Smells Like Freedom

Check out these photographs by US government investigators, taken earlier this year and released late last week, showing mega-contractor KBR’s practice of open-pit garbage burning in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Dick Cheney-connected company has been sued up and down over this by sick soldiers. KBR’s defense? “The military, not KBR, decides…”

If these pictures aren’t evocative enough, here’s an excerpt from testimony given to the US Senate by former KBR employee Rick Lamberth:

I saw KBR employees burn [prohibited] items in burn pits in Iraq. From as close as ten feet away, I saw nuclear, biological, and medical waste, including bloody cotton gauze, plastics, tires, petroleum cans, oil and lubricants thrown into burn pits. Vermin, wild dogs, and jackals would roam the pits, carrying off debris. I personally witnessed this type of activity occurring in Iraq at camps at Balad, Taji, Tikrit, Kirkuk, Camp Bucca and Cam Cropper and in Afghanistan at Bagram Airfield and Camp Phoenix, all among the largest bases we operate in these theaters.

The burn pits emitted plumes of smoke and gave off a foul smell. You could see mile-high clouds of smoke coming from the pits. Sometimes the smoke was light but mostly it was dark black. The ash that came from the pits looked like burned notebook paper and fell like a black, sooty snowfall. The ash covered buildings and the ground like pollen dust. Soot from the pits would cover your clothes and stick to the walls of buildings.

… KBR was supposed to site burn pits downwind from living quarters. KBR routinely ignored this guidance. … By continuing to use burn pits and claiming that these sites are “expeditionary,” KBR is able to drag out the life of the [logistics] contract and continue to get taxpayer dollars.

… I witnessed burn pit violations on a weekly basis. When I tried to report violations, I was told by the head of KBR’s Health Safety and Environment division to shut up and keep it to myself. At one point, KBR management threatened to sue me for slander if I spoke out about these violations.

David Isenberg discusses the new government report at his Huffington Post blog.

KBR isn’t the only company operating burn pits for the US in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the report explains, in 2008, the Pentagon continued KBR’s logistics contract, while adding DynCorp International and Fluor Intercontinental to the mix.