by David Edwards and Muriel Kane
A CBS News investigation has obtained evidence that a subsidiary of Halliburton, the giant energy company formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, knowingly exposed United States soldiers to toxic materials in Iraq.
CBS interviewed Commander James Gentry of the Indiana National Guard, who is dying of a rare form of lung cancer that he believes is the result of “months of inhaling hexavalent chromium” after his battalion was assigned in April 2003 to protect contractors from Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) working in Iraq at a local water plant. Other members of his unit are also suffering from cancers or rashes associated with the toxic chemical, which was all over the plant.
“We didn’t question what we were doing,” a grief-stricken Gentry told CBS. “We just knew we had to provide a security service for the KBR. … We would never have been there if we would have known.”
CBS has obtained documents which indicate that KBR knew about the danger months before the soldiers were informed. KBR employee depositions show there were “concerns about the toxins in one part of the plant as early as May of 2003,” while later minutes detail symptoms of exposure, including bloody noses and rashes.
It wasn’t until the end of August that the Indiana National Guardsmen were informed that the plant was contaminated, and some say they have only just learned about it this year.
Indiana Senator Evan Bayh told CBS, “I think the burden of proof at this point is on the company to come forward and very forthrightly explain what happened, why we should trust them, and why the health and well-being of our soldiers should continue to be in their hands.”
KBR has issued a statement saying, “We deny the assertion that KBR harmed troops and was responsible for an unsafe condition.”
KBR, which was spun off by Halliburton in 2007 as a separate corporation, has previously been accused of providing contaminated water to troops in Iraq, taking kickbacks, and sending workers to Iraq against their will.
GOOGLE: “Halliburton Crimes”
GOOGLE: The Problem of Rape at KBR