I've never pretended I can't be a real idiot from time to time but even I'm shocked by my stupidity this go round.
The Iraq War continues. We stress that daily here.
And burn pits were awful for the Iraqi people and for US troops (and US contractors).
Did you see my ignorance above?
I've thought this was a "were."
It's not a "were."
The US is still using burn pits in Iraq. Still.
Perry Chiarmonte (FOX NEWS) reports:
Like the Iraq War, the burn pits continue.
And the burn pits remain in use in Iraq.
Again, I can be a real idiot and I was this time because I thought this was done. I'm not the only one who thought that way.
Senator Klobuchar thought this was an issue that was in the past and our efforts now needed to focus on fixing what had taken place.
I want to say that 2006 was the first hearing I attended about the burn pits.
That's 12 years ago.
And despite all the testimony to members of Congress, the US is still using burn pits in Iraq?
This is outrageous.
L. Russell Keith explained to the Democratic Policy Committee on November 6, 2009, "While I was stationed at Balad, I experienced the effects of the massive burn pit that burned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The ten-acre pit was located in the northwest corner of the base. An acrid, dark black smoke from the pit would accumulate and hang low over the base for weeks at a time. Every spot on the base was touched by smoke from the pit; everyone who served at the base was exposed to the smoke. It was almost impossible to escape, even in our living units.".
Then-Senator Byron Dorgan presided over the hearing. Questioning Keith, Dorgan established that these burn pits would never be allowed to operate in the US due to the damages the pits cause to health -- they'd face fines and jail, agreed Keith, if they tried to get away with operating these same burn pits in the US.
And there were regulartions -- even in Iraq and Afghanistan -- that were supposed to be followed but weren't which prompted the release of the US Government Accountability Office's 2010 report [PDF format warning] entitled "AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ: DOD Should Improve Adherence to Its Guidance on Open Pit Burning and Solid Waste Management."
June 13th, 2012 then-US 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.
KBR faqcilitated a lot of the burn pits. And KBR knew they weren't following the guidelines. Former US Senator Blanche Lincoln pointed out, while serving in the Senate, that KBR would make additional money from cleaning the sites -- they would get paid for fixing their own mess -- even though they themselves wouldn't do the work -- they'd subcontract it out.
This was about greed -- KBR refused to even move the burn pits downwind when the damages were being discussed openly in the press -- and it was about people. People have died due to these burnpits.
Staff Sgt. Steven Gregory Ochs and Staff Sgt. Matt Bumpus are two early examples of people who died who never even should have gotten ill. They were betrayed by greed and by their own government. October 8, 2009, Steven Gregory Ochs' sister Stacy Pennington testified to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on behalf of her brother and her family and on behalf of Bumpus and his family.
Stacy Pennington: Both of these brave soldiers you see before you dodged bullets, mortar attacks, roadside bombs and suicide bombers. Eventually their tours of duty would take their lives. The ultimate sacrifice for a soldier, for his country, is death. However, their deaths did not show up in the manner you may assume. In Balad is the site of the infamous enormous burn pit that has been called by Lt Col Darrin L. Curtis, USAF and Bio-environmental Engineering Flight Commander, as "the worst environmental site" he had ever visited. Staff Sgt Ochs and Staf Sgt Bumpus were both stationed in Balad and war, as strategic as it is, followed them home. Death lay dormant in their blood and waited for them to return safely home and into the arms of their loved ones. Like every silent ticking bomb, it eventually exploded. On September 28, 2007, just months after Steve's return home from his third tour, he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, also known as AML. He spent the next ten months as a patient -- more like a resident -- at Duke University Hospital. Doctors at Duke said his aggressive form of AML was definitely chemically induced and, like Steve, both agreed it was due to the exposures he experienced while in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the doctors refused to go on record citing as the reason that they could not prove it. The aggressive AML that Steve endured was similar to bullets ricocheting in the body causing torturous pain. The graphic images embedded in my mind are of Steve's last screams for air as he was rushed into ICU. Steve waved goodbye to my husband. Steve, with very little strength, said, "I love you, sis" and my mom kissed his forehead and said, "We will see you when you get comfortable." Five minutes later, while in the ICU waiting room, the nurse came in to tell us Steve went into cardiac arrest and they were working on him now. My mom ran into ICU -- fell to her knees as she realized her son was dying. Screams filled the air as we begged God to keep Steve here with us. We know Steve heard us as tears were in Steve's eyes. Doctors and nurses pumped on Steve's chest trying to revive him. But I knew immediately he was gone. His spirit that surrounded my dear, sweet brother was gone. We were left alone with Steve's body for hours as we were all in pure shock. My mom looked upon my brother's face and wiped away the tears puddled in his eyes. And at that very moment, our lives were changed forever. Steve died on July 12, 2008. Two weeks later, on the opposite of the coast, Staff Sgt Bumpus would succumb to the same fate. For Staff Sgt Matt Bumpus, the ticking time bomb exploded with a vengeance on July 31, 2006. Matt was rushed to the hospital by ambulance with acute appendicitis. In Matt's own words, I quote, "The next thing I remember is hearing that I had been diagnosed with AML." Doctors declared that there was chromosome damage due to exposures he must have come in contact with while in Iraq. Matt ended his prestigious service to the Army one short year before the war zone chemical warfare showed signs of its presence. As if this was not enough suffering, Staff Sgt Bumpus' family was met by the VA with harsh claims of denial to benefits. This battle continues to this day as Lisa, Staff Sgt Bumpus' wife, is left alone with two small children to raise with no VA or military benefits for her family. The aggressive assault of the AML in Matt's body was taking claim. Jo, Matt's mother, recalls the haunted look in Matt's eyes as he revealed to her that the AML invasion was back. Matt's mother will never forget the discouragement and sadness that overwhelmed Matt as the realization that promises he made to his wife and children to provide for his family, to love and protect them, and that his sacred word would be broken. He knew now that the battle was over and he would be leaving his family behind. Tuesday, July 29, 2008, Matt once again entered the hospital with fever and septic infection that discharged throughout his body. Doctors notified the family that it would just be days before his demise. Matt was heavily sedated as the pain and incubation was unbearable. Nate, Matt's ten-year-old son, bravely entered his father's hospital room to lay on his daddy's chest as he said his final goodbye. Nate curled up by his dad and cried and cried. Despite Matt's heavy sedation, Matt too was crying. Matt, being a devoted Christian, appropriately passed away on a Sunday morning, surrounded by his wife, mother, father and sister as they expressed to Matt their everlasting love. They, too, were in shock and stayed with Matt's body as the realization overwhelmed them that Matt would not be going home. Matt died on August 3, 2008.
Again, this was an outrage and it remains one today. The burn pits are still being utilized.
The US government is failing yet again.
But we should point out that the Iraqi government is also failing. They have a responsibility to protect the Iraqi people.
Birth defects are on the rise in Iraq. And burn pits is not a new or unknown topic.
Why has the Iraqi government looked the other way and allowed the US to utilize burn pits in Iraq? Why are they not protecting the Iraqi people?
It's no wonder the Iraqi people are protesting.
The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley -- updated: