Iraq War veteran Amie Muller died last month. Her death is most likely related to her exposure to the burn pits. Jennifer Mayerle (WCCO) speaks with her family including her widow Brian Muller:
The Mullers believe Amie’s diagnosis is linked to her time in the Air National Guard. She did two tours in Iraq, in 2005 and 2007. And during that time she was exposed to toxic burn pits — where it’s documented that chemicals, paint, aluminum cans, munitions, petroleum, among other things, were constantly burned.
“Environmental, that’s the biggest cause of cancer, so there’s no question that a 36 year old with pancreatic cancer, with no history of pancreatic cancer in her family, that had to be related,” Brian said.
During her journey, Amie had the strength to stand up for veterans who were also exposed. She worried the answers will come too late for many.
“My dedication to her is to honor that and to keep that story alive and make sure that veterans get taken care of,” Brian said.
June 13, 2012, Senator Mark Udall explained burn pits while speaking to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee:
In both Afghanistan and Iraq, open air burn pits were widely used at forward operating bases. Disposing of trash and other debris was a major challenge. Commanders had to find a way to dispose of waste while concentrating on the important mission at hand. The solution that was chosen, however, had serious risks. Pits of waste were set on fire -- sometimes using jet fuel for ignition. Some burn pits were small but others covered multiple acres of land. Often times, these burn pits would turn the sky black. At Joint Base Balad Iraq, over 10 acres of land were used for burning toxic debris. At the height of its operations, Balad hosted approximately 25,000 military, civilian and coalition provision authority personnel. These personnel would be exposed to a toxic soup of chemicals released into the atmosphere. According to air quality measurements, the air at Balad had multiple particulates harmful to humans: Plastics and Styrofoams, metals, chemicals from paints and solvents, petroleum and lubricants, jet fuel and unexploded ordnance, medical and other dangerous wastes. The air samples at Joint Base Balad turned up some nasty stuff. Particulate matter, chemicals that form from the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas garbage or other organic substances, volatile organic compounds such as acetone and benzene -- benzene, as you all know, is known to cause leukemia -- and dioxins which are associated with Agent Orange. According to the American Lung Association, emissions from burning waste contain fine particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and various irritant gases such as nitrogen oxides that can scar the lungs. All of this was in the air and being inhaled into the lungs of service members.
Udall was championing a burn pit registry in the Senate. It was a long battle and included many supporters in Congress (such as former Senator Evan Bayh and former US House Rep Todd Akin) and veterans, VSOs, family members and more.
And while that was ultimately successful, all that has happened thus far has been a registry.
And people are suffering and dying.
Last week, Mark Brunswick (STAR TRIBUNE) reported:
On Feb 24, more than 800 of her friends and family gathered at a memorial service in Woodbury to remember the life of the 36-year-old mother of three. A pastor noted her loss was both painful and seemingly incomprehensible.
"I wish there was a simple way to explain what has happened to Amie. Why Amie is gone," said Pastor Lisa Renlund. "Life truly isn't that simple. It can get messy. It can feel complicated. It can seem unfair."
But others also are remembering Muller's battle to win recognition from the U.S. government for victims of the burn pits, which have the potential of becoming the Iraq and Afghanistan wars' equivalent of the Vietnam War's Agent Orange. It took nearly three decades for the U.S. government to eventually link the defoliant used in Vietnam to cancer.
And when that happened, please note, it ended Jim Webb's political career.
Webb had been the rising star Democrat because there's nothing the press likes better than a 'moderate' (in this case, a Republican who switched to the Democratic Party to run for office). And they made him a star.
But Webb slit his own political throat by opposing the victims of Agent Orange.
Let's drop back to the September 23, 2010 report on that day's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing:
Today we heard US Senator Jim Webb babble on and, when he's insincere, his voice cracks. It was like the episode of The Brady Bunch where the kids are set to record a song but Peter's voice begins changing and won't stop cracking. As he used opening remarks to recount his entire resume at length -- everything but working the counter one night and giving a veteran a free milk shake -- that voice cracked and cracked. Why was that such a hard thing for him. "We have a duty," Webb insisted as he added coughs to his bag of tricks. And "this is not simply a cost item." Oh, now you may be getting why Webb was freaking out.
If not, join us as we drop back to the June 15, 2010 snapshot:
WAVY reports (link has text and video) that victims of Agent Orange (specifically Vietnam era veterans) could recieve addition beneifts for B-Cell Leukemia, Parkinson's disease and coronary heart disease. Could? A US Senator is objecting to the proposed changes by VA. Jim Webb has written VA Secretary Eric Shinseki that ". . . this single executive decision is estimated to cost a minimum of $42.2 billion over the next ten years. A regulatory action of this magnitude requires proper Congressional review and oversight." Besides, Webb wrote, "Heart disease is a common phenomenon regardless of potential exposure to Agent Orange." That is really embarrasing and especially embarrassing for the Democratic Party (Webb is a Democrat today, having converted from a Reagan Republican). It also goes a long way towards explaining Webb's refusal to get on board with Senator Evan Bayh's bill to create a national registry that would allow those Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans to be able to receive treatment for their exposures without having to jump through hoops repeatedly.
