Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Contractor deaths surpass U.S. military losses in both Iraq and Afghanistan

Sometimes it takes me awhile to catch up on the news. Yesterday I finally read an article from the September 2010 issue of Service Contractor magazine that I’d been carrying for awhile in my Land’s End canvas attaché bag. The news: It concludes that more than 2,000 contractors have died in the wars in Iraq ...

The U.S. Army/Flickr
The U.S. Army/Flickr
The U.S. Army/Flickr

Sometimes it takes me awhile to catch up on the news. Yesterday I finally read an article from the September 2010 issue of Service Contractor magazine that I'd been carrying for awhile in my Land's End canvas attaché bag.

The news: It concludes that more than 2,000 contractors have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Contractor deaths now represent over 25 percent of all U.S. fatalities" in those conflicts, write Steven Schooner and Collin Swan of the George Washington University Law School. (I would bet that contractor KIAs are far higher, since there is no indication that non-U.S. deaths have been tracked with any fidelity.)

In Iraq in both 2009 and 2010, and in Afghanistan in 2010, contractors were running ahead of the U.S. military in losses, the article indicates.

Sometimes it takes me awhile to catch up on the news. Yesterday I finally read an article from the September 2010 issue of Service Contractor magazine that I’d been carrying for awhile in my Land’s End canvas attaché bag.

The news: It concludes that more than 2,000 contractors have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Contractor deaths now represent over 25 percent of all U.S. fatalities" in those conflicts, write Steven Schooner and Collin Swan of the George Washington University Law School. (I would bet that contractor KIAs are far higher, since there is no indication that non-U.S. deaths have been tracked with any fidelity.)

In Iraq in both 2009 and 2010, and in Afghanistan in 2010, contractors were running ahead of the U.S. military in losses, the article indicates.

Speaking of Iraq: Can you imagine the family conversations amongst Iraqis fleeing homeward from Cairo? "Let’s go to Beirut, you said, it’s nice. And then it wasn’t so we moved to Egypt — you said, it’s stable, the same old guy has been in charge for 30 years. Where next, Mr. Smart Guy, Libya?!"

And speaking even more of Iraq, here, courtesy of Joel Wing and Best Defense commenter Stephen Donnelly, is everything you ever wanted to know about the map of Iraq, and more. The thing to remember is that, contrary to widespread belief, Iraq is not an invented country:

This myth, with accompanying imagery of British adviser Gertrude Bell and Winston Churchill dividing up the Middle East during an English Garden party (before jumping down Alice’s rabbit hole for further entertainment), is incorrect and misleading.

The general political and administrative boundaries of modern Iraq conform with well-understood historical and physical boundaries with three exceptions: Kuwait, the waterways south of Basra, and the undefined desert regions: Kuwait, once part of the Ottoman Basra province, emerged as a separate "nation" under British tutelage; the desert boundaries, with few permanent inhabitants, remains a somewhat ill-defined place (despite paper demarcations); and, the waterways were further defined by much later treaties between adjacent Iran, but the "Thalweg," the center line of the waterways, continues to naturally shift against Iraq’s interests.

With few exceptions (Kuwait and minor Iraq/Iran border areas), the settled Iraqi population has known where Iraq was, including Kurds (who were very aware of which part was Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish Kurdistan), on a generational basis, and those boundaries remain unchanged.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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