I’m still not 100% but think I must be improving as I can face reading the newspaper again. But while I have been snuggling under the doona the same old atrocities have been playing out in the real world.
Iraq is still a mess, with something like 40 locals being blown up yesterday. But there is another group of casualties that have not been getting a lot of attention and it was good to finally read a piece about them yesterday in the Saturday Age
. This is the story of the Fijian contractors, recruited by large American companies to do mostly security work in war torn Iraq and other delightful places in the Middle East. In the past 2 months 11 of them have died.
I have never had a lot of sympathy for those who sell themselves to the highest bidder to work in the world’s hot spots, then get upset when it all goes cactus. When our Dougie Wood
got kidnapped in Iraq last year, I didn’t loose any sleep over it and quite frankly thought he got what he deserved (in this case he was rescued and bought back to Australia where he sold his story to the media – so perhaps he got a lot more than he deserved). However, these Fijian men have not taken on the role with quite the same kind of informed consent.
An acquaintance that has spent a lot of time in a small Island community has alerted me to this over the last couple of years. Contracting companies come onto the islands recruiting the big beefy, under employed guys. This is village life, which is based on subsistence farming, hanging out with family and friends, maybe drinking kava with your mates. There is little or no money. People are still living in basic conditions. In come the big American men flashing money about, “Come to Iraq and be a security contractor. We’ll give you lots of money – more money than you could ever dream of”. For someone who’s likely to never venture far from the island, let alone own a passport, this is very alluring.
Back in the village, there is no internet. No tv. There is one communal phone if you are lucky. The locals vaguely know about September 11 and might have heard about Iraq but certainly don’t have any independent information as to what is going on over there. The danger is not quantified even by the trickle of news reporting we get in Australia.
The recruiters are very persuasive. The Age article mentions many of those who sign up are ex Fijian military, but the reality is all men are being targeted. Many have children and responsibilities. Whole communities are loosing their men and that means that the muscle behind the subsistence farming is gone and the wellbeing of the whole village is affected. Everyone.
The government isn’t going to make a fuss about this. After all it’s bringing a lot of foreign cash into its pitiful economy. In fact, according to The Age, the remittances from Iraq rack up 7% of the GDP.
I googled information to write this story when I first became aware of the situation last year, but I couldn’t find anything published to back up what I had been told. I’m sorry that it has taken 11 dead men to be able to write it.