“We had an incident”, the engineer tells me. These four words get your attention in Iraq. We’re in the northern outskirts of Baghdad, in a spotless white conference room at the new Quds power station. We’re out in the Red Zone, the area surrounding central Baghdad’s massively guarded Green Zone enclave. There are probably people nearby, perhaps as close as the sprawling crude-oil pumping facility across the road, who would kill us if they got the chance. That’s why we’ve arrived at the plant in two convoys, each with three heavily armored SUVs and a security contingent of eight men outfitted with assault rifles, grenades, body armor, radios, electronic beacons, navigational and medical equipment, and other gear. It’s a lot of men, guns, and hardware for a routine meeting at a power plant. But the statistics bear out the caution. As of this past November, at least 412 civilian contractors had been killed in Iraq, according to U.S. Department of Labor figures cited in a recent report to the U.S. Congress. Scores more had been injured or kidnapped and released. The contractors included all kinds of workers: engineers, security agents, truck drivers, even cooks. To put the figures in perspective,… Read full this story
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