And if you doubted that Webb was about to try to pull out the axe on Vietnam veterans benefits, you had to only give him a few more seconds as he began bemoaning that the law was written one way (yes, he is a 'framers' intent' and 'original construction' type politician) and then expanded (to "dual presumptioms both based on very broad categorizations"). What are the expansions? It's been expanded to allow payments to Vietnam Veterans suffering from Parkinson's disease, ischemic heart disease and hairy cell leukemia. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is not someone we praise blindly here (to put it mildly) but the hearing was really about Shinseki's 'performance,' specifically with regards to expanding the categories -- based on medical and science evidence -- qualifying for payments.
There's a whole dance going on beneath the hearing that few will ever notice. If there was anything sadder than Webb's remarks it was Senator Jon Tester who felt the need to praise Webb "for asking some very tough questions." To watch some of the senators today was to be aware they appeared to think leukemia, heart disease and Parknson's is little more troubling than adult acne.
Senator Roland Burris was one of the most straightforward and it's too bad that the Democratic Party establishment loathed him because, as usual, when veterans needed an advocate on the Committee, Senator Burris could be counted on. "There's no price that we could put on what we can do with those veterans suffering from those chemicals that were sprayed throughout that country." "Budget shortfalls," Burris noted, were no excuse for not providing for veterans. Was it telling that Jon Tester walked out while Burris was making that statement? Maybe he was just needed elsewhere. Although that certainly doesn't explain the ugly glare visible on his face as he left, now does it?
These moves are what destroyed Webb's career. Veterans and veterans groups followed what The Debra Messings never do. They didn't need a meme or Instagram to give them marching orders, they merely followed actual events.
And the backlash is why Webb did not seek re-election and why his attempt to secure the Democratic Party's presidential nomination was so brief.
He destroyed his own political career by refusing to honor the victims of Agent Orange.
That should be true for all those who refuse to honor the victims of the burn pits.
Again, there is a registry now. That's really it. It's time for real Congressional action and America should be watching to see who supports the veterans and who betrays them -- the latter group should be sent packing as swiftly as 'rising star' Jim Webb was.
Senator Amy Klobuchar said over the phone on Monday that 36 is far too young, to lose someone like Amie. She also said in a statement, "We owe her our gratitude. My heart goes out to her family and friends. There are an increasing number of our brave men and women returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan citing illnesses potentially caused by burn pits exposure. I am going to keep fighting so that these veterans receive the support and care they need."
There is a Burn Pit registry, which nearly 100,000 veterans have signed up for. Klobuchar has introduced legislation that would create a center of excellence, so the information from the registry can be used to help these vets.
Day 136 of The Mosul Slog. There are reports (such as here) that Abu Baghdadi, supposed leader of the Islamic State, has declared that ISIS has been defeated. Of course, over the last two years, there have been repeated reports that he has been killed.
If he is alive, possibly he has admitted defeat.
Regardless, the fighting goes on.
And the dying.
MIDDLE EAST MONITOR reports:
A number of civilians and suspected [Islamic State] members were killed in an attack that hit a mosque that was being attended by residents and damaged neighbouring houses in the west of the Iraqi city of Mosul yesterday, three residents said today.
The Omar Al-Aswad mosque, in the Al-Faruq district of the old city centre, was hit by an airstrike, three residents in the same area told Reuters by phone.
Neighbouring houses were damaged or collapsed because of the blast, they said without giving a precise estimate of the casualties as their moves are restricted by the militants and also Iraqi government shelling and aerial attacks.
The 'success' -- it's also noted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees today:
191,826 persons internally displaced from Mosul and surrounding areas since military operations to retake the city resumed on 17 October 20161
21,770 UNHCR kits of core relief items (CRIs) distributed to families in camps, assisting some 129,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Mosul and surrounding areas
7,167 family plots are currently occupied out of 14,781 family plots (for some 88,000 people) in UNHCR built camps that are ready to receive IDPs displaced from Mosul corridor.
3 million IDPs since January 20142
250,952 Iraqi refugees registered and hosted in countries in the region, in addition to 13,768 Iraqis received in Al Hol camp in Syria since 17 October 2016
UNAMI kind of made an announcement today -- shifting it to FACEBOOK instead of their usual outlet:
On the release of news -- are we going to be the only ones noting that the entire month of February passed without a single US State Dept daily press briefing.
There was none.
There was not one yesterday, March 1st, and there's not one scheduled for today.
Are we going to be the only ones noting this?
We covered the State Dept under Bully Boy Bush and under President Barack Obama.
There was never a month taken off. Outside of Christmas holidays, there was never a week taken off.
The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan, PACIFICA EVENING NEWS, BLACK AGENDA REPORT and DISSIDENT VOICE -- updated: