Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sloppy Contractors, or: GEORGE BUSH STILL KILLING U.S. SOLDIERS!!!!!!

Sounds like about 16 American soldiers were electrocuted in Iraq. That's 16 too many. Three were killed while showering. One was killed by a swimming pool.

Another soldier, Ron Vance, was so traumatized by an electrified shower, he says, that now he can't take a shower without his wife being around. Vance also says the military didn't take his (psychological?) injuries seriously. With respect, I can see why.

The problem is very real: 16 bodies worth.

The news told about two victims:
  • Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth
    • Showering: pump malfunctioned
  • Staff Sergeant Christopher Lee Everett, Texas Army National Guard
    • Cleaning a vehicle: power washer short-circuited
Maseth's family has sued KBR, the contractor that's overseeing maintenance at most American facilities in Iraq. (AP) For now. KBR says it's not their fault. That case may run until the Maseth's family runs out of money.

Looks Like a Monumental SNAFU

As far as the 16 dead soldiers are concerned, it doesn't matter what combination of sloppy work and inadequate equipment inspections killed them. They're dead.

For everybody who's still breathing, something's gotta be done!

And, is being done. Task force SAFE (Safety Action for Fire and Electricity) is working its way through U.S. Army facilities, looking for bad equipment.

It's a big problem. Roughly a third of inspections have, apparently, uncovered "potential electrical hazards at 15,000 of the 41,000 facilities visited since the task force's inception in August, a US military spokesman said." (guardian.co.uk)

The AP tells the same story - in more detail. There are 65,000 facilities to go in the inspection - and, since the American military deals with the real world - where things take time - inspections could take the rest of this year. (AP)

Task Force SAFE - Cue Sarcastic Comments

I didn't run into any searing criticisms on the inhuman, incompetent, and generally yukky American military: but it's early days. Army news ran an article last month, and the shocking case of the deadly showers hit national news today.

With an acronym like SAFE, there will probably be some very witty writing done on the subject.
Better Surge Protectors: Good Idea!
Besides repairing defective equipment, the Army's getting better surge protectors. The ones they were using in Iraq were purchased in Iraq. (AP) Nuf said.

This is Bigger Than Shocking Showers: Sloppy Work is Unacceptable

A (very former) co-worker, in meetings, often asked "is it important?" I finally lost it and said something like this - "Important? If you mean, a hundred thousand years from now, will anybody know or care what color paper goes in this mailing: No, it's not important. If you mean, a month from now, how many orders will we be getting: Yes, it's important."

My co-worker wasn't, I think, either stupid or sloppy. I found out later that she and her husband were having their first baby: I think she was trying to get fired, so she could stay home, without having to say that she quit.
Electrical Equipment: No Room for Sloppy Work
Sloppy security, sloppy news reporting, sloppy inventory control - with nuclear weapons no less, and now sloppy quality control. I've harangued about sloppiness before. I'm no fan of 'the good old days.' I was born in the waning years of the Truman administration, and remember the sixties and seventies pretty well, and a little of the fifties: They were no Golden Age.

Today, our technology should encourage a zero-tolerance approach to quality control.

Technology has always been hazardous. Even when the club was the latest in cutting-edge military technology, people had to be careful. Letting the thing fall could mean an injured foot. Or, if you'd incautiously leaned it against a overhead branch, it might hit your head: possibly killing you.

We've come a long way. A worst-case scenario - - - Anybody watched "Dr. Strangelove?" lately? Or "Fail-Safe?" Or "The Swarm?"

Okay: That's Hollywood, where killer bees can make a nuclear power plant go pfft in seconds - without killing the bees - and military installations seem peculiarly prone to equipment malfunctions.

Out here in the real world, nuclear weapons can get misplaced (and, once, did). Conceivably, one of them could go off at a very embarrassing time and place. And, at this moment, there's enough power coursing through that light switch over there to kill you, several times over.

What's going on in Iraq is the more every-day sort of problem: no crazy general, no killer bees, no incredible exploding reactor, just bodies piling up because of shoddy equipment and lax quality control.

I've said this before: "there's a war on."

This is not the time to turn on, tune in, drop out: even if a college professor said to. People's lives are at stake here: and not just the soldiers who use this junk. Everybody who is counting on those soldiers to preserve their freedom to wear trousers, worship God, Allah, Elvis, or nothing at all, and stage anti-military protests, has something to lose here.

I Remember the Communist Threat (real), and Commie Plots (not so real)

And, proving that there's no tragedy or SNAFU that can't be put to work for politics: This SNAFU is George W. Bush's fault. So say some.

Of course. Everybody knows that.

" 'The process of finding and fixing this problem has gone far too slow,' said Jon Soltz, chairman of VoteVets.org, a veterans group. 'We've known about this problem for years, and it's inexcusable that our troops continue to face the threat of severe injury or death not only in the battlefield, but when taking a shower back where it's supposed to be relatively safe.

" 'The previous administration wanted to farm out way too many things to contractors, without any real accountability, and this is one of the legacies of that terrible decision.' "

SNAFU? Yes. Being Fixed? Yes. Hate Bush? Always

The problem is real. It's a bit hard, given what's in the news, to figure out what's taking so long to fix it. But, looking closely, it's pretty clear that there's an effort under way to make showering safe.

A real effort, not the tired old 'blame the guy I hate' routine.

This reminds me of the 'good old days,' when there was no problem, big or small, that wasn't the fault of the commies. According to 'right-thinking' people.

Related posts: In the news:

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am disturbed that KBR states that the standards in Iraq are nowhere near U.S. standards. American bases are considered American soil and subject to American standards. KBR knew that it the contract was in a war zone and should have taken in account the challenges. KBR should pay the family of the soldiers who died due to its substandard work.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Anonymous,

You've pointed out something important. 'All I know is what I read in the papers,' but it looks like KBR is at least partly at fault.

The 'American soil' argument is valid - but in my opinion, KBR's quality control was sadly lacking - regardless of whose soil the junk was operating on.

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