Metro-East News

Roger That: New book examines link between cancer, burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan

Mike Fitzgerald
Mike Fitzgerald

In his new book “The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers,” author Joseph Hickman reports that burn pits were a constant and ubiquitous presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result, U.S. service members sent there came home with life-threatening conditions such as cancers because of what the burn pits were built on top of: the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons program, according to an in-depth story on the book in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper.

From the moment the United States launched its campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon ordered the use of open-air burn pits to dispose of the wars’ massive volume of waste. The military relied heavily upon these sprawling ditches, which burned around the clock to consume the tens or even hundreds of tons of junk generated daily. By May 2003, according to Hickman, there were more than 250 burn pits at U.S. bases peppered across the two nations.

Hickman conducted a statistical study on a select sample of the thousands of military members who said they were experiencing health effects from their exposure to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the help of Seton Hall Law Center, he found that five of the six bases that saw the worst health cases, such as cancers and untreatable bronchial illnesses, were located on or near documented chemical warfare sites, where chemical weapons were left over from Saddam Hussein’s rule. Those locations include Mosul, Taji, Tikrit, Tallil and Balad, where Beau Biden, the late son of Vice President Joe Biden, spent some time serving. And of the 112 service members and contractors Hickman found who served at both Camp Victory and Joint Base Balad like Beau Biden, who passed away last year after a battle with brain cancer, 31 suffered from different forms of cancers and brain tumors.


A recently issued infidelity study, performed by, concluded that Colorado had more than 207,920 accounts created with Ashley Madison, the website that hooks up frisky people who already are married or in a relationship.

The No. 1 location in Colorado? The Air Force Academy.

Hackers lifted the company’s data last summer, prompting water-cooler talk about who might have participated in the cheating, the Colorado Gazette reported. analyzed Colorado’s 139 cities and towns with at least 2,000 residents. Using the Ashley Madison database, counted how many accounts were created in each ZIP code.

The Air Force Academy boasted 464 accounts, or 12.5 percent of its overall population, according to


The U.S. military is struggling to provide adequate therapy sessions for thousands of active-duty troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, a massive study released Thursday concludes, according to USA Today.

The RAND Corp. study of 40,000 cases, the largest ever, found that only a third of troops with PTSD and less than a quarter who are clinically depressed receive the minimum number of therapy sessions after being diagnosed.

A RAND review of U.S. military and Department of Veterans Affairs treatment guidelines concluded that troops diagnosed with PTSD should receive at least four therapy sessions within eight weeks or at least two sessions to manage newly prescribed medications.


The U.S. Air Force might have paid contractors tens of millions of dollars in unwarranted profits, according to a new report by the Department of Defense Inspector General (IG).

The report concluded the Air Force did not effectively negotiate labor profit and fees with contractors providing depot maintenance services on F-15, C-5, C-130 and C-17 aircraft at Robins Air Force Base. As a result, the IG estimated that three contractors — Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Honeywell — were collectively paid between $9.6 million and $24.9 million in questionable profits and fees.

The IG reviewed only a small subset of Robins depot maintenance contracts — 3 out of 33 — so the overall amount of questionable or excessive contractor profit payments could be much higher. The three reviewed contracts are sole-source, public-private partnership (PPP) awards with an estimated value of more than $590 million through fiscal year 2019.

The IG found that Air Force contracting officials did not properly assess the relative difficulty of the work. It determined that the contracts entailed a relatively low performance risk to the contractors, which would have justified a reduced profit.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000