Not To Blame

Not To Blame

From CNN:

“Thousands of buildings at U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan have such poorly installed wiring that American troops face life-threatening risks, a top inspector for the Army says. (…)

“It was horrible — some of the worst electrical work I’ve ever seen,” said Jim Childs, a master electrician and the top civilian expert in an Army safety survey. Childs told CNN that “with the buildings the way they are, we’re playing Russian roulette.”

Childs recently returned from Iraq, where he is taking part in a yearlong review aimed at correcting electrical hazards on U.S. bases. He told CNN that thousands of buildings in Iraq and Afghanistan are so badly wired that troops are at serious risk of death or injury.

He said problems are “everywhere” in Iraq, where 18 U.S. troops have died by electrocution since 2003. All deaths occurred in different circumstances and different locations, but many happened on U.S. bases being managed by various military contractors. The Army has has reopened investigations in at least five cases, according to Pentagon sources.

Of the nearly 30,000 buildings the Army’s “Task Force Safe” has examined so far, Childs said more than half “failed miserably.” And 8,527 had such serious problems that inspectors gave them a “flash” warning, meaning repairs had to be completed in four hours or the facility evacuated.

He said the majority of those buildings were wired by contractor KBR, based in Houston, Texas. KBR has faced extensive criticism from Congress over its performance in the war zone. KBR has defended its performance and argued it was not to blame for any fatalities.”

Let’s see: inspections disclose “some of the worst electrical work I’ve ever seen”, work that puts people’s lives at risk, and has already killed 18 people. The majority of this work was done by KBR. And yet KBR is “not to blame”. That’s totally plausible! For instance, it could be that after KBR’s crack electricians got done wiring the buildings, and after their quality control teams checked and double-checked every last circuit to make sure it was done right, bands of evil gnomes went burrowing around behind the wallboards and switched all the wires around.

I’ll bet all you KBR bashers didn’t think of that. But it could have happened! Blame the gnomes!

Seriously: can you imagine what it would be like to be the parents or spouse or child of someone serving in Iraq, hoping against hope that your loved one would make it home, learning that she had died, and then finding out that it wasn’t an IED or a sniper that killed her; it was faulty wiring installed by an American company that hadn’t bothered to do its job right?

On the other hand, can you imagine being the kind of person who would decide that despite your company’s having gotten billions of dollars in contracts, despite its repeatedly overcharging the government, despite “an impossibly high cost overrun of $436,019,574 on one job, charges of $114,308 for an oil spill cleanup that failed to remove any oil and another set of tasks in which the overruns were 36.9 percent of all costs”, you were not going to make sure your company did a good enough job to keep our soldiers from getting killed?

How, exactly, would you live with yourself?

***

Oops, I forgot to add this:
“Defense contractor KBR Inc., which is under criminal investigation in the electrocution deaths of at least two U.S. soldiers in Iraq, has been awarded a $35 million contract by the Pentagon to build an electrical distribution center and other projects there.”

I’ve tried to find out whether it has been cancelled since then, but if it has, I can’t find word of it.