More War Profiteering, KBR-style

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Believe it or not, 12 soldiers have died in Iraq by electrocution from their own faulty equipment. Like showers and power washers for vehicles. Twelve. Unless they all died on one day, something’s rotten in Denmark, that is, if that’s where our old pals Kellogg, Brown and Root are headquartered.

Twenty-four year old Green Beret Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth died a protractedly painful and ignominous death not “fighting for our freedom” in the streets of Baghdad but in his own shower. CNN:

Army documents obtained by CNN show that U.S.-paid contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) inspected the building and found serious electrical problems a full 11 months before Maseth was electrocuted.

KBR noted “several safety issues concerning the improper grounding of electrical devices.” But KBR’s contract did not cover “fixing potential hazards.” It covered repairing items only after they broke down.

For ‘broke down’ read: killed a soldier.

Only after Maseth died did the Army issue an emergency order for KBR to finally fix the electrical problems, and that order was carried out soon thereafter.

And—aside from the human cost—how much ‘extra’ did fixing their own shoddy, murderous work cost us taxpayers, one wonders?

In an internal e-mail obtained by CNN, a Navy captain admits that the Army should have known “the extent of the severity of the electrical problems.” The e-mail then says the reason the Army did not know was because KBR’s inspections were never reviewed by a “qualified government employee.”

How’s that for a sweetheart deal?

Sadly, the military first gave the latest victim’s family not just the run around but a heinous slap in the face as well as an insult to the intelligence of anyone older than 10—according to his mother, “the Army told her he had a small appliance with him in the shower”. Please. As early as 2004, the service had issued a memo saying that, after five deaths that year alone, “electrocution was “growing at an alarming rate.””

Eight years—and seven dead GIs later—KBR is still raking it in while an exhausted grunt who just survived a firefight has to send out a recon team before indulging in one of life’s few pleasures in a desert war. Too bad the Prez ‘gave up’ golf since he was surely doing so with KBR execs frequently. Maybe he could ask them, oh so politely, to stop killing our soldiers.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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