After being dismissed in 2006, lawsuits against military contractors Halliburton and Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), a former subsidiary, may go to trial in 2009. The lawsuits are over an ambush that left six civilian truck drivers in Iraq dead.
The lawsuits filed by the deceased truck drivers families claim that the companies knowingly sent convoys into a dangerous area where six of the drivers were killed and many others were injured in 2004.
U.S. District Judge Gray Miller dismissed the cases back in 2006 because he felt that the Army plays a major role in deploying convoys and battlefield decisions can not be second-guessed. However, a federal appeals court in May sent the lawsuits back to the judge, ruling that it is possible to resolve the suits without making a "constitutionally impermissible review of wartime decision-making."
During a hearing, Miller told attorneys to continue preparing their cases and be ready for trial sometime near September 2009. An actual date would be set later.
The accident occurred on April 9, 2004, the day the Shia leader Moqtada al Sadr had ordered his militia to attack anyone leaving their homes.
The U.S. military had declared all roads too dangerous for civilian convoy travel and just a day earlier, a Halliburton convoy had been attacked. Two convoys had already turned back because of violence on the road the day of the incident. Every half hour a speaker would sound over the intercom at the Palestine and Sheraton hotels telling everyone to stay indoors.
Regarless of all these facts, Halliburton officials ordered 19 men to drive on these roads to deliver fuel to the airport. The men were driving unarmored military vehicles instead of the usual white civilian trucks and were told to drive on roads that none of them were familiar with. Another companies convoys had already been hit earlier that day on the same route.
The convoys ended up driving straight into a major gun battle and two hours later six of the drivers had died, one had been kidnapped, and one had disappeared. Only 11 drivers made it to the airport alive that day.
According to one victims mother in law, Kim Johnson, “What Halliburton did was criminal and the public needs to know. They took good, honest Americans and didn't tell them that if they didn't do a mission, they would lose their job. They were told that at the slightest hint of danger, they could leave and come home.”
There have been many other incidents where Halliburton and KBR employees have been put into dangerous situations, killed, or injured while on the job. In 2005, another convoy of four trucks was ambushed. Three of the four drivers were executed, while the other videotaped the ordeal. The drivers were driving military camoflauged vehicles and were unarmed.
At least 110 of KBR’s employees have been killed in Iraq since it moved into the country at the start of the war in 2003. KBR split from Halliburton last year and now operates as a separate company.
There have also been instances of rape among Halliburton and KBR employees. KBR is currently alleged to have covered up the gang rape of its contractor Jamie Leigh Jones, by several other KBR employees in Iraq in 2005.
Jones was allegedly drugged and raped by her Halliburton co-workers and then confined to a security container without food, water, or medical treatment for a full day before being allowed to contact her father.
Because of contractual restrictions, Jones is barred from suing her employer. Halliburton is claiming that they are "improperly named" in the claim and maintain that its top priority remains the safety and security of all its employees. #