September 8, 2004
About half the casualties in Iraq are inflicted on the road. Each day, for example, the supply trucks move in some 130 convoys. These vehicle movements involve about 2,000 soldiers and civilian (contractor) drivers. The driver casualties are less than those of the troops (which are currently about 3.6 per 1,000 soldiers per year). There is no consolidated figure for contractor deaths, but estimates run to a hundred or so to date. Many more (up to a thousand) have been wounded. A somewhat equal number have been killed or injured in vehicle accidents. But theres no shortage of applicants for the jobs. Drivers from Africa and India, which have the same kind of bad roads and chaotic traffic as Iraq, see a year driving under fire as a way to hit the jackpot. Pay rates vary depending on the degree of danger (most routes are safe), but a driver on the higher paying routes could leave Iraq with enough money (over $10,000) to buy a business or farm back home, and be set for life. Many migrants (legal or otherwise) to North America and Europe do that, and have done that for over a century. Go, make a bundle (especially by the low rent standards in the old country) and then return home to build a new life.
Some countries, alarmed at seeing news reports of their citizens being killed in Iraq, order that their citizens no longer go to Iraq. These orders are ignored. In the Philippines, such an order is now a matter of public debate. People want it rescinded, so that its easier for Filipinos to go to Iraq and work. A year working in Iraq is the equivalent to winning a large lottery prize, but with much better odds. Theres less then one percent chance of being killed or mutilated. For a man facing a life of poverty otherwise, those are good odds.