Iraq: Private Contractor Deaths Rose 17 Percent Last Year
President Bush's "surge" strategy pumped another 30,000 U.S. troops into Iraq last year, something that many (particularly those among the "stay the course" crowd) have credited for reducing the overall level of violence in Iraq. And, yes, violence is down, but 2007 was nevertheless the bloodiest year in Iraq since the invasion—and the bloodshed took an unexpected turn. According to the Houston Chronicle, the number of private contractors killed while in the employ of coalition forces rose 17 percent in 2007, versus a 10 percent increase in U.S. troop deaths. At least 353 contractors were killed last year, up from 301 in 2006, according to Labor Department statistics. Meanwhile, the number of U.S. troops killed rose to 901 from 822 over the same period. Doug Brooks, president of the International Peace Operations Association, an industry trade group, told the Chronicle that contractor deaths have fallen off dramatically in more recent months, just as the number of attacks against U.S. troops has declined. So, why did the number of private contractors killed in Iraq last year increase at a greater rate than that of U.S. soldiers? Neither the Pentagon nor the Labor Department are saying. Perhaps it's just that there are now more contractors than ever working dangerous jobs in Iraq, about 155,000, according to Brooks, including about 27,000 Americans.