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Iraq veteran disabled by “Iraq’s Agent Orange” due to exposure to hexavalent chromium March 9, 2009

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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The March 7, 2009 issue of the “Oregonian” tells the tale of Oregon Army National Guardsman Larry Roberta, who sadly suffers from a host of respitory disorders due to his 2003 exposure to hexavalent chromium in Iraq.

Six years later, and after law suits have been filed against KBR for their alleged failure to test for the substance at a contaminated oil facility, the Army has finally notified Guardsman Roberta’s fellow soldiers that they too may have been exposed to the same toxic chemicals.

We don’t yet know what will come of Larry Roberta and his fellow soldiers. How many other soldiers, contractors, or Iraqi civilians will develop similar lung disorders?

Unfortunately, this is not the only reported case of respitory disfunction to come out of Iraq or Afghanistan. On top of the fact that the dusty/sandy environment contributes to lung problems amongst asthmatics or those with COPD, there are fears that practices such as having large “Burn pits” at or close to camps may contribute to some disorders.

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2008 sees increase in number of Iraqi refugees allowed into the United States September 27, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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The below story highlights the efforts of many within our government and numerous groups outside of it to increase the number of Iraqis granted visas to enter the United States. While there is hope for the future Iraq, the war has obviously displaced or negatively affected thousands of Iraqis. During the 2007 fiscal year, only 1,600 Iraqis were allowed to enter the United States. However, the administration is on pace to allow 12,000 Iraqis into the US during the 2008 fiscal year and is looking towards allowing 17,000 to enter in 2009.

Additionally, The Department of Homeland Security has released a “fact sheet” concerning Iraqi Refugee Processing highlighting the process for ressetlement and the 12,118 Iraqis that have been admitted to the United States as refugees in 2008.

If you would like to learn more about the subject of Iraqi refugees, I invite you to visit The List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies. The non-partisan organization is dedicated to assisting Iraqi refugees, especially those forced from their home country due to their affiliation with the United States (for example – Iraqi’s who assisted US troops as translators). The List Project reports that some Iraqi’s have been targeted by various terrorist organizations as US collaborators, placing their entire family’s lives in jeopardy.  Their goal is to promote policies encouraging approval of US visas for worthy “refugees,” and provide localized assistance to resettled Iraqis.

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Iraq electrocutions higher than previously reported September 23, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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A September 9, 2008 AP article reveals that there have been at least 18 electrocutions in Iraq involving U.S. soldiers or civilian contractors. A May 28, 2008 CNN article on one such incident placed the number of soliders electrocuted at only 12.   As if soldiers and contractors didn’t have enough to worry about concerning the obvious dangers in Iraq.

As I have learned from a recent electrocution victim our firm is representing, electrocutions can result in any number of physical or neurological disorders as well as debilitating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms.

For more on electrocutions in Iraq, visit Ms. Sparky’s Mishaps and Misadventures a website from a former KBR electrician. Ms. Sparky (Debbie Crawford) recently testified before the Senate Democratic Policy Committee on Soldier Electrocutions and seeks to bring attention to safety conditions in Iraq.  She is looking for former contractors and military personal to share their observations regarding electrical safety at camps/bases.

WASHINGTON — The number of U.S. troops and contractors electrocuted in Iraq is higher than previously reported, and now stands at 18, a senator said yesterday.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., issued a statement with the revised number after a briefing by the Pentagon’s inspector general’s office. The IG’s office has been investigating the death of a Green Beret from Pittsburgh’s Shaler suburb, Sgt. Ryan Maseth, who was electrocuted in January while showering in his barracks in Iraq.

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U.S., Sixteen other countries agree to rules for private security contractors operating in war zones September 20, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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The United States and sixteen other countries including Great Britain, Iraq, and Afghanistan have entered into an agreement purportedly to ensure that private military contractors in war zones opperate under some form of international law, rather than in a lawless void. The United States has some 8,000 private military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan protecting civilian staff, diplomats, and business leaders.

The countries collectively produced a document called the “Montreux Document” defining obligations of private military contractors during armed conflicts.  The agreement also catelogues 73 good practices defining criterea to both vet prospective firms and direct their progress.

Private military contractor Blackwater Worldwide of North Carolina has been made infamous since the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians in September of 2007 at the hands of Blackwater contractors. Since then there has been much international debate as to what jurisdiction, if any, has the authority to prosecute contractors if they are deemed to have commited a criminal act.

The Montreux Document, though the product of a three year joint initiative is not legally binding on the member countries nor on private contractors. It appears the debate will continue to rage on.

Defense Base Act applied to human trafficking case in Iraq July 19, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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I came accross this July 11, 2008 story from the Washington Business Journal.

It tells the sad tale of 12 men from Nepal hired by KBR subcontractor, Daoud & Partners to work in a luxury hotel in Jordan. Unfortunately, these men were forcibily re-directed, if not kidnapped, by the subcontractor and sent to Iraq to serve as cheap labor at US military bases. In an even more unfortunate turn of events, the men were kidnapped by insurgents and eventually killed.

The case is a good example of how wide the reach of the Defense Base Act really.  It does not merely provide coverage for workers ON military bases. It covers all employees of contractors working for/with the US government, including both US Citizens and foreign nationals.

One thing to note though is that whether you are from Nepal, Germany, Russia, or Houston, Texas, the DBA provides that your weekly benefits will be paid in US dollars. Given the state of the US Dollar, that isn’t always a good thing.

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Hillary Clinton to Ban Private Security Contractors in Iraq ? March 17, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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We try to stay away from the political debate over Iraq, but this tidbit is quite topical in our ongoing discussion of the Defense Base Act (DBA). Private security contractors have been controversial addtions to the U.S.’s contractor forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Based on the nature of their positions in this dangerous arena, it is no surprise that a large number of these contractors have had to rely on Workers’ Compensation under the DBA. Maybe those days are numbered:

Speaking this morning, Hillary hits Obama for not ruling out continuing to use armed private contractors in Iraq. She wants to ban such contractors.

Read more from The Campaign Spot.

UPDATE: Bloomberg.com has a good article on this now.

The Pentagon has about 137,000 contract workers in Iraq, of which about 7,300 work in security. One contractor in particular, Blackwater Worldwide of Moyock, North Carolina, has come under scrutiny by Congress and the courts after a series of violent incidents involving its employees, including a 2007 shooting that killed at least 17 Iraqis.

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