Thursday, November 11, 2021

Iraq snapshot

 Thursday, November 11, 2021.  Burn pits get some media attention and the count goes on in Iraq over the so-long-ago October 19th elections.

Barbara Miller (Australia's ABC) reports:

Julie Tomáška knew that living in the shadow of a burning waste dump the size of football field couldn't be good for her.

How could she not?

"No matter where we were, no matter how the wind shifted, we were smelling and kind of breathing in the smoke and the soot from these burn pits ... 24 hours a day," she said.

The burn pit was the inescapable backdrop to life on the Balad air base in Iraq for Staff Sergeant Tomáška and her colleagues from the Minnesota Air National Guard during her two tours of duty in 2005 and 2007.

The pits were used by the US military across Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of pretty much anything – styrofoam plates from the canteen, electronics, chemicals, classified materials, contraband and even bombed-out vehicles.

When the flames died down, jet fuel was used as accelerant.

"It permeates everything and there's a layer of soot on everything," Julie Tomáška said.

At the time, Sergeant Tomáška and her colleagues deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom would joke about it.

"You sort of have a morbid sense of humour in a situation like that," the now 42-year-old said.

"We sort of stepped back and said, 'Well, this is really going to come back to bite us.'"

Years after she returned home to Minnesota, the prophecy came true when Julie Tomáška was diagnosed with deployment-related lung disease.

Specifically, she's been told she has a range of conditions, including constrictive bronchiolitis, chronic pleuritis, and pleural fibrosis.

First off, BURN PITS 360 is a good resource for this issue.  Over the years, we've heard of veterans like Bethany Bugay who developed chronic myelomonocytic leukemia due to exposure to the burn pits while serving in Iraq.

There have been numerous hearing.  Let's drop back to the November 6, ,2009 snapshot:

Rick Lamberth and L. Russell Keith were two of the four witnesses appearing before the Democratic Policy Committee today, for a hearing into burn pits led by Committee Chair Byron Dorgan.  Also appearing as witnesses were Lt Col Darrin Curtis and Dr. Anthony Szema.  At the start of the hearing, Chair Dorgan explained, "This is the twenty-first in a long series of hearings that we have held in the Policy Committee to examine contracting waste and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. A number of these hearings have focused on substantial abuse which have put out troops lives in danger.  Some focused just on waste and some on fraud. Today we're going to have a discussion and have a hearing on how, as early as 2002, US military installations in Iraq and Afghanistan began relying on open-air burn pits -- disposing of waste materials in a very dangerous manner. And those burn pits included materials such as hazardous waste, medical waste, virtually all of the waste without segregation of the waste, put in burn pits. We'll hear how there were dire health warnings by Air Force officials about the dangers of burn pit smoke, the toxicity of that smoke, the danger for human health.  We'll hear how the Department of Defense regulations in place said that burn pits should be used only in short-term emergency situations -- regulations that have now been codified. And we will hear how, despite all the warnings and all the regulations, the Army and the contractor in charge of this waste disposal, Kellogg Brown & Root, made frequent and unnecessary use of these burn pits and exposed thousands of US troops to toxic smoke." 

That's from Chair Dorgan's opening remarks and you can [PDF format hearing warning] click here to read his prepared remarks (the above is what was stated which differs slightly from the prepared remarks).  You can also visit the Democratic Policy Committee's home page for more information and streaming video of today's hearing should be up there as well. (If it's not up already, it will be up by Monday.)

Now let's go to the November 10th snapshot of that year:

KBR's burn pits were the subject of a hearing, see Friday's snapshot, by the Democratic Policy Committee.  Senator Byorn Dorgan chaired the hearing. Video is posted at the Democratic Policy Committee website. And Kat's "Democratic Policy Committee" went up Friday. Sunday, at Third, we noted some of the testimony the committee heard but that Staff Sgt. Steven Gregory Ochs and Staff Sgt. Matt Bumpus did not testify at Friday's hearing. They couldn't because both men are dead. October 8th, 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.

Hearing after hearing, and nothing ever gets done.

VOX recently wrote what looked like a slam piece on Jon Stewart.  I know Jon and like him as a person.  I think his comedy is funny.  But the glorification of him that took place?  Sadly, misplaced.  And we called it out at THIRD.  So the notion that we might need to examine Jon doesn't bother me.  I think it would be better to examine the media's coverage of Jon.  Jon's Jon.  He's who he always has been.  

The VOX piece -- no link to trash -- blames young people.  I'm sorry, what?

Did young people explain Dana Milbank?

Have we all forgotten "angry bitch beer"?  His beverage choice for Hillary Clinton?  

The problem is not -- and never was -- Jon being Jon.  It was the media and how they responded.  It was the very clear destruction of journalism that followed.  That's not Jon's fault.  He's a comedian.  That was the whole point in his comments on CNN's CROSSFIRE.

But because Jon is funny others thought they were too.  Dana Milbank?  The only time he's ever been funny was when he thought he was funny.  Yes, the notion that Dana has a good sense of humor is a laugh getter.  

