Monday, March 26, 2007

America's hidden war dead

Like thousands of other Americans who have served in Iraq since the U.S. intervention began four years ago, Walter Zbryski came home in a coffin. Only his coffin was not draped in an American flag or accompanied by a military honor guard.

Instead, the mangled body of the 56-year-old retired firefighter from New York City was shipped back to his family in June 2004 in the bloodied clothes in which he died, with half of his head blown away, according to Zbryski's brother Richard.

"I viewed the body," Richard Zbryski said. "What really upset me was that he was laying there floating in at least 6 inches of his own body fluids. They didn't even clean him up for us."

Zbryski's death was not counted among the official tally of more than 3,200 American military personnel who have been killed in Iraq, nor was it noted by the Defense Department in a news release. That's because Zbryski was not a soldier--he was a truck driver working in the private army of hundreds of thousands of contractors hired by the Pentagon to support the logistical side of the massive American war effort in Iraq.

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