The Burn Pits Of Recent Wars And Military Illnesses

The Burn Pits Of Recent Wars And Military Illnesses

The Burn Pits Of Recent Wars And Military Illnesses

Fox News reported December 22, 2018 that military contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root and it’s former parent company Halliburton have asked the U.S. Supreme Court not to reinstate lawsuits filed by military personnel who say their illnesses were caused by the burn pits used since the invasion of Afghanistan to dispose of, well, everything.

From the Fox News article:

In a brief filed last week, officials for KBR and its former parent company Halliburton urged the court not to restore dozens of the lawsuits filed against the companies, who handled daily operations for many of the bases starting in 2001. They claim that the lawsuits were already dismissed properly because the courts have no jurisdiction over military strategy.

“The separation-of-powers principles underlying the political question doctrine preclude courts from second-guessing professional military judgments that are within the exclusive province of the political branches,” reads a line from the filing obtained by Fox News.

I have only nine hours of business law, so this is way out of my lane. I suppose that garbage disposal could be considered “military strategy”, just as garbage disposal is part of every household in the world. Although most people don’t think of it as a strategy, more a necessity to prevent clutter and disease. “The political question doctrine” is more complex than the Fox News snippet would have one believe. If you wish, you can read about this complex questions here. The most basic idea of political question doctrine is whether the court is the appropriate venue.

I communicated with several recent veterans. Here are some of their comments:

“If the burn pits were operating only the contractors were supposed to be out there. But, the problem is the fumes blow with the winds. They were at one point, when ammunition would go “Condition Code Hotel” or unstable they would burn the ammunition in an incinerator. The fumes were noticeable. There was also a lake of feces at KAF (Kandahar Air Field). The Poo Pond was originally outside of the fence lines. KAF grew and eventually the lake was inside the fence line. The lake was an incubator for malaria and typhoid. Water fountains were installed. They shot the shit water up into the air. No more mosquitoes. Waterborne feces. The entire country smelled like shit.” 2014 GWOT veteran

“Burn pits are common. Well, used to be, before environmental concerns. Every base had at least one, if not individual squadrons themselves. And deployments – like “B” in Somalia and the first Gulf War – ALWAYS had them. There’s often no other way to get rid of “stuff” in a localized, isolated area. You have specified areas and rules for what goes where. Burn pit here, latrines there, etc. I’m sure the 50 gallon drums they use for latrines where emptied into the pits, for example. And then you bury it when you leave. Husband and wife Navy veterans

We dealt with them on my last deployment to Kosovo. There’s nothing they couldn’t f**k up. Military veteran”

“Phantom smoke smells and a continual throat clearing thing. Had a neurological MRI, so no discernible damage… but still worrisome.

Asthma, Allergies, bronchial problems, cancers, constant coughs, cramps and abdominal problems are just a few of the symptoms veterans of the Global War on Terror may be experiencing. There is a registry for veterans through the Veterans Administration. The Veterans Administration video:

I don’t know about the legal stuff. Here is what I do know. Our military personnel know the dangers when they sign on the dotted line. They expect enemy fire, IED’s, bombs, and possibly chemical warfare. My question is: What does the government and its contractors owe our military personnel.

Since Vietnam our military personnel have been fighting for correct diagnoses, interventions and compensation from the government. What did the government know? When did the government know it? What are they still hiding?

The same questions surround the burn pits. Did KBR/Halliburton and the subcontractors do due diligence prior to recommending the burn pits. What, if any, questions did the Department of Defense ask prior to agreeing to the pits and other disposal methods?

I don’t give a fat rat’s backside about legal responsibility. This is a moral issue. KBR and the Department of Defense can fight and deny all they want. They, and we, owe a moral responsibility to the men and women of the less than one percent who volunteer to put their lives on the line for us who sit back with every creature comfort.

This is not just a legal issue. This is a moral issue about who we are. Halliburton (sold KBR in 2007), KBR, every subcontractor and the Department of Defense should fund research, pay for medical care, and pay compensation to every veteran who has a valid burn pit claim.

Merry Christmas!

Feature photo credit: Espacio

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  • Bobby Ahr says:

    One more reason to shut down these stupid ‘wars.’

    • scott says:

      That’s a genius commentary Bobby..Toni makes a valid case that we need to take care of our vets from injuries / illnesses they incur protecting this nation, and your solution is “stop doing anything that could result in injury, even if it means not protecting the nation… I’m sure such stuff plays well on Huffpo, and democratic underground…

      • GWB says:

        I agree with him to some extent, Scott.
        When we get involved in the “endless wars”*, we enter into situations where it’s “combat” so shortcuts get taken that wouldn’t be tolerated in a home base situation. And, the military’s political branch gets to push off a lot of probing because “we’re at war!”
        Which is fine if you’re really in combat, pushing forward against an enemy. Not so much when it turns into decades of low-level conflict.

        It’s one of many reasons to only ever go to war with full force, accomplish the goal, then return home, secure in the knowledge that the enemy will not soon trouble you (make the rubble bounce, man).

        • scott says:

          I agree with you completely on that GWB, both on the aspect that once you’re beyond fast moving combat and makeshift bases, as well as the part about making the rubble bounce…(making it glow would be a good option too at times),I just don’t believe that’s what Bobby was saying.. I took his comment much more to be of the “Bush lied, people died” variety, though I’m sure he sang a different tune during 8 years of the “chosen one”.. If I’m wrong in my interpretation, I’ll happily apologize.

  • GWB says:

    BTW, I’m betting the military is using “strategy” as a defense because one of the reasons for burning is to ensure that certain waste doesn’t fall into enemy hands – documents, hardware (though it’s broken, it could still be reverse engineered), ammo. (Yep, you mention ammo – though that’s partly because of the simple hazard of disposing of things that go bang.) There’s lots that you simply don’t want wandering out into the local population – friend or foe.

    And, of course, the poo gets burned because there is absolutely ZERO infrastructure in places like Afghanistan to handle it. And if we built that infrastructure, the jihadis would immediately target it – simply because they refuse to let anyone have nice things if Allah didn’t gift it to them.

    Again, this kind of stuff is why we should not get entangled in foreign lands, unless there’s a direct threat to American interests. THEN we go in, kill all the bad guys, break all their toys, and go home. Or we commit to a 50-100 year experiment in building Western Civ in that land, knowing that it still might not take.

    And, yes, Toni, our military HAS to be transparent about this stuff.
    But, there are also people who will never believe this stuff did NOT cause their problems, no matter how many doctors tell them so.

  • rbj says:

    This has also been a problem at the Skunkworks (or whereever it is we build our spersecret flying things.) Burn pits to dispose of chemicals and whatnot that have caused health problems. Not sure how it got resolved, but this was also private contractors working with the US military and secrecy was of paramount importance. Not sure how it got resolved, if ever. And this was in the US proper.

    I don’t mind erring on the side of the vets and giving them the care. Now, STDs are a different story.

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