Water and reckless irresponsibility in Iraq

I've said it before and I'll say it again. If you occupy a country you also assume responsibility for its public health. That's both international law and it's the right thing to do. In Iraq we haven't done that. So while I am about to say it once more, after I've said it I have something else to say, too, something that underscores my point in triplicate.

But first the main point:.

It is the kind of news that everybody had been dreading. An outbreak of cholera in Iraq, which started in two Northern provinces, has already reached Baghdad and has become Iraq's biggest cholera outbreak in recent memory. "This frightening and dangerous situation," as stated by Bahktiyar Ahmed, a UNICEF emergency health facilitator, serves to underscore the unrelenting threat to people already affected by a devastated health care system.

Statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that there have already been more than 3,300 cases of cholera in the country, and more than 33,000 cases of diarrhoea ? which could be a milder form of the disease. The cholera epidemic aggravates what is, under any measure, a most serious humanitarian and public health emergency.

According to Jeremy Hobbs, director of Oxfam International, "The terrible violence in Iraq has masked the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Malnutrition amongst children has dramatically increased and basic services, ruined by years of wars and sanctions, cannot meet the needs of the Iraqi people. Millions of Iraqis have been forced to flee the violence, either to another part of Iraq or abroad. Many of those are living in dire poverty."

[snip; what I've taken out here is extremely relevant and I urge you to read it. But I want to go on to make a different point, so I deleted many important facts about the health of Iraqi children.]

Presently, 70 percent of the population in Iraq is without adequate water supplies and 80 percent lacks adequate sanitation. Dr. Abdul-Rahman Adil Ali of the Baghdad Health Directorate has warned about the serious consequences of a defective sewage system. "In some of Baghdad's poor neighbourhoods," he said, "people drink water which is mixed with sewage." (The Globalist)

It's been expressed here in the comments that it is not US responsibility to make sure the water system is safe. I'd dispute that, on moral and legal grounds. As an occupying power under UN Security Council Resolution 1483 the US has a legal responsibility for the medical needs of the population pursuant to the Hague and Geneva Conventions, to which the US is a signatory.

So here's the other thing. Even if you are so callous as to deny any responsibility to Iraqi children, we can agree, I am confident, that it is US government responsibility to make sure the water US troops drink is safe:

Dozens of U.S. troops in Iraq fell sick at bases using "unmonitored and potentially unsafe" water supplied by the military and a contractor once owned by Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, the Pentagon's internal watchdog says.

A report obtained by The Associated Press said soldiers experienced skin abscesses, cellulitis, skin infections, diarrhea and other illnesses after using discolored, smelly water for personal hygiene and laundry at five U.S. military sites in Iraq.

The Defense Department's inspector general's report, which could be released as early as Monday, found water quality problems between March 2004 and February 2006 at three sites run by contractor KBR Inc., and between January 2004 and December 2006 at two military-operated locations.

It was impossible to link the dirty water definitively to all the illnesses, according to the report. But it said KBR's water quality "was not maintained in accordance with field water sanitary standards" and the military-run sites "were not performing all required quality control tests."


KBR provided water treatment to U.S. troops under a large-scale defense contract that also included housing and food to soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Djbouti and Georgia.


The inspector general's report said some troops noticed problems with the water. Between October 2004 and May 2005, troops at Camp Ar Ramadi said bathwater was discolored and had an unusual odor. The report said KBR failed to treat the nonpotable water and monitor water quality during the same period.

At Camp Q-West, KBR inappropriately delivered chlorinated wastewater for showers and latrines without informing military preventive medicine officials, the report said. "KBR did not monitor or record the quality of water at point-of-use containers before April 2006, even though the ... contract required the company to do so," the report added.

Medical records for troops at Camp Q-West indicated 38 cases of illnesses commonly attributed to problem water. These include skin abscesses, cellulitis, skin infections and diarrhea. Doctors diagnosed 24 of the cases in January and February 2006, the same period when medical officials warned of a rise in bacterial infections at the base.

