Huffington Post, 4 Sep 2012
Remember when rioters in Watts, Calif., began shouting “Burn, Baby! BURN!” in the turmoil of 1965? I’m sure they didn’t have the following future in mind.
That would be the various lawsuits against KBR for operating burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. But we should all be paying attention to this and not just for the human toll it has taken on soldiers and contractors. It also says something disturbing about the ability of the federal government to exercise proper control over its private contractors.
An article, “Military Burn Pits in Iraq and Afghanistan: Considerations and Obstacles for Emerging Litigation” by Kate Donovan Kurera, in the Fall 2010 issue of the Pace Environmental Law Review provides the necessary insight.
KBR’s requirements and obligations are outlined in contract documents and the Statement of Work (“SOW”). The LOGCAP SOW states, in relevant part, “the contractor will ensure the safety and health of personnel, equipment and supplies…” while providing field services including “[f]ood [s]ervice, [m]ortuary [a]ffairs, [s]anitation to include [h]azardous [w]aste, [b]illeting, [f]acilities [m]anagement, [m]orale [w]elfare and [r]ecreation…” The SOW states that the contractor will “adhere to sound environmental practices and all applicable Environmental Protection and Enhancement laws and regulations”(FN61) and implement a hazardous materials/waste services plan and an integrated safety and health program that comply with “Army Regulations, NATO Status of Forces Agreements, and federal, state and/or host country/region laws and statutes.” A former KBR logistics contract manager testified before Congress that KBR “management would brag that they could get away with doing anything they wanted because the Army could not function without them… KBR figured that even if they did get caught, they had already made more than enough money to pay any fines and still make a profit.”
Phi Beta Iota: This is interesting at multiple levels. It is clear the contracting process made explicit the requirements for safety. It is clear the US Army chose not to assure the safety of troops. What is less clear is why the various complaints were not acted upon–this joins the contractor use of slave labor in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the out of control war crimes of armed contractors, notably Blackwater, as a crystal clear example of allowable crime within US defense oversight. When combined with the deformed Fallujah babies (complaints going back to 2005), one has to ask: where is the integrity in all this? Where is the Inspector General in all this? Where are independent investigators and the media in all this? Where are the scientists and environmentalists who could have done case studies? Have we lost our collective minds? Have we lost our collective souls?