The legacy of death and misery from the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan continues today, and, once again, Dick Cheney plays a central role. A new book by Joseph Hickman, a former U.S. Marine and Army sergeant, titled “The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers” details how soldiers and local civilian populations were exposed to constant streams of toxic smoke from the burning of waste.
The infamous Kellog, Brown, and Root (KBR), which was a part of Dick Cheney’s corporate empire under Halliburton, operated about 250 burn pits which contributed to the $40 billion that Halliburton made during the Iraq occupation. “Every type of waste imaginable” was burned, including “tires, lithium batteries, asbestos insulation, pesticide containers, Styrofoam, metals, paints, plastic, medical waste and even human corpses.”
This reprehensible practice proves yet again that nothing is sacred when it comes to the military machine.
Just as the U.S. laid waste to Vietnam’s human health and jungle environment with Agent Orange, it wrecked human health and environmental quality in Iraq. That country will suffer from this toxicity for decades, as evidenced by sharp increases in birth defects and cancer and leukemia rates.
Likewise, U.S. veterans and their families are bearing the brunt of this travesty.
“The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers” begins with the story of a healthy young soldier sent to Iraq who was constantly exposed to smoke from burn pits. When he returned home with respiratory problems, the Veterans Administration (VA) denied him care, and he later developed brain cancer and died.
Those who do survive are having children with birth defects at a rate three times higher than normal, according to the book. The denial of medical coverage by the VA for burn pit-related illnesses is a central strategy in denying that burn pits even posed a health hazard.
Beau Biden, the son of vice president Joe Biden, died of brain cancer after serving in Iraq in the vicinity of burn pits. Even this tragedy, which is similar to many stories of exposure and death, never brought attention to the issue of burn pits.