October 11, 2011
"Disappeared Contractors": David Isenberg on Steven Schooner on Contractor Deaths in Iraq & Afghanistan
David Isenberg, author of Shadow Force: Private Secuity Contractors in Iraq has a provocative new piece on HuffPo in which he argues that private military and security contractors (PMSCs) are like the "disappeared" victims of dictatorial rule. This is not of course literally true, in that the bodies of PMSCs who are killed abroad are returned so that families can mourn and bury their dead. However, Isenberg finds the analogy fitting because we do not recognize or track the extent to the which PMSCs are bearing the burden on the on-going War on Terror.
He relies on the scholarship and testimony of Geroge Washington University Law School Professor friend-of-the-blog Steven L. Schooner. Professor Schooner has written about this topic in an article co-authored with GWU law student Collin D. Swan, called "Dead Contractors: The Unexamined Effect of Surrogates on the Public's Casualty Sensitivity," about which we have previously blogged here.
The Isenberg piece provides extensive quotations from Professor Schooner's testimony before the congressionally mandated Commission on Wartime Contracting. The gist of the exerpted portions is that we now have more PMSC casualties than military casualties in Iraq and that trend is spreading to Afghanistan as well. These deaths are not reported in the way military deaths are. PMSC deaths thus impose a lower cost in terms of public tolerance for continued war than do military deaths. Professor Schooner also notes, without allocating blame, that the government does more to protect members of the military than it does for PMSCs.
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