Not enough water for US soldiers in Iraq

This video is called Half of Iraq hit by cholera 04 Oct 2007.

There are more problematic private contractors than just Blackwater.

From CBS in the USA:

Some GIs Forced To Steal Water In Iraq

Soldiers Reduced To Desperate Measures To Survive Desert Heat; Say They Found Plenty In Hands Of Private Contractors

HOUSTON, May 12, 2009

Stories of short supplies for American forces in Iraq, such as inadequate body armor or unshielded Hummers, have been around since the war began. CBS affiliate KHOU-TV in Houston has discovered that some soldiers were forced to ration water, perhaps as little as 2-3 liters per day, because there was never enough.

It is less than the one gallon minimum a day that an Army manual says is necessary just to survive in a desert environment. In fact, an Army training document on preventing heat casualties states that water losses in the desert can reach 15 liters (about four gallons) a day per soldier.

Army Staff Sgt. Dustin Robey told KHOU correspondent Jeremy Rogalski that soldiers would throw up or pass out from dehydration.

Chronic dehydration can lead to such problems as kidney stones, urinary infection, rectal afflictions and skin problems, and can have long-term health problems, including kidney injury.

Robey said in 2003 his company would run out of water on missions, forcing them to improvise, like drinking water from whatever taps they found.

Unfortunately, the often-untreated Iraqi water can cause intestinal illnesses. Robey said 50 to 60 members of his company got dysentery.

Desperate, Robey said he and his commander were reduced to stealing water from supplies stored at Baghdad International Airport.

They found plenty, in the hands of civilian contractors who Robey claims were supposed to be distributing it to soldiers.

“You just had pallets upon pallets upon pallets of (bottled) water,” Robey said.

According to Private Bryan Hannah, in 2007 his lieutenant said that they didn’t have enough water and he was told, “Go find some.”

Hannah and his fellow soldiers did just that, finding it once again at a civilian contractor facility.

While many soldiers have said they had adequate access to water, and even Gatorade, KHOU found that the differing experiences seemed to have a great deal to do with when and where a soldier was deployed in Iraq, and their assignment.

In 2008 at Camp Taji, Sgt. Casey J. Porter videotaped the water – yellow and filthy – that came out of pipes in the soldier’s showers and bathroom sinks. Yet the camp itself looked more like a mall, fitted with franchises and shops, than a war zone.

“You can eat Subway, Burger King, you can buy a $1,200 Oakley watch, but you can’t have clean water to brush your teeth with? What’s the real priority here?” Sgt. Porter told KHOU.

The water was supposed to be processed by Houston-based company KBR.

KHOU’s Rogalski says that an internal KBR report reveals “massive programmatic issues” with water for personal hygiene at its Iraq facilities dating back to 2005, and outlines how there was no formalized training for anyone involved with water operations.

Former KBR employee and whistleblower Ben Carter told KHOU that he discovered that soldiers’ sinks at Camp Ar Ramadi were pouring out untreated wastewater. He described showers as “essentially a sauna of microorganisms. Your eyes, ears, anyplace there’s a cut, a person would be at risk of containing a pathogen,” Carter said.

Carter says he received a verbal lashing from KBR supervisors when he raised his concerns.

KHOU obtained a statement from the Multi-National Force in Iraq press office which read, “We have a proven system that works. Commanders at all levels do their utmost to provide the necessary resources required to sustain the force.”

KBR told KHOU that a Department of Defense Inspector General’s report has concluded “KBR has (since) satisfied applicable water standards,” adding that “the DoD has not found any illness which it attributes to water in Iraq.”

Staff Sgt. Dustin Robey disagrees. He says he’s passed hundreds of kidney stones since returning form Iraq, and because of his condition the Army forced him to retire. His family is now facing foreclosure.

Terrible though this is for United States soldiers and their families, for most Iraqis things are even worse. Many Iraqis depend on river water contaminated by dead bodies, cholera causing water, etc.

