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The US must com­pen­sate burn pit vic­tims in Iraq too

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On August 10, United States President Joe Biden signed the PACT Act, aiding approximately 3.5 million American veterans with severe medical conditions linked to toxic exposure to burn pits during service, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. Open air pits of military waste, sometimes as large as football fields, are burned to destroy munitions, chemicals, plastics, and medical and human waste, typically using jet fuel. Used widely until at least 2010, burn pits were still permitted at least as of last year, when waste management facilities were not available.

Their impact, however, extends beyond the harm to those who were deployed and exposed to toxins in the short term. Fatal cancers. Birth defects that can cause infant death or lifelong disabilities. Malformations including a missing hand, cleft lip and paralysed club foot. Anencephaly — an underdeveloped brain and incomplete skull. These are just some of the devastating conditions plaguing Iraqi civilians following toxic exposure from the 2003 US invasion and occupation and 1991 Gulf War.

How is this a fair price for civilians to pay for simply residing in their homes while the US “war on terror” forcibly exposed them to burn pits and depleted uranium? When will the US fulfill international law obligations to compensate them for the toxic war zones that its military has left behind?

Biden’s signing last week was filled with fanfare and applause, and a moving appearance by the wife and young child of the late Ohio veteran in whose honour the act is named (full title: the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act). Indeed, the legislation is welcome: It covers numerous cancers and lung conditions, and marks progress toward addressing dire suffering similar to that of Vietnam veterans who were unjustly neglected (PDF )following Agent Orange exposure. In fact, the PACT Act........

© Al Jazeera

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