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EXCLUSIVE –  Army Gen. David Petraeus, who was instrumental in guiding U.S. troops during the Iraq War, says that America’s service members should be receiving assistance for the mounting medical issues that they fear have come as a result of being exposed to burn pits while stationed at military bases.

Petraeus, the former commander of U.S. Central Command and Multi-National Force-Iraq, said it’s time for the service members exposed to the dangers of burn pits — and who say they have been abandoned by the Veterans Affairs Department and Washington – to be provided with proper care.

The article goes on to state the following:

“It’s a sacred obligation,” Petraeus, a retired four-star general, told Fox News during an exclusive interview at his Manhattan office. “And by and large, our country does an extraordinary amount for our veterans and for those who are serving in uniform, and for their families.”

“But comparing what our VA does to any other country’s care of veterans…this is the gold standard. Certainly, a gold standard that can always improve, without question. This is an issue, though, where we have a sacred obligation, and we need to meet that obligation.”

The haphazard method of getting rid of trash, chemicals and even medical waste — in open-air burn pits — during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan generated numerous pollutants, including carbon monoxide and dioxin — the same chemical compound found in Agent Orange, the dangerous defoliant used during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971.

As early as Operation Desert Storm in 1991, burn pits were used on U.S. military bases in Iraq. At the height of the Iraq War in 2005, more than 300,000 troops were stationed there and potentially exposed to the smoke and fumes from burn pits. Estimates place the number of burn pits around that time at 63.

Thousands of veterans and former contractors returned from the Middle East and have developed cancer, respiratory problems and blood disorders from what they claim is their exposure to toxins from the flaming pits. More than 140,000 active-service members and retirees have put their names on a Burn Pit Registry created by the Veterans Administration.

Petraeus offered an explanation when asked about why burn pits were used on military bases, conceding that the realities of war kept concerns about how to dispose of waste a low priority at that time.

“At that time we weren’t worried about burn pits. We were worried about just getting enough water for our troops in the really hot summer,” he says. “We were looking forward to the time where we might get some real food, real rations, as opposed to MREs and so forth.”

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