• Down the Toilet

    April 14, 2011

    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Iraq, Military

    KBROne of the unique features of the current War on Terrors Wars (Iraq, AfPak, et al) is the incredible number of contractors in the field, everyone from shooters like Xe to maintenance men to the stars Kellogg, Brown and Root, KBR, the company old cuss Cheney used to head.

    KBR runs the backstage portion of our wars, setting up the chow halls, building the offices, running the power lines and maintaining the plumbing. It is the latter task that resulted in a slip and fall lawsuit just settled after a federal judge ruled that KBR cannot be sued by someone who slipped in a toilet it maintained at Camp Shield. Shield was a wonderful mortar-bait FOB that used to sit just outside Sadr City in Baghdad. The guy who fell wanted $2 million dollars from KBR in damage payments.

    The judge in his decision dug as deep as referencing Hannibal in acknowledging the relationship between the upkeep of latrines and the health of fighting forces. The judge went on to quote George Washington and Major Walter Reed on the close relationship between latrine maintenance and fighting efficiency before telling the guy he can’t have $2 million for slipping in a toilet in the middle of a war.

    It all seems like good lawyer-funding fun at first, another possible nuisiance lawsuit filed by someone who maybe should have known better maybe trying to make a fast buck. Maybe that was indeed the intent, but in fact this judge’s decision and the case are quite serious. When you read through the text, you find how aggressively KBR argued against their having any liability for anything they ever did, citing cases as significant as the Supremes’ 1803 hit Marbury v. Freaking Madison in their defense.

    Then you realize for every alleged frivolous lawsuit filed against KBR, these same defenses can be used to shield the company from wrongful deaths when shoddy electrical hookups kill soldiers in the showers, when employees allegedly commit rape or when Iraqi civilians try to sue another contractor over the deaths of their loved ones in US custody, claiming the contractors helped torture their people to death.

    The rules of war aren’t the clearest at times, but the idea that a Nation is resposible for the acts of its soldiers at war is pretty clear. When the focus shifts to contractors hired by that same Nation, well, like the guy caught by his wife with his pants down says, um, it is complicated, honey.



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