US Military Leave Toxic Waste for Future Generations

by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

The United States is leaving behind enough toxic waste sites in the middle east to kill  animals and people for generations.  Open-air burn pits have operated widely at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan.  On hundreds of camps and bases across the two countries, the U.S. military and its contractors incinerated toxic waste, including unexploded ordnance, plastics and Styrofoam, asbestos, formaldehyde, arsenic, pesticides and neurotoxins, medical waste (even amputated limbs), heavy metals and what the military refers to as “radioactive commodities.” The burns have released mutagens and carcinogens, including uranium and other isotopes, volatile organic compounds, hexachlorobenzene, and, that old favorite, dioxin (aka Agent Orange).

The military pooh-poohs the problem, despite a 2009 Pentagon document noting “an estimated 11 million pounds [5,000 tons] of hazardous waste” produced by American troops, the Times of London reported. In any case, it says, the waste isn’t all that toxic, and there is no hard evidence troops were harmed. Of course, one reason for that lack of evidence, reports the Institute of Medicine (which found 53 toxins in the air above the Balad air base alone), is that the Pentagon won’t or can’t document what it burned and buried, or where it did so.

The little media attention that has been paid to this massive pollution has dimly illuminated its potential impact on U.S. troops. Left in mephitic darkness are the contractors, often impoverished South Asians, who did the dirty work at the bases, as well as Iraqi civilians who uve and farm nearby. The Times of London reported that “open acid canisters sit within easy reach of children, and discarded batteries He close to irrigated farmland,” causing people to sicken and rats to die “next to soiled containers.”

The toxic air echoes with the Vietnam War’s Agent Orange fiasco. Victims of that war’s dioxin suffered for years before the United States took limited responsibility – but only for its troops, and not for the countries it poisoned.

The military’s history of pollution is long and largely unmitigated by legislation, treaties or lawsuits. It stretches around the world, from bases in the Philippines to Okinawa, Kuwait to Canada, and to numerous U.S. sites as well.

Vietnam Redux: Shades of Agent Orange
Author: Allen, Terry J
Publication: In These Times, February 1, 2012
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Student Researcher: Lyndsey Casey- Sonoma State University
Faculty Evaluator: Michael Stevens- Sonoma State University