Wednesday, February 14

Mother Further Trucking for Halliburton in Iraq

Some reality TV footage from White House Boy George's quagmire in Iraq the networks* won't be televising anytime soon reveals how "policy" and screw-ups kill American contract workers, too.

The attack on Halliburton subsidiary KBR's truck convoy last September shouldn't have happened. But it's too common a problem among contract drivers who find themselves on dangerous Iraqi roads: the maps Halliburton officials and the military give drivers are frequently "incorrect."

But the Bush administration and Halliburton already had demonstrated the personal safety of troops (and civilian contract workers) was secondary to securing Iraqi oil fields.

In Iraq for Sale, Robert Greenwald's new film, a widow of one of the dead drivers in another convoy massacre in 2004 complained that KBR drivers are not given road maps. Another widow said, "These men went to do the right thing [and] they were totally taken advantage of ... [Halliburton] knew, they knew, that there was more than a good chance that they would be killed." And one of the drivers who survived said, "It's about contracts ... fulfilling the contract and replacing us if we died." (See Postscript.)

So the eight-truck convoy delivering troop supplies on 20 September missed their turn; the drivers then had to make a U-turn and retrace their route through the town filled with Iraqi unfriendlies. But instead of the kids who pelted their vehicles with rocks on their first trip through awaiting their return, resistance fighters had set up an ambush.

Three drivers died in the ensuring massacre: "Keven Dagit, 42 (in truck 3), of Jefferson, Iowa; Christopher Lem, 40, (in truck 1) of Lyndon Station, Wisconsin; and Sascha Grenner-Case (in truck 4) of Sierra Vista, Arizona." Three drivers, including Terry Steward (in truck 2) of Idaho and Preston Wheeler of Arkansas (Truck 5), were wounded.

Halliburton policy prohibits drivers from carrying weapons in their trucks.

Before he was wounded, Wheeler recorded this riveting 15-minute video (RealPlayer, free download here) of their route through most of the ambush. Throughout the clip, you hear drivers radioing each other but mostly begging their military escorts for help; the military became conspicuously absent when bullets began to fly.

In Wheeler you hear a very frightened man who at the end reports Grenner-Case, the driver of the truck in front of his disabled vehicle, had been shot.

You have to believe that after Wheeler recovered from his wounds, he kept his word me makes in his tape that he was getting the f**k out of Iraq.

Postscript: Watch this 5-minute clip of soundless footage made of the convoy by a military Predator drone after the ambush. Halliburton Watch scooped this story last September.

*Update: My apologies to ABC News; the network did televise the convoy attack, which occurred in 2005. Wheeler tells Brian Ross he waited a year before speaking about the incident, adding more damning details not evident in his raw footage, to include accusations the convoy's military escort left him and his fellow drivers for dead.

As ABC News reveals, Wheeler did leave Iraq; Halliburton fired him and sent back to Arkansas for "getting injured on the job."

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