KBR then, of course, though the CBS article does not mention it, was a subsidiary of Dick Cheney’s Halliburton.

The truth about Richard Bruce Cheney: here.

KBR Sued for Giving Soldiers Ice with ‘Traces of Body Fluids and Putrefied Remains’: here.

Book Review: Halliburton’s Army: here.


23 thoughts on “Not enough water for US soldiers in Iraq

  1. May 14, 2:29 PM EDT

    In Iraq, an exodus of Christians

    Associated Press Writer

    BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq has lost more than half the Christians who once called it home, mostly since the war began, and few who fled have plans to return, The Associated Press has learned.

    Pope Benedict XVI called attention to their plight during a Mideast visit this week, urging the international community to ensure the survival of “the ancient Christian community of that noble land.”

    The number of Arab Christians has plummeted across the Mideast in recent years as increasing numbers seek to move to the West, saying they feel increasingly unwelcome in the Middle East and want a better life abroad.

    But the exodus has been particularly stark in Iraq – where sectarian violence since the U.S.-led 2003 invasion has often targeted Christians.

    The AP found that hundreds of thousands of Christians have fled.

    The situation holds practical implications for Iraq’s future. Christians historically made up a large portion of the country’s middle class, including key jobs as doctors, engineers, intellectuals and civil servants.

    The last official Iraqi census in 1987 found 1.4 million Christians in the country. Now, according to the 2008 U.S. State Department report on International Religious Freedom, that number has dropped to between 550,000 and 800,000.

    Some estimate the number is even lower: only 400,000, according to the German Catholic relief organization Kirche in Not. The number is echoed privately by many Iraqi Christians.

    The vast majority of the exodus has happened since the 2003 invasion, the State Department and other statistics suggest. The State Department says as many as 1.2 million Christians remained into 2003.

    Christians first began leaving Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, during the economic sanctions and repression under Saddam Hussein, who pushed more Islamist policies. But the trickle turned to a flood after Saddam was toppled in 2003 and the violence escalated, said a prominent Iraqi Christian lawmaker, Younadem Kana.

    “I hope to leave for any other place in the world,” said Sheeran Surkon, a 27-year-old Iraqi woman who fled to Syria in 2004 after she received death threats, her father disappeared and her beauty salon was blown up. She now awaits resettlement to another country, saying she can’t tolerate the violence and new Muslim conservatism in Iraq.

    “How can I live there as a woman?” she asked.

    Daoud Daoud, 70, a former civil servant in the northern city of Mosul, now spends his time waiting with dozens of others at a Damascus resettlement center, hoping to follow his children to Sweden.

    “Iraq as we once knew it is over. For us there is no future there,” he said.

    More than 2 million refugees of all religions have fled Iraq since the 2003 invasion. The recent ebb in violence has lured some Muslim refugees to return in small numbers.

    But few Christians contemplate going back, according to the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees.

    “They simply do not feel safe enough. They cannot sufficiently count on state security or any other force to protect them,” said the UNHCR’s acting representative in Damascus, Philippe Leclerc.

    In a report last year, the head of the UNHCR Iraq support unit noted that Christians are more likely than other fleeing Iraqis to register as refugees in an effort to emigrate to a third country.

    “The vast majority of Iraqis still want to return to Iraq when the conditions permit – the notable exception being religious minorities, particularly Christians,” the report said.

    Signs of the exodus are stark inside the cavernous St. Joseph’s church in the middle-class Baghdad neighborhood of Karradah. On a recent day, just 100 Christians, mostly women and children, celebrated Mass in an echoing space that could easily hold 1,000.

    Incense filled the air as the parishioners sang hymns in Arabic and ancient Syriac – similar to the Aramaic once spoken by Jesus.

    “When I came here to my parish in Karrada, we had 2,000 families,” said Monsignor Luis al-Shabi, 70, who started at St. Joseph’s 40 years ago. “But now we only have 1,000 – half.”