And he and THE WASHINGTON POST weren't content to do journalism.  No, they needed to do comedy.  Which is how you got that sexist and horrible "angry bitch beer" video posted to THE WASHINGTON POST's website.  

Jon's Jon.  He is not the problem.  His popularity is not the problem.  

He maybe bears some responsibility for having a gift that makes it look so easy and leads idiots in the news media to think that they can do what he does.  They can't.  Most importantly, they shouldn't be trying to do what he does.  Not grasping that is one of the many reasons that the media remains in the toilet.

While VOX hissed at Jon recently, I had to wonder, what issues has VOX ever led on? 

I know they're a party organ for the Democratic Party.  I know they're not a real news outlet. Everything is done through the filter of what will get votes for the Democratic Party.  It's why THE WASHINGTON POST cut Ezzie Kelin free to begin with -- well, one of the main reasons.  A calculation was done.  Was his latest scandal worth keeping him.  The latest scandal was the Journo-list scandal where he and other journalists plotted on how to cover Barack so that he'd get the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2008.  And the problem was that Ezzie had yet again embarrassed the outlet.  And he had no real reason to be there.  He was only hired because he was popular and a 'new media' star.  Why, since he was so popular, wasn't that translating to clicks for THE POST?

Good question.  Ezzie was like an actor who slept with a certain male director and ended up on the cover of VANITY FAIR with a big push as the next big star only to then disappear.  Those male 'celebs' never were celebs.  They were created and pushed by the media.  When revealed to be hollow bunnies, they were forgotten and tossed aside.

That's basically Ezzie.  He wasn't that popular.  He was created.  Largely by the incestuous cluster-f**k at CJR's online site.  They did their daily blog 'reports,' remember/  Those weren't reports.  Those were them doing reach arounds to their friends.  It was a circle jerk.  And it gave the appearance of popularity but outside of the let's-all-link-to-each-other-and-not-disclose-that-fun-night-in-the-hot-tub (true story, Ezzie and some boys had a fun time in the hot tub) it didn't reach anyone.

The circle-jerk was able to create a buzz but that's all they were able to do and that made outsiders think these men (it was always men) were popular but they never were.  And that's why Ezzie was never able to deliver.  

It's all these years later and his outlet is tearing down Jon Stewart.  For what Jon did or does?  No, they're trying to blame the media's problems on Jon.  The media's first step would be for various talking heads to grasp that they are not comedians.  Stop trying to amuse the world -- there are entertainers who are trained in that.  Your job is to address serious issues.  Stop thinking you can turn MSNBC into THE DAILY SHOW.  Stop thinking that and stop trying to do it.

On his new APPLE+ series, Jon is still championing issues like burn pits.  

Help me out with what VOX has spent their time with over the years because, despite claiming to be a news outlet, they really have nothing to show for it.

Courtney Kube (NBC NEWS) reports:

The Biden administration will announce a series of actions Thursday to help veterans who were exposed to burn pits and other contaminants while serving overseas, including making it easier for vets to prove that they were exposed and pushing to find links between exposure and potentially deadly diseases, administration officials said.

The open-air pits were common at U.S. military bases during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dangerous materials from electronics and vehicles to human waste were regularly doused in jet fuel and set ablaze, spewing toxic fumes and carcinogens into the air.

A senior administration official said the issue is personal to President Joe Biden. Biden has said he believes his son Beau died of cancer that was linked to exposure to burn pits during his deployment to Iraq.

"He volunteered to join the National Guard at age 32 because he thought he had an obligation to go," Biden said at a Service Employees International Union convention in 2019. "And because of exposure to burn pits, in my view, I can't prove it yet, he came back with stage 4 glioblastoma."

In August, the Department of Veterans Affairs began processing claims for veterans suffering from asthma, rhinitis and sinusitis based on exposure to the pits.

We'll note this Tweet.

Rest In Peace, Wes. You made a hell of a difference. After a terminal colon cancer diagnosis linked to his exposure to burn pits in combat zones, retired Staff Sgt Wesley Black became a tireless advocate for post 9/11 veterans. He passed away Sunday. He was 36.

In case the CNN video doesn't show up in the Tweet above, here it is below.

And, below, you can see Jon speaking this week on the issue.

I'm not really getting what VOX has ever put their weight behind other than churning out the vote for the DNC.

Turning to Iraq, THE NEW ARAB offers up a Joe Show video commenting on the October 10th elections and the possible meanings.  And, for any wondering, the recount is still ongoing.  Maybe someday soon there will be a final and official tally of the votes?  Don't hold your breath on that.  The word is that certain candidates are already preparing judicial challenges.

In the Tweet below, there's video of Nouri al-Maliki -- former prime minister and forever thug -- noting there can be no do  over with the election.

Former #Iraqi PM Nouri al #Maliki says there is no point in new #elections in #Iraq because he admits voter turnout recently was only at 20% #failedstate

His comments are in response to various groups, such as the Hashd militia, calling for a redo on the elections.

The following sites updated: