April 17, 2009



Two Iraq vets stand up to corporate giant

by Jim Hightower

The awarding of contracts for local road projects does not usually immerse county commissioners in discussions about how U.S. troops in Iraq are treated. In March, however, when considering whether a certain company should get the contract to design a stretch of highway in San Marcos, TX, commissioners got an earful on the topic.

Two Iraq war veterans from San Marcos, Bryan Hannah, 22, and Gregory Foster, 28, testified that the corporation in question was not worthy. That corporation is KBR, a former Halliburton subsidiary that is accused of shoddy — and deadly — construction work at U.S. bases in Iraq. Hannah and Foster noted that, among other horrors, KBR has been fingered for overseeing electrical work that was so carelessly done that it electrocuted a Green Beret last year when he turned on a shower faucet.

A KBR lobbyist rushed to the microphone to pooh-pooh the testimony of the two young vets. “Just because you read something on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true,” he scoffed.

Uh, sir, unlike you, Hannah and Foster, were actually soldiers in Iraq, so their knowledge of how KBR does business is not some Internet fantasy. Moreover, that Green Beret's death is not a blogsophere myth — he was Sgt. Ryan Maseth, who was 24 years old when his shower killed him, and KBR is under investigation by Army prosecutors for negligent homicide in the case.

KBR, a global corporate giant with hoards of lawyers and lobbyists, has refused to take responsibility for its failures in Iraq. But, because these two vets dared to speak out, the people of this small Texas city are holding mighty KBR accountable. The county commissioners chose another company to do the roadwork. As one official said: "This is an ethical choice. (KBR) is not a company we have to do business with."

For more information on Jim Hightower's work — and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown— visit www.jimhightower.com


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