    The situation is worse in the Baghdad neighborhood of Dora to the south – where 30,000 prewar Christians fled during the six years of war. The now-quiet neighborhood has only a single church and a handful of Christians.

    More troubling, when a group of Christian families recently tried to return to homes in Dora, two Christian women were killed, Iraq’s Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly said in an interview after meeting with the pope in nearby Jordan.

    Some Christians cite the violence as their reason to flee. Iraqis of all religions and ethnicities have been killed, but Christians had the misfortune to live in some of the worst battlefields, including Dora and the northern city of Mosul, both al-Qaida strongholds.

    Execution-style killings late last year targeted Christians in Mosul, as did a string of bombings. In March of last year, the body of Mosul’s Chaldean Archbishop was found in a shallow grave a month after he was kidnapped at gunpoint as he left a Mass.

    For now, attacks against Christians in Mosul seem to have ebbed. But one priest, who refused to give his name out of fear, told the AP that “despite the current calm in the city, Christians are still afraid of persecution.”

    Scattered violence continues. On Sunday in a village outside Mosul, the body of a 5-year-old Christian child kidnapped a week earlier was found by police, partially chewed by dogs.

    The loss of the small power the community had under Saddam has also played a role in the Christian exodus.

    Barred from the army, security services or high-level political positions under Saddam, Christians in Iraq often became doctors, engineers, land owners, and above all civil servants, filling the ministries as technocrats who kept the country running.

    But ministries are now controlled by powerful figures in the Sunni and Shiite Muslim communities who prefer to distribute jobs to family and close associates, according to several recent Iraqi government anti-corruption probes.

    “It’s not a policy of the government of discrimination, but of monopolizing and abusing power for their own pocket and for their own sect,” said Christian lawmaker Kana.

    Kana and others also say many Christians leave because they think the U.N. refugee agency will fast-track them for resettlement – something the U.N. denies.

    “Those most vulnerable are the priority, and among them are Iraq’s Christians … but being a Christian does not mean they will be fast-tracked,” said Leclerc, the U.N. official. He added, however, that countries like Germany have said they would like to take more Christians for resettlement because they are particularly targeted.

    Kana is highly critical of that policy.

    “Maybe they are trying to save some people, but they are destroying the community here – a historic and native people of this country,” he said.

    Such arguments make little difference to refugees like George Khoshaba Zorbal, a member of a prominent Christian family in Baghdad who once edited the church’s magazine. He now lives on handouts in a crowded Damascus apartment with eight other family members.

    “I will never go back. I’m afraid the situation there would not improve even after 10 years,” he said.

    Associated Press writers Zeina Karam and Albert Aji in Damascus, Sameer Yacoub in Baghdad, and an AP employee in Mosul contributed to this report.


  2. May 14, 8:51 PM EDT

    60-year-old is oldest Army soldier killed in Iraq

    Associated Press Writer

    PHOENIX (AP) — A 60-year-old Vietnam War veteran killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq has become the oldest Army soldier to die in that conflict, the military said Thursday.

    Maj. Steven Hutchison, of Scottsdale, Ariz., served in Vietnam and wanted to re-enlist immediately after the 9/11 terror attacks, but his wife was against it, his brother said.

    Richard Hutchison told The Associated Press on Thursday that when she died, “a part of him died” so he signed up in July 2007 at age 59.


  3. West Virginia Soldiers Sue Firm for Chemical Exposure in Iraq

    Sunday 12 July 2009

    by: Kaitlynn Riely | The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    Seven soldiers from a West Virginia unit are suing a US contractor for chemical exposure in Iraq.

    Moundsville, West Virginia – Russell Powell wondered for years after he returned from Iraq why he couldn’t run even short distances without wheezing.

    Following his yearlong tour of duty that ended in 2004, he coached his son’s Little League team, but had to stop because it exhausted him.

    The 34-year-old, who was able to run two miles in 9:44 before he went to Iraq in 2003, said now he is lucky to finish in 20 minutes.

