Cast of Thousands Maintaining a War

Chicago Tribune

August 13, 2008 – On the sprawling U.S. bases in Iraq, you can’t go far without stumbling across the private citizens who do the little things that keep the war machine humming.

Filipino workers are charged with laundering the troops’ uniforms; Indians and Pakistanis are often the ones ladling the chow at the mess halls; and Americans and other Westerners are paid handsomely to protect diplomats and perform other tasks.

So it’s little surprise that the Congressional Budget Office reported Tuesday that the U.S. government has relied more on private contractors during the war in Iraq than in any other war.

U.S. agencies awarded $85 billion in contracts in Iraq from 2003 to 2007 for logistic support, construction, fuel, food and other projects. As of early this year, at least 190,000 contractors and subcontractors were working on U.S.-funded projects in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East to support the war effort.

The contracting workforce essentially matches the number of U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq.

“The ratio of one contractor employee for every member of the U.S. armed forces in the Iraq theater is at least 2.5 times higher than the ratio during any other major U.S. conflict,” the report said, “although it is roughly comparable with the ratio during the operations in the Balkans in the 1990s.”

Nearly 40 percent of the contracted workers in the Iraq War are Iraqis or other Middle Eastern citizens, and about 20 percent are U.S. citizens. The other 40 percent are third-country nationals.

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