pay the contractor or his or her family in the case of injury, death or disappearance. Under the terms of this law, the government has to make sure the company does carry insurance before they are allowed to do business. Then, in case something happens, the family simply files a claim with the labor department, and the labor department makes sure the insurance company pays up. Simple and tidy.

The problem is, the government didn't bother with that. No one checked to see if the companies were covered before contracts were signed - they just let them in. So Kirk's company didn't have insurance. C didn't even know they were required to do so. I'm not sure about the higher ups in the company - they had previous experience in Afghanistan, so in theory they should have known, but if the requirement wasn't made clear to them then either...

There is no system in place that makes sure contractors know their rights before they enter a war zone. There's no group that is there to help a family or contractor after a tragedy to tell them what to file, how to work with various agencies, what help might be available. There's nothing.

I know everyone has heard the stories of corruption, of companies making millions through graft, bribery and fraud. Sometimes I think those stories have colored the way people view anyone who works as a contractor - as though they believe that everyone over there is a thief and a liar.

But many of them are family people. Many of them, like Kirk, like Ryan Manelick, are former military who already served their country once and are now doing it again. Yes, many are there because the pay is good, but they are also trying to do a difficult and dangerous job because it needs doing.

It's a shame, then that the government that sent them there isn't doing everything it can to take care of them.


Susie Dow said...

Hope this helps...

There are currently an estimated 100,000 contractors in Iraq based on survey resultes recently released from CENTCOM. This figure does not include subcontractors.

See: Census Counts 100,000 Contractors in Iraq By Renae Merle, Washington Post, Dec 05, 2006

Child 1 said...

Are we still going to do XO?

childy two said...

i can send you some baked cookies that you asked for.

yaddayaddayadda said...

Blog again! PLEASE!!! your wit and sarcasm is the only thing that keeps me sane in the morning.

For Kirk said...

yaddayaddayadda (that name is just made to drive the lazy perfectionist up a tree isn't it? I MUST type it properly... but I can't be bothered to check and see if I did... dang)

I'm thinking about it... okay, I have now thought about it long enough that I should probably post about thinking about it. This blogging stuff is complicated!