    He was discharged from the West Virginia Army National Guard for medical reasons at the end of 2008 because he was unable to meet physical requirements. Since he started his new job as a corrections officer for a West Virginia prison earlier this year, he’s had to use several sick days and vacation days to visit doctors.

    In February, Mr. Powell, who was a sergeant in the 1092d Engineer Battalion, received a letter from the state surgeon of the West Virginia Army National Guard. He thinks it explains why he’s been out of breath and nauseous, suffering from rashes and sick to his stomach for the last five years. And he thinks it explains why, for three months in Iraq, he constantly coughed up blood, had frequent bloody noses and, at one point, passed out, waking up in a hospital with blackened lips and a blistered face.

    The letter said Mr. Powell and other soldiers in his unit may have been exposed to sodium dichromate, an industrial chemical used to prevent the corrosion of pipes at a water treatment facility near Basrah, Iraq.

    The chemical contains hexavalent chromium, which can cause sores inside the nose and on the skin, general skin irritation, nose bleeding, wheezing, coughing and pain in the chest when breathing, fever, nausea and upset stomach. It also has been linked to cancer.

    Hexavalent chromium was the subject of the 2000 film “Erin Brockovich,” which followed the true story of people in a California town who developed health problems following exposure to the chemical. They sued Pacific Gas and Electric Co., settling in 1996 for $333 million.

    Mr. Powell said that before he received the letter, he had not known he might have been exposed to the chemical during the three months he worked at the plant.

    “Maybe this is the reason why I’m sick,” he thought. Doctors who were shown the letter tested Mr. Powell for cancer but have found none.

    On June 25, Mr. Powell and six other members of his company in the 1092d, sued KBR, the firm in charge of rebuilding the water treatment facility.

    The lawsuit alleges that KBR managers knew about the site contamination and the threat it posed, and “disregarded and downplayed the extreme danger” to West Virginia National Guardsmen. It argues that the guardsmen are entitled to payment or reimbursement for all medical expenses resulting from sodium dichromate exposure.

    At a June 2008 Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said a United Nations assessment of the site before KBR’s arrival found sodium dichromate, and that internal KBR reports show 60 percent of its employees experienced symptoms of exposure.

    KBR civilian employees reached a settlement with the company in arbitration in June. A lawsuit on behalf of mostly Indiana National Guardsmen is pending, in addition to the new West Virginia suit.

    Dr. Max Costa, an expert on the effects of hexavalent chromium and chairman of the New York University Medical School Department of Environmental Medicine, said exposure to 30 to 40 micrograms of hexavalent chromium per cubic meter has been shown to cause more than a 50 percent increase in cancers in exposed humans, according to the West Virginia guardsmen’s lawsuit.

    “They probably got a pretty good dose,” if they were experiencing nose bleeds while at the facility, indicating that the levels were higher than levels considered dangerous, said Dr. Aaron Barchowsky, an associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health.

    Dr. Barchowsky, who is well-versed in chromium toxicology, said depending on the dose encountered, the soldiers could have long-term chronic problems affecting their lungs, such as emphysema. The chemical directly damages cellular DNA; therefore, it could increase the risk of cancer, he said.

    “We know what we’re fighting against,” Mr. Powell said. “You are talking a billion-dollar contractor, and young soldiers don’t have that kind of education. None of us have sued anybody in our lives, so we don’t know. We’re just doing the best we can.”

    Mr. Powell, originally from Steubenville, Ohio, joined the military after he graduated from high school in 1994. He had planned to attend college, and he’d received offers of athletic scholarships from Wheeling Jesuit, West Virginia University and Ohio State University, but decided to join the military, like his father and two brothers.

    He became an Army medic, serving first as a paratrooper medic then as a flight medic. The Army sent him to Fort Bragg, N.C., then Panama, then back to Fort Bragg.

