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Preview: Joseph Hickman On Burn Pits Poisoning Soldiers And Civilians In Iraq And Afghanistan

Shadowproof will be hosting a discussion with author Joseph Hickman about his book, “The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers,” on March 17 at 8 pm ET.

Hickman is a former U.S. Marine and army sergeant. He was involved in security at the prison complex at Guantanamo Bay. However, as he notes in his book, he knew nothing about the burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan until he left the military in 2009. He used skills he had from his civilian life as a private investigator to talk with veterans about the medical problems they had from the burn pits.

In open-air pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, the following materials have been burned: petroleum, pesticides, oil, lubricant products, asbestos, styrofoam, rubber, tar paper, chemically treated uniforms, coated electrical wires, asphalt shingles, plastic, treated wood, aerosol cans, gas cylinders, medical waste, explosives, fuel cans, batteries, electrical equipment, paint and paint thinners, human body parts, and animal carcasses.

The U.S. military did not immediately have regulations for burn pits. Quite a few soldiers were housed a few hundred yards away from these pits, which burned as much as fifty tons of trash per day. In September 2009, U.S. Central Command finally released some guidelines for burn pits.

Hickman compares the burn pits to Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. As with Agent Orange, soldiers suffer from illnesses and cancers, which doctors have a tough time explaining. The Veterans Affairs Department callously denies veterans benefits to pay for expensive treatment and medications. Children in Iraq are also born with a staggering amount of birth defects, which is similar to what happened to children in Vietnam whose parents became infected with the herbicide. The impact on children is even believed to surpass the impact of the atomic bombs, which the U.S. dropped on Japan during World War II.

At the center of this chemical warfare against soldiers and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan is Halliburton and its former subsidiary, KBR. Even though lawsuits against KBR currently proceed in court, KBR argues the military is responsible and veterans cannot sue the military so, therefore, no one can be held accountable.

Hickman and I will discuss his book and some of the many stories he uncovered while talking to veterans about burn pits. We will talk about Major Beau Biden and how he may have died as a result of the burn pits. We will discuss the lack of accountability or the impunity in which KBR and the military is able to operate. We will also take a moment to address why the poisoning of soldiers is given no attention by politicians who claim to support veterans, including candidates for president.

Sign up to receive an email reminder for the online discussion, or check our Twitter account at 8pm East on Thursday for a link to livestream.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."