Thursday, March 20, 2008

War Profiteering Kills

At least a dozen Soldiers and Marines in Iraq have died as a result of electrocution, and the likely culprit? Shoddy construction work by KBR. The Houston-based war-profiteering enterprise received no-bid contracts to build bases and housing facilities for American troops in Iraq, but in multiple cases the electrical work is substandard, lines have been improperly grounded, and the results have been tragic - death by electrocution of at least ten Soldiers and two Marines.
On the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, California Democrat Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter today to Defense Secretary Robert Gates seeking details about electrocutions of military and contract workers in Iraq and about KBR's role in making electrical repairs.

Defense Department spokesman Chris Isleib said the Pentagon "considers this matter to be serious, and we have referred it to the (Department of Defense) Inspector General for a full investigation."

KBR officials pledged to cooperate fully with agencies involved in the probe.

Waxman has asked the Pentagon to respond to his inquiry by April 4.

The probe was sparked by the death of SSG Ryan Maseth who was electrocuted when he stepped into a shower in his living quarters. The military originally told his mother that he had a small electrical appliance in the shower with him, but that was a cover story; a lie. He was electrocuted because a water pump was improperly installed, and bypassed the circuit breaker.

At first, Maseth's mother tried to get answers on her own, but was unable to. So she contacted her congressman, Jason Altmire, a Democrat. Altmire started digging, and referred what he found to Representative Waxman, who chairs the Oversight Committee.

Those deaths, said Altmire, were "[e]asily preventable. You wonder how it even could happen one time. But if a tragedy does occur once — because of a mistake — how could it possibly occur 12 times?" he asked.

Congressman, don't be coy. Money. That's how it can happen.

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