November 9, 2009: KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton, is being sued. The lawsuit alleges that by incinerating carcinogenic toxic waste in open-air "burn pits" in Iraq, KBR may have poisoned upwards of a 100,000 people.
Items burned (according to the lawsuit) include:
- biohazard materials
- dangerous chemicals
Of course, given the quantities of toxic chemical weapon residues - such as the known carcinogen mustard gas - left over from the bombing of Iraqi government arms dumps during the First (and probably the second) Gulf War, it's going to be pretty hard to pick out the effects of someone buring gash.
Also, there's likely to be more to this story than meets the eye - notice also how some parts of that list don't pass the "smell test"? Burning asbestos? Good luck with that… Cremating human and animal remains? Unlikely to be carcinogenic and hardly a reasonable thing to sue a sanitation contractor for. And "medical supplies" surely includes "items used in smallpox inoculations. Basically, KBR are being sued for buring materials that it would be entirely reasonable for a cleanup contractor to burn - this alone suggests the sort of malice of prosecution inherent in lawfare - and as the news story proves, lawfare and blackwashing can prove to be two faces of the same coin. Realistically anyone cleaning up waste in Iraq is going to be faced with the choice of burning or burying waste - and arguably burying it would be a worse option ecologically speaking - even without the devastation of conflict, terrorism and governmental collapse, the Middle East is not well known for its plethora of recycling facilities and first world style waste incinerators…
Game and Story Use
- This gives an example of how not every threat in a war zone appears on the battlefield.
- For another idea of chemical dangers posed to troops and civilians in or near a war, see Agent Orange.
- As if there wasn't enough danger and disaster in Iraq at the moment, now you've got non-battlefield poison smoke and the risk of cancer to worry about as well. A very dangerous place for a campaign just got even scarier.
- In a cyberpunk setting, a megacorp would go to any lengths to keep something like this quiet. The PCs could be hired to uncover, or bury, such an incident.
- Lawfare is always an obstacle for any state idiotic enough to submit to it - this sort of case being brought against government contractors (or even the government itself) being a typical lawfare tactic.
- PCs trying to clean up a devastated area might be the target of this sort of dirty tricks campaign by their political opponents (or business rivals) - or, if of an unscrupulous bent, might try the same thing themselves.
- For a more free-wheeling campaign, a sufficiently robust corporation (or government) might hire some 'deniable muscle' to dispose of the lawfare activists - or at least to persuade them that their campaign is more trouble than it is worth.
- The great pits of burning gash might even just make good set dressing for an 'after the battle' montage - in almost any era, although the earlier the setting, the higher the percentage of human and animal remains likely to be in the pyres. Cleaning up after a siege will be even less fun - besides the dead, there will be all the accumulated filth, broken equipment and general, unrecyclable crap to burn.
- What happens when you take back territory from the orcs? Well, someone still needs to clean up the mess they made, don't they? And orcs make a lot of mess.