In addition, military medical records - tied to no particular base in Iraq - showed 26 cases of food and waterborne diseases, including hepatitis, giardiasis and typhoid fever. (AP)

So Cheney's KBR takes the money and lets the troops take their chances. KBR, of course, denies any incompetence or negligence. I guess it's their word against the word of the Inspector General of the Defense Department.

I wouldn't think that turning a blind eye to this kind of outrage, as the Bush administration has done time after time, is anyone's idea of "supporting the troops." But I guess I'm wrong.

Then there's the Iraqi children. Not even an after thought

More like this

Well here we go again Revere. For all things that the Iraqi's have taken responsibility for this is one of them. We are no longer "occupying" the country, we are there as security forces only. Thats by their definition, not ours. We are not responsible for their water supplies, or any of their other problems such as the electricity grid.They have taken that over with a very curt thank you. With the installation of two new generation plants the grid has eased tremendously.


In addition with electricity they are pumping more water now. As far as KBR loading them up with chlorinated water, its a standard practice and you get burned by it. They are required to superchlorinate before they dump it out and obviously somone took the wrong reverse osmosis truck and shoved it into the main line. But someone did get sick, someone did display symptoms. And it has to be Cheney's fault without question for a company he doesnt even work for and hasnt for 8 years. Connections? Sure, its how things work in the world. KBR is also now a publicly held company and it has its own board of directors of which Cheney isnt a member.

If you have complaints and they are valid hit this link. http://www.dodig.osd.mil/

Its required to be posted at every military installation or their particular branches IG in every section office. You cant miss them. Fact is they had a problem, they have fixed it. This kind of stuff happens in a war zone and it has been tremendously worse....agent orange. Someone screwed up with a tanker load of water or two and we paid the price... collaterals. I also have some questions as to whether the water was any good at all. The waterboys are good at what they do. They can back a truck up to a cesspool and produce clean water if they want to and free of metals, poop, bacteria and its good stuff. To the military its now a civil matter for a lawsuit. For the soldiers involved its a compensation issue. Sure they might have gotten their health compromised, but its the military. The whole thing can compromise your health.

Cholera was in Iraq before we were there and in mass cases, it will very likely be there after we leave. You can follow investigations on the web, or you can instigate one.

As for the Iraqi children. The water situation is being controlled by the WHO and the Iraqi Health people. Here is a nice PDF on the subject. Apparently there is little or NO cholera in the country. This is the ultra leftist WHO reporting this Revere, not KBR, Halliburton or the Bush Administration.


There is watery diarrhea and those cases are increasing and some of that apparently is from better and better reporting from their own admission. But it is NOT controlled by the US, the DoD or anyone other than the Iraqi's. They are improving rapidly now that the grid is up for about 18 hours a day in most areas of the country. Sabotage of the grid is also punishable by death as is stealing from it. The Iraqi security forces are instructed now to cut the power to any facility stealing it, remove all the wires and electrical items from it. Copper is in high demand there as is aluminum.

All in all I think that we may be able to bail out of the country in about a year or so or drop back to security positions and leave about 50,000 there for another year or two after that.

Oil production also is increasing as they topped 2.25 million barrels a day and thats a smooth 23 million USD a day They are buying American because we are cheap right now. First on their list electricity production which takes about 6 months to a year to install. Second, sewage treatment facilities. They are installing some 5 to 10 in the next six months. Its not enough but its more than they had before Saddam. They are nearly on par with where they were on day one of the attack. And the infrastructure thats going in is new, including new refining capabilities. Their last refinery was built in the 60s and is very inefficient. In fact they will soon be able to load LNG for Japan and drop their prices significantly there along with the Chinese.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 10 Mar 2008 #permalink

Randy: Not even you believe we are just there for security ("All in all I think that we may be able to bail out of the country in about a year or so or drop back to security positions .. . ") and neither does anyone else. We are obligated by treaty to provide medical and other resources. In truth we couldn't even do that competently for our own troops. That's a fact and one you don't seem to want to face ("we fixed it"; the offer for my 95 Volvo still stands). You see the light at the end of the tunnel. I see an on-rushing train. I think we've been there before, in a country that if it triumphed would mean the dominoes would fall all over the world. Instead they are now a trading partner and tourist destination.

