100,000 contractors now in Iraq
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The Raw Story notes that there are now 100,000 private contractors in Iraq.
The U.S. military just completed its official census of civilians on the battlefield in Iraq. The census shows that there are 100,000 contractors in the country, including Americans, Iraqis, and civilians from other countries (aka "third party nationals"). That's more than ten times as many contractors as were employed in the first Gulf War.
Just to give you some perspective, there are only 140,000 US troops in Iraq right now.
We tend to associate military contractors with mercenaries. There are certainly many soldiers of fortune and "private security" personnel in Iraq, but not all the contractors are mecenaries. A lot of contractors doing support tasks that have traditionally be done by US soldiers: Serving meals, driving trucks, running water purification plants, and so on.
Many of these private employees are making very good money while they're in Iraq, but unlike the troops, they may not have job security or benefits. These workers are taking big risks and being exposed to major traumas. When they come home, they won't have even the meagre social support that our society gives to returning veterans. No doubt many of these workers will have a difficult homecoming.