In January, Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, a Green Beret, was electrocuted when he stepped into a shower at his barracks in Baghdad. He wasn’t the first. In all, 13 Americans have diedfrom electrocution in Iraq, including 10 in the Army, a Marine, and two contractors. James Risen of the New York Times reports, “In addition to those killed, many more service members have received painful shocks,” according to Army officials. The Pentagon has now ordered the inspection of all buildings maintained by KBR.
In the last few years, I’ve looked at what I call Iraq Reconstruction Corruption, and though this won’t surprise, KBR – known until last year as Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root – emerged as one of the most egregious profiteers at the expense of taxpayers and the soldiers they were paid billions of dollars to serve.
I’ve reported on the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) questioning hundreds of millions of dollars in charges by the company; KBR’s attempt to cover-up tainted water it provided troops that a Halliburton water expert called a “near miss” that could have “result[ed] in mass sickness or death”; KBR providing water used by soldiers to bathe and brush their teeth that contained coliform and E. coli bacteria and led to an outbreak of bacterial infections; and now, tragically, it seems shoddy electrical work – and a failure to make repairs despite complaints – has resulted in the death of at least one soldier due to electrocution.
According to the Times, Green Beret Sgt. Justin said he suffered electrical shocks four or five times in 2007 in the same shower where Sergeant Maseth died. Specialist Stephan Michael Pabst, of the 19th Special Forces Group said he suffered electrical shocks in the same complex and issued a repair order to KBR. It was never fixed and he continued to suffer shocks in his shower.
Adding to the outrage is the fact that the senior civilian in the Pentagon who oversaw KBR’s multibillion dollar contract – the largest in Iraq – was replaced when he questioned $1 billion in charges by the company and some KBR expenses, “including approximately $200 million for food services.” The 31-year army veteran, Charles Smith, based his concerns on information provided by the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) and wanted to withhold payments and performance bonuses until KBR furnished the Army with adequate data. Not only was Smith fired from his position but the responsibilities were outsourced to a private firm, RCI, who approved KBR’s numbers.