I read about KBR supplying unsafe water to the troops before; years ago, I think.

I suppose it's harder to spin or ignore the Defense Department's own report as a liberal... whatever.


As you can see Revere, the US is there as security forces only. If we were responsible for medical issues then we would be called in. Indeed, the WHO and the Iraqi Health Ministry are in charge and its not unlike the era post of Lawrence. We will help, but for a price now. We have a Iraqi health ministry that is in charge of Iraqi health.

If you want I can give a link to the CentCom news feed. Some of which for sure is hype but right on most of the big stuff. This is also the reason no one rode in when you posted last time out about feces in the hallways. Its not US controlled feces..... Maybe a KBR contract would fix that.

We are rapidly outstaying our welcome on many fronts but just about all want us there for the security issues. I can see the vestiges of our leaving already as the vehicles and heavy tanks have been leaving for the embarkation points. Massive air power in the region still though.

It would seem that since the Iranian/Syrian/N. Korean connection has been confirmed that they all sort of backed off after their chemical accident.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 10 Mar 2008 #permalink

last link from MRK worked for me.

No doubt there are water issues in the U.S. that go unreported, this is bound to happen. If UNICEF is in there now then I'd say progress has been made.
You've been anti-war for what now revere, 39, 40 years?

Calling an occupation a "security force" doesn't make it so. There is not one single thing in the entire universe that Bush regime hackfucks have not completely utterly absolutely unreservedly fucked up.

Calling a security force an 'occupation' doesn't make it so.
Oh I don't know PhysioProf, the Bushies got themselves elected twice.

By pauls lane (not verified) on 11 Mar 2008 #permalink

Revere, I also remind you that the Democrats started that war and on the most trumped up crap ever concocted by any Administration. Those records are sealed for 80 years and you and I'll be long dead and gone before the truth about the Gulf of Tonkin comes out. Of course we could have just gone in and won the war too. But thats not cutting and running which Dems are very famous for doing.

Also Revere, specify that treaty you speak of. I find no Senate review of any treaty anywhere. Also remember that my last unit is on the ground in downtown Baghdad and I get emails nearly every day. They have moved from carrying M-16's to pistols only and thats a major indication of the situation.

We were in Japan as occupation forces Physio until a constituted government was formed. Then we negotiated for bases with them. The situation on the ground is stabilizing in Iraq and Muqtadr is backing off on penalty of getting his little militia whacked good and hard. The ISF is training hard and they are indeed taking over security. They have the first two checkpoints into most facilities now with the US forces providing limited point security. Yesterday was the first time a full blown air mission was carried out in a month and it was against an Al-Qaeda torture house....The natives turned them in.

ISF is starting to fan out across the country and is collecting tons of weapons. As long as Iran stays out of it, then Iraq will be turning hard towards us. Feel free to visit as even tourists are starting to show up. It will take at least ten years to rebuild the total infrastructure, there will be setbacks but they will undoubtably get it together.

I also look for about a 30 dollar a barrel oil drop across the next 5 months. Dont be surprised. Thats still about 18 million a day. The Kurds are also becoming the breadbasket of the nation and region. That ensures that the oil revenues stay in country. Excess food is now being exported to Saudi Arabia so that money comes in and stays in country. I also read that the first cotton crop is going in soon. Should be interesting to see if the Euphrates can once again become the cradle of a new civilization.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 11 Mar 2008 #permalink

Randy: I cited them. The Hague and Geneva Conventions. Regarding Vietnam. That bastard LBJ gave the military everything they asked for and so did Nixon. That was not a winnable war. Who started it? It was started by Democrats and pursued by both Democrats and Republicans. You automatically assume that I am a partisan Democrat. I am not. I refused to vote for Humphrey because of the war and its stupidity and wrongness. Your comments about oil are of course what this was all about: oil. Does that make you proud?

Randy has a point. The status of Iraq is in limbo.

