US Military Bases: The Polluter Is Not Paying, by H. Patricia Hynes

The US military doesn’t just leave dead bodies in lands it occupies, it sometimes kills the land itself. From H. Patricia Hynes at

My nephew, an Army veteran who spent most of his 20 plus years military service as an officer in South Korea, is now a civilian military contractor living on a base in Afghanistan. Our only conversation about US military pollution in South Korea was something of a nonstarter.

These two Asian countries, so disparate in development, economy and stability, have something in common – severely polluted US military bases, for which our country takes little to no financial responsibility. The polluter pays (aka “you break it, you fix it”) does not apply to the United States military abroad. Nor do civilian workers and most US soldiers stationed at these bases have a chance of winning medical compensation for their military pollution-related illness.

Consider the barbaric military burn pits. In its haste for war, DOD ignored its own environmental regulations and approved open-air burn pits – “huge poisonous bonfires” – on hundreds of US bases in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East. They were sited in the midst of base housing, work and dining facilities, with zero pollution controls. Tons of waste – an average of 10 pounds daily per soldier – burned in them every day, all day and all night, including chemical and medical waste, oil, plastics, pesticides and dead bodies. Ash laden with hundreds of toxins and carcinogens blackened the air and coated clothing, beds, desks and dining halls, according to a Government Accounting Office investigation. A leaked 2011 Army memo warns that health risks from burn pits could reduce lung-function and exacerbate lung and heart diseases, among them COPD, asthma, atherosclerosis or other cardiopulmonary diseases.

Predictably, base commanders temporarily shut them down when politicians and high-ranking generals came to visit.

Few veterans exposed to burn pit toxins have won compensation for their severe, chronic respiratory illness. No local Afghani or Iraqi citizen or independent military contractor ever will. Wars may end, bases may close, but our toxic military footprint remains as a poisonous legacy for future generations.

To continue reading: US Military Bases: The Polluter Is Not Paying



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