    In 2000, Mr. Powell decided to leave active duty. He and his wife were expecting their first child, and he didn’t want to be away from them. But after Sept. 11, 2001, the Army returned him to active duty, so he joined the 1092d out of Moundsville.

    Two years later, the United States went to war in Iraq. In March 2003, Mr. Powell’s battalion flew to Kuwait, and later that month, was assigned to provide security for KBR employees at the Qarmat Ali Water Treatment Facility.

    Kellogg, Brown & Root Services Inc., or KBR, describes itself on its Web site as the U.S. Army’s largest contractor and a “technology-driven engineering, procurement and construction company.” The Army gave KBR a contract to rebuild the wrecked water treatment facility plant, which pumps water into the ground to force oil out. Before the Americans arrived, then-Iraqi president Saddam Hussein had ordered the destruction of the plant, and when Mr. Powell arrived there in March 2003, he said “bags of orange and yellow stuff” lay throughout the plant and surrounding area.

    The bags, Mr. Powell would learn five years later, contained sodium dichromate, which the Iraqis had used to prevent the water pipes from corroding, and later, in an effort to destroy the plant.

    Mr. Powell, who was the head medic of his battalion while in Iraq, said he and his partners went to the plant during the day, wearing, at most, their flak jackets. At the facility, they sat in the dirt to eat their meals, while dust swirled around them.

    Nearly as soon as they arrived, people became sick – not just the soldiers, but also the KBR employees. First, Mr. Powell said, their noses would bleed and their skin would feel raw. They developed sore throats and skin sores and began to cough up blood.

    When asked, KBR told soldiers it must be allergies or a reaction to the sand.

    In June 2003, Mr. Powell became very ill. A Navy doctor gave him Motrin, which didn’t help. On one occasion, Mr. Powell went to a bomb shelter to give himself medication intravenously.

    His men found him there unconscious. When he regained consciousness, he was in a Kuwaiti hospital. His lips were black and his face was red; both were blistered.

    Soon afterward, the Guardsmen trained members of an Indiana National Guard unit to replace them as security providers for KBR.

    The bloody noses and sores subsided after Mr. Powell left Qarmat Ali in June 2003, but his nausea, stomach pain and breathing difficulties continued after he left Iraq in April 2004. Mr. Powell remained in the Army until 2008, when he was discharged for medical reasons.

    The letter Mr. Powell received in February was sent to about 125 other members of the West Virginia National Guard who may have been exposed to sodium dichromate.

    KBR discovered the chemical at the plant in summer 2003, said Col. William Farthing, the Army’s spokesman on the Qamar Ali issue. By August, they cleaned up the site, covering the entire area with asphalt, then 3 inches of gravel. The streets were washed, and subsequent air monitoring indicated reduced levels of the chemical.

    An Army team sent to the site in September 2003 found that the soldiers’ level of exposure to sodium dichromate was no higher than would be expected in the average U.S. citizen. They tested soldiers in the Indiana National Guard unit, but not the West Virginia soldiers, who were no longer at the plant.

    After former KBR employees testified about the contamination before the U.S. Senate in 2008, the Army looked again at the incident. Army officials began contacting all the soldiers who may have been exposed, including West Virginia, Indiana, Oregon and South Carolina National Guardsmen.

    “We don’t expect there to be any adverse outcome in the future because of the low amount of chemical at the site and the short time they were there, but just in case we want to take care of these soldiers,” Col. Farthing said.

    A spokeswoman for KBR said the company “did not knowingly harm troops,” and is committed to the safety and security of all its employees.

    “The company appropriately notified the Army Corps of Engineers of the existence of the substance on the site, and the Corps of Engineers concluded that KBR’s efforts to remediate the situation were effective,” a statement said.

    Mr. Powell disputes that.

    “They had doctors saying back in May [2003] that it was there; they just didn’t tell us,” he said. “If you’ve got doctors saying it was there, and they’re not telling us, something’s wrong. They’re thinking about that billion-dollar contract, not the soldier, and not the KBR employees themselves.”


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