Pentagon’s endless war brings endless pollution

B83 nuclear bomb test with F-4c Phantom jet. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.
B83 nuclear bomb test with F-4c Phantom jet. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

Many of us do our part to help the environment. We recycle, we bike to work, and we buy less plastic. Yet tap water everywhere is still so filthy; the air, coastlines, parks, and lands are more and more polluted; and cancer continues to take the lives of millions of workers, young and old.

Who’s to blame? Bottling companies? Chemicals corporations? These companies are very serious polluters, and should be held accountable. But most of all, blame the U.S. Department of Defense.

Pentagon is the biggest destroyer of all living things

The Pentagon is by far the world’s largest polluter, producing more hazardous waste than any country, and more environmental poisons than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined. And they get away with it. They’re accountable to no one. Misnamed the Department of Defense, it really is the “the offender of all.”

For three generations now, the U.S. military has left its destructive legacy throughout the world not only through death and destruction but also through befouling the earth with depleted uranium, oil, jet fuel, pesticides, defoliants that cause birth defects such as Agent Orange used in Vietnam, and lead, among other poisons.

The Pentagon does this with impunity. It putrefies with toxic materials where it makes nuclear and other bombs. It leaves nuclear and chemical waste behind, wherever it drop bombs, and wherever it makes them and tests them. It does this with no regard to the health of people abroad or in the U.S., and doesn’t even mind poisoning its own soldiers and their families.

Seventy-five percent of Superfund sites were fouled by the Pentagon

In 2014, the Department of Defense actually admitted it had contaminated 39,000 areas spreading across 19 million acres in the U.S. alone. U.S. military bases, at home and abroad, are among the most polluted places in the world.

One might argue that all imperialist bases ooze toxins. But even if this is true, the U.S. military’s environmental defilement still exceeds that of every other power. The Pentagon operates 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and territories abroad. Britain, France and Russia combined have only 30 foreign bases.

Seventy-five percent of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of Superfund sites, the most contaminated of all the sites, which qualify for clean-up grants from the government, were polluted by the Pentagon. Nine hundred of the 1,200 or so Superfund sites in the U.S. are abandoned military facilities, or sites that otherwise support military needs, often left littered with rusty barrels of contaminates.

Almost every military site in the U.S. is seriously contaminated.

In Hawai’i, the Pohakuloa military training camp is the U.S.’s largest live-ammunition training base in the Pacific. Here soldiers engage in everything from sniper practice to throwing grenades and firing vehicle-borne armaments, torpedoes, mortars, artillery and other munitions. The people on the island have tirelessly demanded an end to military contamination and the destruction of their formerly pristine lands and drinking water.

Military poisons its own soldiers

Numerous military bases have also poisoned local drinking water. Military Times reported in April that the Pentagon had for the first time released a full study on military installations where it has found higher-than-recommended levels of cancer-causing perflourinated compounds―perfluorooctane sulfonate or perfluorooctanoic acid―in either the base water drinking systems or groundwater.

Now, through an online registry, thousands of U.S. soldiers and veterans, are reporting cancer among soldiers and their spouses, birth defects, and developmental disabilities among children raised on or near military bases.

Open-air burn pits

Burn pit smoke. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.
Burn pit smoke. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

The U.S. military’s practice of using open-air burn pits to dispose of weapons-grade waste from the 2003 Iraq invasion has caused the cancer rates to skyrocket among both U.S. servicemen doing the burning and Iraqi civilians exposed to the contaminates.

On May 30, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs released an analysis of 43,000 veterans’ entries into a database used to study soldiers’ health. The study found that, in addition to the damage done to human lungs by smoke and particulate matter from these burn pits, explosion blast waves have caused cardiopulmonary symptoms in soldiers assigned to the pits.

Navajo land contaminated with uranium

Large swaths of Native lands have been contaminated by the military. U.S.-funded mining companies blasted 4 million tons of uranium for atomic weapons out of more than 500 mines on Navajo land between 1944 and 1986. The mines are now abandoned, leaving the Navajo nation with poisonous waste from the mines, and radioactive drinking water. Many Navajo people have died of kidney failure and cancer, conditions linked to uranium contamination. And new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show uranium in babies born now.

And then there’s the contamination that waging war brings. Iraq is littered with high levels of nuclear and dioxin contamination, the Guardian notes. Additionally, after the bombing by the U.S. in its first war against Iraq in 1991:

“Sewage flowed into the streets and rivers. Refineries and pipelines leaked oil into the soil. The economic sanctions imposed on Iraq meant little was repaired and land and cities have been poisoned. One observer in Basra in 2008 said people “live amid mud and faeces. … Childhood cancer rates in Basra are the highest in Iraq. The city’s salty tap water makes people ill. And there is more garbage on the streets than municipal collectors can make a dent in.”

U.S. use of toxic and radioactive depleted uranium weapons in Iraq have lead to an unprecedented number of birth defects there. These same U.S. weapons that poison people and the earth were used in Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq in both Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, North Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and Libya.

War-makers reject science, plan more polluting

But the U.S. Department of Defense is not done polluting. In November 2016, the U.S. Navy announced its plan to release 20,000 tons of environmental “stressors,” including heavy metals and explosives, into the coastal waters of the U.S. Pacific Northwest. It also plans to release every year some 4.7 to 14 tons of “metals with potential toxicity” into inland waters along the Puget Sound in Washington state.

In response to public concerns, a Navy spokeswoman said that heavy metals and depleted uranium are no more dangerous than any other metal, a statement that represents a clear rejection of scientific facts.

Exempt from all greenhouse gas treaties

As the largest consumer of fossil fuels in the world, the Pentagon is also one of the largest contributors to global warming. Yet the Department of Defense has a blanket exemption from all greenhouse gas treaties.

It is not just the Republicans who allow the military to befoul at will. President, Barak Obama issued an executive order requiring the U.S. government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, he exempted the Pentagon from even having to report its emissions.

Additionally, on May 24, while U.S. public schools, hospitals, bridges, highways, transit, housing, and clean water supply systems are crumbling and in need of repair, Democrats ignored these pressing needs. Instead, 131 Democrats in the House of Representatives joined with Republicans to pass a $717 billion Pentagon spending bill that includes a massive expansion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. With this comes more pollution, especially nuclear pollution.

It’s not just the Pentagon. CEOs of companies like Exxon-Mobile, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Northrup Grumman are laughing all the way to the bank. With no restrictions on the way the Pentagon operates, corporations that make up the Military-Industrial-Complex and service the U.S. military are bringing in enormous profits. For them, profits trump world pollution any day.

Endless war and no accountability

There are many reasons the Pentagon must be stopped and its budget dismantled and used to meet human needs. There’s its destructive and racist wars of aggression. There’s its relentless pursuit of military-corporate profits over people’s needs. But there’s also the U.S. military’s destruction of the planet. The Pentagon is not only killing people, it is killing the ecosystem as well. Part of endless war is endless pollution!

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