It is sometimes an independent, sovereign country, and sometimes nothing at all. That depends on whom Iraq is dealing with, and the attitude and geo-political position of its interlocutor. For example, its refugees are not considered as coming from an occupied country, nor from a war zone. (They would be treated differently if that was so.) They are just people who don t like it at home and have been taken in by neighboring countries as if they were -travellers-. They are not refugees, though the UN orgs. can give them emergency relief if they decide to do so (dependent on donors they have little to give.) Much the same applies to Palestinians. It is legally complicated, unclear, and in any case international law, has not been relevant, or used, applied, in the Iraq debacle, right from the start.

Because the US doesn t wish it, and has the power to impose its pov, if only to make others turn their face away, give up facing difficulties, and toe the line by giving up any semblance of adherence to legal/moral criteria (thus gutting the whole apparatus.)

Randy s post is the US hard line: we liberated Iraq, we only help with security, etc. All nonsense of course, both in law, ethically, and on the ground. But it IS accepted, not only by many US commentators, but by the Int l community. Iraqis are pariahs, and basically, face it, toast. Of course US soldiers there do, will, suffer in the same way as Iraqis, simply because they are on the same territory, subject to similar conditions, manipulations. They are losers, as well.

single inverted comma does not come out right so I have replaced with space dash and so on.

How's your back feeling revere? Improved?

Lea: Thanks for asking. Much better. Treated it with antiinflammatories (mainly enough aspirin to make my ears ring) and after 10 days the acute phase was over. I learned my lesson after the last time when the neurosurgeon had me scheduled for surgery and I got a second opinion. She Rx'd me with high dose steroids on the grounds that the pain of a herniated disk is from inflammatory cytokines. It worked then and it worked again (except that I was away and had no access to steroids). So I'm pretty good now. I can no longer excuse what I say here on a vicodin fog. It's really me.

Here is the bi-weekly PDF from USAID


In addition Revere here is what has been accomplished and you no longer hear the bitching of the media about the power grid.
USAID and partners have-

Repaired thermal units, replaced/ added turbines, rehabilitated the transmission network, and installed and restored generators.

Rehabilitated or added 1,292 MW of generation capacity, through new generation, maintenance and rehabilitation work, to the grid through 42 projects, supplying power to approx 8.5 million people.

Repaired the 400 KV Khor az Zubayr-Nasiriyah transmission line.

USAID and partners rehabilitated or constructed 25 distribution substations in Baghdad to improve the distribution and reliability of electricity for more than two million residents.

Over 240 Ministry of Electricity officials, plant managers, and engineers underwent USAID training to properly operate and maintain the power plants.

In the near future some 50 sewage projects are coming on line as soon as the power grid really gets beyond about 18 hours as its about where it was before the attack. Once its on 24 hours a day, they can move on out into the areas that never had it before. The Sunnis and Shias are working at getting it together but there are some hard cores on both sides that have to be dealt with. Al-Sistani is working very hard at resolving the issues and believes that Iraq could become the new jewel of the Middle East. He has his people in government of course but they are trying to ensure that its a government by the people with less of an emphasis on religion.

One of the latest things is that they are confiscating weapons now as they find them. They and roll a truck or track over them and then give them back (high quality steel). They can sell the residue.

Listen, when you get the locals turning in the homey's I think that things are about to be back fully on track. Iraq's goal for oil production during these higher costs days is to move to 3 million BPD by the end of July. That would ease the world oil situation and with their new loading facility. This could take all the production they make and put it into a super tanker and have one off the beach and heading out to sea a day. Takes about three to four right now.

As for Vietnam... Here is a suggestion. If the US goes into another "conflict" we need to do away with this resolution shit that we have been doing since Korea. Go in, kick the fuck out of them and then LEAVE. No backup aid, no rebuilding, no nothing. Also do it EARLY rather than LATER. It just causes more casualties on all sides and the end result is always the same. Someone blames us for the problems of the world.

We keep on limiting our conventional forces in what they can do in a war zone so no one fears us any longer. If someone had just launched a 24 hour air strike into say Damascus, do you think they would just be more fired up? Thats always the answer that we get. So what does that leave? Negotiations? With terrorists? Its the giant acceding to the wishes of the ant who if you stay in place will bite you to death. Better to stand up, stomp the ones you can see and then pour diesel fuel down their holes and light them up.

