Conscripts of Another Kind

In the June 6 issue of the New Yorker, Sarah Stillman has a heartbreaking article exploring the world of “TCNs.” “Third-country nationals” are the bulk of the workers on American military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’re recruited from poor nations, promised cushy jobs in Dubai and instead find themselves doing support work on American military bases.

The Army doesn’t even have direct oversight of the worker’s living conditions or wages, so both are dismal. Workers lived boxed together in shipping containers. There have been protest riots over the lack of food, and sexual assault is a common threat for female workers. The government seems to acknowledge that oversight is needed, but no one steps up to actually do it.

It’s another tragic byproduct of the desire to pinch pennies while keeping the American military enmeshed in two countries a world away. It’s a frustrating read, one that doesn’t inspire hope that things will change any time soon.