Five years and one day into the war in Iraq, the senselessness of the conflict and the way that it is waged continues to write a sad story that could fill 10 volumes worth of "Catch-22." It takes a special kind of outrage these days to get one's blood boiling, but here's one.
In January, local papers in western Pennsylvania had some coverage of the mysterious death of a 24-year-old Green Beret from the region, Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth of Shaler, Pa., outside of Pittsburgh:
But Maseth didn't exactly die doing what he loved. The cold, hard truth is that he died trying to take a shower. In a shower that was wired by KBR, the recently spun off unit from the formerly-Dick-Cheney-run-Halliburton that has received $22.5 billion to provide services to the U.S. military. That's a lot of money, but apparently it hasn't been enough income to prevent Halliburton from making soliders sick with unsafe water, or now electrocuting a few of them.
Give the KBR hometown paper, the Houston Chronicle, some major props for staying on the story:
Maseth's mother, Cheryl Harris, couldn't get answers from the military -- which initially trued to tell her that her son had brought a small appliance into the shower where he died -- and she finally had to turn to her congressman, Jason Altmire, for help:
Look, the war in Iraq is a massive, complicated undertaking. To carry this on for five years, despite spending that's marching toward the $1 trillion mark, it still means cutting corners to squeeze every dollar -- especially through the use of private contractors like KBR -- and this is the kind of thing that is the tragic result. No one can seriously think that KBR intentionally wants to poison solidiers or electrocute them, but sustaining this unnecessary war -- while sustaining KBR's profit margin -- is more than this nation can bear, economically or morally.
No one should be the last man to die for a mistake, but for a good Pennsylvania man to die 11,000 miles away for a mistake -- in a faulty shower -- is unbearable to think about.