Accidental electrocutions in Iraq unconscionable
The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 03/27/2008 06:17:27 PM MDT

Reports that a dozen soldiers and Marines have been electrocuted because of bad wiring on military bases in Iraq warrant a thorough independent investigation and full cooperation from the Pentagon.

U.S. troops face serious peril as part of their regular duties in Iraq. It's incomprehensible that they might have to worry about being electrocuted when doing something as seemingly safe as taking a shower.

Yet that's what happened in January to Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, a Green Beret who attempted to bathe at his base in Baghdad, according to The New York Times.

Rep. Henry Waxman, the Democratic chairman of the House oversight committee, is investigating the matter. The Pentagon last week said it had referred the issue to the Defense Department's inspector general.

Given that the string of electrocutions dates from 2003, an investigation is long overdue.

This is, of course, part of a bigger issue: A lack of oversight of contractors working for the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A lawsuit filed by Maseth's family alleges a contractor that was supposed to inspect the wiring at the base where Maseth was stationed failed to do its job. It's imperative the inspector general look unflinchingly at this situation to see if there is a particularly bad contractor or a systemic oversight problem.

Each casualty in Iraq and Afghanistan is a tragedy. It would be unconscionable if our country's own neglect or complicity added to the death toll.