What I'm Reading
Whether it's a new book for yourself or a recommendation for the history fan in your life, here's what I'm reading these days . . .
Joseph Hickman’s The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers underscores the story of how massive burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan poisoned American soldiers from 2002 to 2021. It combines statistical and anecdotal information to highlight how private contractors and the military created burn pits that incinerated tons of hazardous waste on U.S. bases including spent ammunition and even body parts. Often U.S. troops lived near these burn pits that caked their tents, weapons, and bodies with ash that burned 24 hours a day.
Hickman makes sure to include the stories of those affected, many that died too early of diseases like brain cancer at much higher rates than the civilian population (much like Agent Orange did to the Vietnam veterans). He also reports on the advocates (himself included) who battled the VA and bureaucrats that refused to recognize the effects of exposure, fearful much like Congress, of creating a massive outlay of resources to support the veterans. The burn pits have become a contentious issue over the past decade and a half and the book clearly outlines why and what has transpired.
Hickman's work has become a fixture in the debates over burn pits. A copy sat on the desk of Vice President Joe Biden for many years, his son Beau a victim of exposure to the burn pits while serving in Afghanistan. It has crystallized support from many sectors including advocates like Jon Stewart. It has helped support veterans as they push through a series of bills to help with the research and treatment of those exposed, highlighted in some new legislation and even featured in President Biden’s recent State of the Union.
I highly recommended the book for those interested in the topic and what has transpired and what likely will happen as the issue remains contentious because of the costs and the liabilities being avoided by private companies.