• Despite Spending $81.9 Million on Incinerators, U.S. Still Using Toxic Burn Pits in Afghanistan

    March 3, 2015 // 20 Comments »

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    American forces in Afghanistan (“The Other War, The One Not About ISIS”) produce an extraordinary amount of garbage.

    War is a Waste

    Waste, after all, is a cornerstone of the same American Way we have been trying to hammer into the Afghan’s heads now for over thirteen years. There is human waste, medical waste, food waste, chemical waste, never mind old batteries, toxic electronics and all the rest. It all has to go somewhere, and often times the easiest way to get rid of it is just to burn it all. To avoid contaminating further the entire country, never mind endangering the health of Americans and Afghans nearby, a proper incinerator is the right tool for the job. It also seems to be one of the most expensive, especially when it is not used.



    Garbage

    It is thus hard to choose which part of the latest pile of garbage to come out of Afghanistan to focus on, so here are all three:

    (A) Is it that $20.1 million was wasted because four U.S. military installations in Afghanistan never used their incinerators? Trash was merely dumped nearby, often within sight of the expensive incinerators.

    (B) Or is it that the U.S. spent $81.9 million on incinerator systems and only equipped a total of nine military installations in Afghanistan?

    (C) Or is it that despite all of the above, there are still over 200 active, open-air, burn pits in Afghanistan?

    Trick question students! The correct answer is (D), All of the Above.


    Toxic Actions

    The most recent Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report (“The Catalog of Horrors”) blithely informs us that prohibited items such as tires and batteries continue to be disposed of in open-air burn pits even after Congress passed legislation to restrict that practice. SIGAR also tells us that the Department of Defense paid the full contract amount for incinerators that were never used because they contained deficiencies that were not corrected, and that U.S. military personnel and others were exposed to the emissions from open-air burn pits that could have lasting negative health consequences.

    SIGAR also adds that a “common theme” throughout 30 inspection reports over a period of years is that contractors who installed the incinerators did not deliver according to the specified requirements but were still paid the full contract amount and released without further obligation.


    Beyond the Monetary Waste

    The saddest part of all is not the monetary waste, but the human one. The dangers of open air burning of toxic substances has long been known, and the practice outlawed, across the United States. More specifically, the effects of such practices in Iraq and Afghanistan on the soldiers ordered to carry out the burning are well-documented.

    A federal registry of U.S. troops and veterans possibly sickened by toxic smoke in Iraq and Afghanistan has gathered nearly 11,000 eligible names since it was established in 2013. The airman who inspired the registry to be created contracted constrictive bronchiolitis, a potentially progressive, terminal disease, due to burn pit exposure.

    In only one example, explored in Senate hearings on toxic burn sites, it was revealed that the carcinogen Sodium Dichromate was spread across a ruined water-injection facility in Qarmat Ali, Iraq, exposing thousands of individuals.

    So much for supporting the troops when it counts.




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    Posted in Afghanistan, Iraq, Military