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As it turns out, the eventual killer of Billy McKenna was lurking in the photographs he snapped in Iraq. Billy wrote captions beneath some of his photographs: typical day on patrol reads one. The photo is partially obscured by the blurred image of a soldier’s upraised hand. Brown desert unfurls away from a vehicle toward an empty horizon, and a wavering sky scorched white hovers above. Off to one side: Balad Air Base and the spreading umbrella of rising dank smoke from a burn pit.
Once again the current Administration is being called upon to clean up a mess left by the previous one. More of the chickens of Dick and Donald's excellent adventure are on the roost, and Eric Shinseki's Veterans Administration has to face the aftermath.
But Billy had been exposed to something much more harmful than cigarettes. Since 2003, defense contractors have used burn pits at a majority of U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan as a method of destroying military waste. The pits incinerate discarded human body parts, plastics, hazardous medical material, lithium batteries, tires, hydraulic fluids, and vehicles. Jet fuel keeps pits burning twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
As with Agent Orange, and Camp Lejeune water, and Fort McClellan PCBs, and on, and on, and on the price for yellow ribbon waving obeisance to the profiteers of the Military Industrial Complex is being paid by rank and file patriots betrayed by their government.

From today's Federal Register

This notice announces the preliminary plans of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct a longitudinal cohort study of adverse health effects related to military deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan, to include potential exposure to airborne hazards and burn pits, and to take related actions to promote the effective monitoring and assessment of deployment-related exposures and potential health effects of deployments. The planned actions are based in part on VA's review of the analysis and recommendations in an October 31, 2011, report of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) concerning the potential long-term health consequences of exposure to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Dina McKenna, Billy's widow, and their daughters are paying for Dick Cheney's mega-bucks Halliburton bonuses with their now empty lives. Billy paid in full.
Dina and others have joined in lawsuits against KBR, Inc., a Texas-based government contractor, and its former parent company Halliburton, alleging it had exposed American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to lethal air pollutants by burning toxic waste. The heavy black burn-pit smoke lingered for days and even weeks at a time over U.S. bases and areas nearby, affecting soldiers and local populations. Claims against KBR and Halliburton have been filed in sixteen states by almost two hundred plaintiffs.
Eric Shinseki has put the MIC on notice, of sorts
After careful review of the IOM report, the Secretary has directed the Veterans Health Administration to conduct a long-term prospective study on all adverse health effects potentially related to military deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan, to include health effects potentially related to exposure to airborne hazards and burn pits. In addition, the Secretary has requested participation by DoD in VA's proposed study, joint participation in long-term cohort studies for every future major deployment, priority staffing in support of the VA/DoD Environmental Exposure Data Transfer Agreement (DTA), and continued collaboration on a Joint VA/DoD Action Plan to address clinical and research issues associated with deployment.
Maybe the profit motive will be enough to prevent the future industrial scale exploitation of the bodies and minds of America's willing young men and women. Maybe.

We can hope.

Originally posted to DKos Military Veterans on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 10:42 AM PST.

Also republished by Military Community Members of Daily Kos and IGTNT Advisory Group.

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