Military Contractor Gets Away With Electrocuting American Soldier In Iraq

Author: July 23, 2012 8:52 am

On January 2, 2008, Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth died in Iraq after being electrocuted by his shower. It was, according to the medical reports, a slow and painful death. The water pump was not grounded and, when it shorted, the electricity flowed through the pipes and water to kill Sgt. Maseth.

This is not an uncommon event in Iraq and Afghanistan where hundreds have experienced shocks and at least twelve have died in showers built by Haliburton subsidiary, KBR. Haliburton and KBR “won” the no-bid contracts for troop support in the two war zones under the Bush administration. Coincidentally, then-Vice President Cheney was the former CEO of Haliburton but these are two surely unrelated facts.


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The investigation into the multiple deaths and injuries resulted in the military fingering KBR as the culprit as they used unskilled labor and cut corners to save money on the construction tens of thousands of facilities. Using this information, Sgt. Maseth’s parents brought a wrongful death case against KBR in 2009. On Friday, however, KBR successfully had the case dismissed using one of the more obscene justifications imaginable:

  In her 87-page ruling, Judge Fischer agreed with the Texas-based contractor that “further adjudication of this dispute will inextricably lead to consideration of military judgments for which no judicially manageable standards exist.”
“Specifically, further adjudication of this case will require evaluation of the military’s decision to continue to house soldiers in hardstand buildings with hazardous electrical systems even though the military was aware that the buildings lacked grounding and bonding and the military possessed specific knowledge that such electrical deficiencies had resulted in electrocutions to military personnel, causing injuries and even deaths, prior to the events of this case,” she wrote.

Translation: “The military knew and let the problem continue so KBR is allowed to use that as cover.” But why does that allow KBR off the hook?

“While we believe that Plaintiffs and their experts have made a compelling case challenging the safety of KBR’s electrical work … we do not believe that this case can be further adjudicated without questioning the military’s wartime decisions which directly affected the safety of the electrical facilities in the building,” Fischer wrote. “It is not the role of the judiciary to pass judgment on the military’s decisions which affect the safety of a military base located in an active war zone and we conclude that an evaluation of KBR’s defenses cannot be divorced from these military decisions.”

Translation: “We can’t question the military deliberately putting its soldiers at risk because we’re at war even though the activity in question is not combat related in any way, shape or form.”

How perfect is that? We can’t hold civilian contractors liable for their crimes as long as they’re working for the military in a war zone and the military let it happen. No accountability. No responsibility. No justice. Just lots of profit and cronyism.

Does that sound like the America that young men and women signed up to defend? We are told to worship the troops as heroes but even the most virulent anti-war protester doesn’t treat our soldiers with such a lack of respect. Maseth was killed so a few wealthy men could profit. It’s the American way.

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