Mayonnaise of Mass Destruction

A Halliburton whistleblower gets fired for trying to spare American soldiers from food poisoning. Don’t read this just before eating.

On July, 17, 2003, Heather Yarbrough flew to Kuwait to start a new job: monitoring the quality and safety of food served to soldiers on U.S. military bases in Iraq. Her employer was the Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) Government Services division of Halliburton, the Texas-based oil company formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney that has contracts with the U.S. government to support military personnel in the field and to help with Iraq reconstruction.

Yarbrough, 33, felt upbeat and excited. She had trained hard for a position like this, one that required expertise in food and science. She was banking on the high salary — $1,500 a week — to pay off her student loans. And unlike many of her fellow students at Humboldt State University, she supported the Bush Administration and its war on terrorism.

You probably already sense what’s coming, and I know what you’re thinking: Why does Heather Yarbrough hate America?

[i]Over the next few days, Yarbrough trained kitchen workers in sanitation methods and taught seminars on botulism, E. coli and other dangerous bacteria. The kitchen crews seemed to be paying more attention to safety. “Overall, this is much better,” she wrote Aug. 10 in her journal.

But while conditions in the kitchen were improving, Yarbrough’s position in the dining facility’s power structure was deteriorating. She’d learned from co-workers that Ray was tight with her supervisor. Even more ominous, the Army officer in charge of food services at Camp Iron Horse was also a friend of Ray’s.

On Aug. 11, that officer called Yarbrough angrily to an impromptu meeting. When she began to take notes, he stopped abruptly and walked away.

The next day, Yarbrough recorded another confrontation with Ray, but she went on with her job. “I gave a short brief on salmonella, likely sources, mode of contamination, toxicity and symptoms of infection,” she wrote. “Cooks seem pleased with this nightly entertainment.”

She planned to give the same talk to day cooks, but she was suspended the next day, relieved of duty and told to pack up and be ready to take the next convoy back to Kuwait.[/i]

At least no one threatened her for, y’know, doing her job.

[i]While waiting for the convoy, Yarbrough appealed to a Halliburton district manager. She told him Ray was compromising food safety, and she believed he’d used his influence to get her fired.

“He told me that I was a danger to myself if I remained at Tikrit,” said Yarbrough. “He wouldn’t tell me why, but I thought it was that somebody would have been sent to do me harm.”[/i]