The Pentagon’s war on the environment

Agent Orange destroyed Vietnam’s wildlife and exposed millions to illnesses and birth defects.

Originally published in Liberation Newspaper, May 2015

Having an “environmentalist” or “climate justice” outlook is not just about what an individual can do in their home or consumer choices. It means going after the real culprits of environmental destruction. The U.S. military and weapons manufacturers are among the worst perpetrators of toxic practices in the world.

The U.S. military tops the charts for polluters: the most fossil fuels burned, the release of the most greenhouse gases and the biggest source of mercury released into the environment poisoning rivers, lakes and oceans. The Pentagon war machine is the biggest dumper of hazardous materials and medical waste pollution.

Iraq: human and environmental disaster

U.S. imperialist war is a major contributor to climate change. Between the years 2003 and 2007, the Iraq war alone emitted more carbon dioxide than 60 percent of the world’s nations.

The U.S. military used tank armor and munitions made out of depleted uranium since the beginning of the first U.S. war against the people of Iraq in 1991. DU contaminates the air, water and soil. Those with chronic exposure develop cancerous, genetic, reproductive and neurological illnesses—continuing the death and destruction long after the official war may end.

The U.S. military has washed their hands of any responsibility of illnesses or deaths for people exposed to DU. Veterans have difficulty accessing treatment and disability for related illnesses.

Fallujah, a major city in Iraq where U.S. forces carried out atrocities on civilians from the onset of the war, experienced “the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied,” according to researcher Dr. Chris Busby. They did this despite the world’s condemnation of similar U.S. atrocities in Vietnam, which to this day experiences widespread birth defects and more than 300 times the recommended levels of dioxin as a consequence of U.S. chemical warfare.

The environmental destruction that came with the Iraq war turned the country from a food exporter into one that now imports over 80 percent of its food. The country is struggling with extreme desertification, leaving it less self-sufficient and more reliant on leading global traders.

Nuclear testing

It is the same story with oppressed and colonized people back home. On Navajo lands in the United States, over 2,000 abandoned mines across millions of acres of land are contaminated with uranium mining tails, or the waste from uranium extraction. As a result, the Navajo people, also known as the Dineh, suffer higher rates of cancer and respiratory problems.

In Guam, which was taken as a U.S. colonial possession in the Spanish-American War and is still controlled to this day, the indigenous Chamorro have alarmingly high rates of cancer because of U.S. military nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s. The people of the Southwest and South Pacific have experienced the testing of over 100 U.S. nuclear weapons, just counting those that are officially acknowledged.

The Pentagon war machine will not slowly decay like the rusting barrels of solvents and unused ammunition rounds in U.S. bases around the world. Like
clockwork, it churns out destruction, death and disease with each military adventure. To save the people and the planet, all people of conscience must stand up, organize against and defeat U.S. imperialism.


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