I had a running discussion with Awais a ways back about the number of contractors and contractor deaths in Iraq. Like so much about the war, it is difficult to get any sort of accurate information out of the murk presented by the government. A prime example is the latest casualty report:
Since the start of the war, the U.S. military has suffered 3,094 fatalities in Iraq. Seven civilian contractors of the Defense Department have also been killed.
This is pretty much your standard casualty report, except in this one I saw a key phrase I hadn't seen in previous statements: that key little caveat "of the Defense Department."
Of course the vast majority of contractors in Iraq aren't Defense Department contractors; they're employees of Halliburton or Blackwater or some other private company, and paid via sufficient indirection that you can claim they're not Defense Department contractors.
Some quick searching showed that I'm not the only one who can't figure this out (Here is a news article on the subject, as well).