Gulf War on the Environment?

Operation Iraqi Freedom’s Global Warming implications are, of course, only a fraction of the conflict’s environmental impact: both directly and indirectly.  Over at Red, Green, and Blue, Ranjit Arab has an interesting post up: Tangled Up in Green: The Five Years War.

Just as many warned against going to war in Iraq for other reasons, there were those who highlighted the environmental risks and raised concerns early on about dealing with environmental problems.

Raw sewage courses through canals and riverbeds. Toxic clouds from burning oil and smoldering buildings billow into the air, raining particles on the countryside. Heavy metals and a stew of chemicals from bombed industrial plants spill into the soil and pollute drinking-water supplies. Iraq doesn’t look as bad as a smoky Kuwait did in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, but Iraq’s air, land, and water have been battered in 2003, and some experts say more Iraqi civilians will die from post-war environmental problems than have been killed during the fighting.

The environmental impacts have not just been on humans, but also natural life.  As Arab highlights, a challenge exists in understanding just what has happened and is going on in terms of environmental impacts:

The real problem … is that no proper, detailed assessment has been done to give us a current analysis of environmental damage caused by this war.

It is easy to see how, along with so many other elements of ‘normality’, environmental impact studies and remediation efforts might be difficult to execute amid conflict, among the continuing conflict of Iraq.

One should realize that not all the “impacts” are necessarily negative, in terms of the environment, with the efforts to restore the marshes of southern Iraq perhaps the greatest signal of (and effort for) positive impact.

The point to realize, clearly, is that there has been an environmental impact from the conflict. From the pollution caused by bombs (suicide bombs or otherwise), oil leaks, polluting electrical generation, land and water impacts, etc … This currently untallied impact should be added to all the other costs associated with The Three Trillion Dollar War.


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