Sorry about your back Revere.....Has to hurt. Got it from globe trotting?

I am pissed though, you didnt bring enough vicodin for everyone!

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 11 Mar 2008 #permalink

Oh, man, Randy. You are about as accurate and realistic about this (just remember that USAID is a US gov't agency) as you have been about how the whole region is going to erupt in a violent US induced volcano. I've been hearing this from you for a couple of years. The balloon is always going up but it never gets off the ground. I don't think you'd care to live in the paradise of urban Baghdad today, although you are quick to take the credit for any supposed success (if you can find them) and deny responsibility for any shit that has developed after we invaded. You can't accept you are a member of an invading, occupying nation and you don't want any responsibility for what it is wrought. You just want to have cheap gas.

End of rant. I threw my back out when I blew the power supply on one of my computers and carried it in for repair. It weighed about 30 lbs and I carried it in front of me and cantilevered my back, herniating L4-L5.

Good Christ Revere.... How big is your computer? A main frame? So what are they going to do a bulge-ectomy, or try to push them back in? Big time bad place to be pulling a neck out.

As for the rant. Its okay I am used to it. Anti-war types always say the same thing right up until the time someone knocks on your door..E.g. Jews on Reichskristallnacht. If the brown shirts had been met with Uzi's then things might have turned out completely different. Everyone wants to be a lefty. Functionality requires we be center to right to get by in the world.

Invasion? How about finishing a job for once? Either we help them out or WHAT? Would you have just left Saddam alone and to his own devices? I still want those UN verified WMD's. Not our suggested ones, just the ones the lefty's said were there.

Me, I see the situation teetering back and forth and have since the 68 war. I do hope that it stabilizes. But its already gone powder keg more times in the last 60 years than anytime in the past. The Syrians, Norko's and Iranians just flat got caught back in September and if they had launched those 600+ missiles on Israel you might have gotten to see one great big smoking ruin of the place. It was an attempt at the one-two punch and they failed. Now the Israelis have put the world on notice... Nukes will be used. I wouldnt blame them.

But you know Revere, its not just Iraq, its the whole region and the Rus, the Chinese, the US, UK, France... You know those guys that are on the UN "Security Council". There's a real bullshit group. Security? Its like screwing for chastity. Four out of five have their tankers showing up for fuel, the other one gets to play around in the world. And our George Harrisons of the world keep wanting peace at all costs. Wonder what it would take for you to launch an attack? 15 degrees and no heat? Is there any cause that you would launch an attack for? 9/11 just wasnt big enough for some?

By the same token, you seem to have decided that when the US invaded Iraq it was a bad idea. I personally dont. I know they Iraqi's dont. They may not like us being there, we may not like being there but the world does turn on the power of oil. Equilibrium? We arent there yet, we wont be for ten or so years. As long as we are unable to find a new real source of energy we just pull up to the pump and lay our veins open. But I do hear hear the rant all the time. Its nice but all the eco guys always say we can make the shift now. if that were so they would pool their money and go into the car business. It would also cause mass unemployment in the US which is another reason that they wont do it.

Rant? I really enjoy the hyped up kill numbers that are always put on with a paint brush. I see the lefties have us killing more people than Germans in WWII, and the number keeps on rising. Strange.... There havent been open hostilities involving more than 50 in the last four or five months. A little IED here or there but thats to be expected.

Seems the problem is they are counting the people that Saddam killed in with what we did. Sounds good on CBS. Its all about asssessments. I would say that the reduction in violence is a good thing. I would also say that the power coming on and staying on is better, and the fact that they are pumping oil is a great thing because we cant get our oil off the coast of Florida and California, nope. Gotta go 12000 miles round trip to get it to the refineries. Cant build a new more efficient refinery in the US either that will boost production and reduce pollution. Hell, I just flew a new transformer in for Valero last year to Memphis for their refinery. The old one powered a facility that was built before I was born. High heat, cracked welds, jury rigged shielding. Yup! Thats ecology for you. The old transformer blew and spread dioxin all over the ground.

