Cheney keeps using the "support our troops" line every time he needs a distraction. So he should be asked what he thinks about the new revelations that his favorite company exposed U.S. troops operating in Iraq to water that was "roughly 2x the normal contamination of untreated water from the Euphrates River."
How did that happen?
According to two former Halliburton employees turned whistleblowers who testified today, it's because KBR was "apparently taking the waste water from the water treatment process, which should have been dumped back in the [Euphrates] river" (from which it was originally extracted -- less than a mile downstream from a raw sewage outlet) and using it as the "non-potable water supply."
This means that thanks to Halliburton/KBR thousands of troops and contract employees stationed at the Ar Ramadi base in Iraq have been using a contaminated bilge for bathing, showering, shaving, laundry and cleaning.
According to one of the whistleblowers who first told this amazing story to Halliburton Watch, the troops have also ignored advisories and used this septic sluice to brush their teeth and make coffee.
So what's a little dirty water, you ask? After all, most of us have experienced a little gastrointestinal misery while vacationing in certain parts of the world. But for the troops this is already no vacation, and the risk of contamination is exactly why companies like Halliburton get paid a lot of money to operate giant reverse-osmosis filters -- so that this kind of problem doesn't have to happen.
Because when it does, it has the potential to be a major setback. As the U.S. Army Field Manual states, "Thoughout military history, the vast majority of casualties in war have been from disease and nonbattle injury. This loss of manpower can be drastically reduced by ensuring that soldiers have adequate supplies of water."
The Association of Military Surgeons found that 9 percent of soldiers evacuated in 2003 suffered from problems of the digestive system, but it's not clear what, if any, waterborne diseases are the result of Halliburton's reckless actions.
"I don't know how bad the problem might be, how many troops may have been exposed to untreated water, and how many might have gotten sick as a result" says Ben Carter, one of the two whistleblowers, who has twenty years of experience working as a water purification expert. "I can't know, because Halliburton apparently has no records and refuses to acknowledge there might be a problem."
According to the other, Ken May, Halliburton's "disregard for essential health, safety and security measures, time card fraud, fraudulent documentation and overbilling -- not to mention the constant barrage of daily threats and retaliatory behavior from our leadership (after coming forward, the two were no allowed to go into hardened shelters during the likely times of insurgent attacks, such as dusk) -- made life at Ar Ramadi nearly unbearable."
The company declined to appear at the hearing, and yet doesn't seem to be able to get its story straight. While denying there is even a problem, it met with Carter three times, to try to find out what documents were in his posession. The whistleblowers say there's a 21-page internal investigation out there somewhere that hasn't yet been released.
Do you think Rumsfeld or Cheney can get it?