War on Iraq

Labor Dept: 1,001 Civilian Workers Have Died in Iraq

Contractors represent part of the hidden death-toll in Iraq.
More than 1,000 civilian contractors have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion more than four years ago, according to Labor Department records made available tonight.

In response to a request from Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., the Labor Department revealed that 1,001 civilian contractors had died in Iraq as of June 30, including 84 during the second quarter of the year.

So far in 2007, at least 231 contractors working for U.S. firms have died in Iraq.

Those contractor fatalities are in addition to the 3,668 military personnel the Defense Department had confirmed dead in Iraq from the start of the war in March 2003 until today.

"We are not getting the full picture" of the cost of the war in Iraq, Schakowsky said in a recent interview.

Another 76 civilian contractors have died in Afghanistan since the start of operations there, the Labor Department records show.

Besides those killed, 4,837 workers in Iraq and 879 in Afghanistan suffered injuries severe enough to miss at least four days of work, the Labor Department said.

The report did not identify which companies employed the workers.

Houston-based KBR, the Pentagon's largest military contractor working in Iraq, has had 50,000 employees and subcontractors in the country building bases, serving up meals, delivering mail and providing a host of other logistical support services for U.S. troops serving in Iraq.

More than 100 of the company's employees and contractors have been killed in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.

"Obviously, all of our employees that work in the region perform their work under harsh and dangerous conditions," KBR spokeswoman Heather Browne said tonight. "We continue to grieve with the families of those we have lost and remain committed to the safety and security of all our employees and subcontractors in the region.

The civilian contractor figures are compiled by the Labor Department's Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation, which tracks workers' compensation claims by injured workers or families of slain contractors under the federal Defense Base Act.

But these numbers likely do not tell the whole story.

"The data show the number of cases reported to the (Labor Department), not the number of injuries or deaths which occurred," Labor Department official Miranda Chiu wrote in a message to Schakowsky.

Labor Department officials have not responded in recent weeks to inquiries from the Chronicle about the contractor deaths.

The Labor Department only provided the numbers after Schakowsky called personally to request the data.

The United States has about 162,000 troops serving in Iraq. Military families have long complained about the stress placed on them by long and repeated deployments to Iraq.

By using civilians contractors, the Pentagon is able to send fewer troops to Iraq, since the civilians can perform noncombat functions and allow those in uniform to focus on military activities.

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau

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