The Toxic Legacy of War

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“The litany of horrors is gut-wrenching.” That’s how Kelley Beaucar Vlahos describes the countless deformities that have appeared in Iraqi babies since the first Gulf War in 1991 due to the environmental impact of war on that country. The list is horrific: two-headed babies, eyeless, brain tumors in children younger than two years old. “It is widely accepted among scientists, doctors, and aid workers that war is to blame,” Vlahos writes in the April 2011 issue of The American Conservative.

The presence of so much expended weaponry, waste and rubble, massive burn pits on U.S. bases, and oil fires has left a toxic legacy that is poisoning the air, the water, and the soil in Iraq. Add highly controversial armaments that the U.S. has only hinted at using in this war–such as depleted uranium–and you get a potentially radioactive landscape giving rise to doomed children and stillborn babies.

While the Department of Defense denies the claim that war efforts result in long-term illnesses, Vlahos makes the argument that “[i]n a sense, what is happening throughout Iraq today isthe 21st-century’s Agent Orange.” And like the ill effects of the herbicide dumped over Vietnam decades ago, Vlahos sees the American public neatly tucking away the ugly memories of another failed war, this time in the Middle East.

Anyone not ready to buy so easily into President Obama’s claim in his State of the Union address that “our commitment [in Iraq] has been kept” will be served well by reading Vlahos’ exploration into what we are leaving behind.

Source: The American Conservative

Panel image by familymwr, licensed under Creative Commons.

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