Saturday, July 31, 2004

U.S. Contractor Deaths in Iraq: High Pay, High Price, But Few Death Benefits

Don Rumsfeld and his neo-con buddies had an idea that the war in Iraq could be fought on the cheap with a relatively small number of U.S. troops. One of the way's to do this was to contract out everything they could: food, housing, logistics, security....

And contractors can make big money in Iraq, often more than they can make in the U.S. and certainly more than they can make in the U.S. Armed Forces, but they often pay the same price as U.S. soldiers:
At least 110 contractors working for U.S. firms ...have died in Iraq, according to industry estimates. Experts say the number of casualties could be far higher, given the tens of thousands of private contractors who have taken over duties for the military. The Pentagon does not keep an official count, and many companies do not announce when their employees in Iraq are killed. By comparison, there were seven contractor deaths in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, according to a report by the General Accounting Office, now the Government Accountability Office.
They pay the same price, but those left behind get fewer benefits: insurance, death benefits, recognition and a last flight home.
Contractors are paid more than soldiers are, but their life insurance policies are usually not as generous or as ironclad. A dead soldier's family is guaranteed life insurance and death benefits.

And although the military generally transports soldiers' and contractors' bodies together from Iraq to Kuwait, they are treated differently upon arrival. The military aims to fly soldiers' bodies to Dover Port Mortuary in Delaware within three days of their arrival at the Kuwait processing center. Contractors generally have to find a commercial flight to ship the bodies, and that can take time.


After Jesse Gentry and Henry A. Doll III, two DynCorp employees, were killed in Iraq, DynCorp officials initially said the military would help return the bodies to the United States, according to Gentry's and Doll's families. But after several days of confusion, DynCorp, a unit of Computer Sciences Corp., put the employees' remains on a commercial flight. By the time they arrived in the United States, the bodies had begun to deteriorate.

The funeral director advised Doll's family not to view the remains, which were then cremated. "We've already had to deal with a tragedy, now this," said Doll's son, Henry, a Maryland state trooper. Doll's family is awaiting DNA test results to make sure they received the correct body.