In the first tally of its kind, a federal investigative agency has calculated that at least 719 people, nearly half of them Americans, were killed working on projects to rebuild Iraq following the U.S. invasion in 2003.
The toll represents an aspect of the Iraq war that is rarely brought to public attention, overshadowed by the much higher number killed in combat as well as the billions of taxpayer dollars squandered on reconstruction.
There is no confirmed total number of Iraq war deaths. The U.S. military lost 4,488 in Iraq, and its allies a little more than 300. The number of Iraq deaths has not been established but is thought to exceed 100,000.
The actual number of people killed doing reconstruction work is probably much higher than 719 but cannot be reliably determined, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction said in releasing its estimate Friday. The U.S. government has no central database for this category of war casualties, and even within the U.S. military, the records on hundreds of troop deaths are too imprecise to categorize, the report said.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, called the report a "reminder that attempting to build roads, schools and other infrastructure in the middle of a war zone not only carries with it an increased frequency of fraud and waste, but also a devastating price in human life."
The 719 include U.S. government civilians, private contractors, military members, Iraqi civilian workers and third-country nationals. They were trainers, inspectors, auditors, advisers, interpreters and others whose mission was directly tied to the largely ad hoc reconstruction effort that began early in the war. They helped restore Iraq's dilapidated electrical grid, improve its oil infrastructure, develop a justice system, modernize a banking system, set up town councils. They also reopened hospitals, training centers and schools.
None of the 719 was named in the report, but some of the Americans have been recognized publicly by the government.
The 719 killed include 318 Americans, of which 264 were military members and 54 were civilians. The total also includes an estimated 271 Iraqi civilians and 111 third-country nationals, as well as 19 people of unknown nationality.