That Volvo you want to sell the world runs on what, good intentions? You are an ecology type. Is running a 12 year old vehicle that surely isnt clean burning hypocrisy or is it economics. We arent going to be running around in electric cars or hydrogen fuel cell ones either for at least another 50 years unless they come up with something thats a lot more sexy than 300 miles between recharges, and that cadmium in the environment problem is sorted out.

So its important that success is achieved in Iraq to ensure that places that have no natural gas can get it, have oil to lubricate things, and refine good old fashioned gasoline/diesel. I havent seen any bio/electric effective anything.

Oh and as far as shit... One of the shitty things that happened in Iraq was they voted freely for the first time in 25 years. Another shitty thing is that places that never had electricity are getting it. The Euphrates was allowed to flow freely back into the marsh areas and people had water for the first time in their lifetimes. There are more working wells in the country for the first time. Farming is now meeting most of their food needs for the first time. They did it on their own and without our help and its something they wrought. Must be pretty shitty things. Oh, and I got to see an air strike on a non-Iraqi invader who beheaded people on TV. But that must be waterboarding in a different form?

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 12 Mar 2008 #permalink

Randy: We don't care about their voting. We only care that the outcomes pleases us. Ask the Iranians or Hamas. BTW, the Iraqi gov't also beheaded at least one of the people they hung; his head came off on the drop. Technicality, I know. I'm glad you know what the Iraqi's "want". No one asked them before we did anything and they aren't too happy know, but who cares, right? Our gas is still fairly cheap. Oh, wait . . .

Yeah Saddam's head almost was pulled off. It was required watching here for the kids so that they understood the meaning of what justfiable homicide was. They would have hung him a couple of times but it was so messy the first time out.

They'll do better with Chemical Ali in a month or so. Oh, the oil is part of it revere but then again so is the reasoning behind it. If I see a fire smoldering I generally try to put it out. Thats what Saddam was and I was looking for one of the kiddies to try to off him in truly Stalin ways. Both of those guys were certifiable and responsible for wholesale rapes and murder. You know, kind of like the USA.

We did ask them and we did get green lighted and we did it unilaterally. The French wouldnt back it since TOTAL was getting 38 dollar a barrel oil and the former president was in it up to his neck in illegal arms sales. So out trots that veto., then here come the Germans who were either more crafty about it or they were only selling minimally to them illegally. We were selling and the responsible people are in jail. But only here. I guess that goes with the US is always wrong crowd.

But you never answered any of the questions. Is there ANY instance where you would support a military action against another nation? I am interested as its a little tough to swallow as the Sheik himself said Saddam was providing material support to the 9/11 hijackers and to other terrorists. We get hit again, then we are going to Venezuela and pop the snot out of their illustrious leader. I'll see if I can get pictures of their Al Qaeda training camps sending guys north that are apparently infiltrating the S. border. How nice. But do let me know if there is any instance where you would luanch an attack. Be it bio, nuke, conventional. E.g. if you could say take out an island nation and know that you would slow or destroy say Bird Flu, would you do it? Would you launch a tactical or strategic nuke against anyone if they say hit New York, LA, Boston, Chicago. I wont include Memphis in that as you and I both would probably call that justifable homicide by any stretch of the imagination. Biblical ending to the place.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 12 Mar 2008 #permalink

Mr. Revere, It's both atrocious and disheartening to know that these things are going on in Iraq. I really don't see the logic in allowing Iraqi citizens to suffer more. What does the U.S. expect? Their National Health System is in shambles thanks to the war. There is no other option than the U.S., and so they should help.

But back to a bigger issue: The cost of providing adequate health care at home. The U.S. -- surprisingly -- spends more on the pills they pop every year than the Iraq war (the health-insurance.org article says it all, http://www.health-insurance.org/prescription-drugs-vs-iraq-war). The people/citizens are paying for those through their own income. Perhaps if the government provided more care at home, its citizens would demand care abroad.

By Alex Camus (not verified) on 13 Mar 2008 #permalink

Alex Camus: Yes, you are correct and we have advocated single payer here on many, many occasions. BTW, Albert. Drive carefully, considering what happened to your namesake.

Thanks! I try to play it safe in life. It's served me well so far :-)