Kerry and Hagel Have a Chance to Shine, By Cleaning Up the Mess in Afghanistan

The president is moving forward on two key appointments that are a matter of life and death for millions. The 2.3 million who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and those who will serve in the next place service is required.

Former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel was, uniquely and surprisingly, enlisted in the United States Army during Vietnam. During the Reagan administration, he served as a deputy at the Veterans Administration. He resigned, reportedly, because his boss, the secretary, determined that Agent Orange was no worse than teenage acne. Chuck Hagel, the former sergeant, went on to serve as the chairman of the Agent Orange Settlement Fund. As Senator, he sponsored failed legislation to cap front line service in Iraq to one year. He is currently undergoing Senate confirmation to befor the secretary of the Department of Defense.

Senator John Kerry was, as is more common in the highest levels of the beltway, an officer in the United States Navy during Vietnam. What he saw; what he did lead him to protest the war. Notably, as a Naval reservists, he once publicly asked the Senate “We are also here to ask, and we are here to ask vehemently, where are the leaders of our country? Where is the leadership?” He risked his military service to do so. John Kerry is now the secretary of state.

Both men once belly crawled through the muck of Vietnam. Do they remember it vividly enough to take on “the Poo Pond” of Afghanistan or has it simply been too long since they smelled raw sewage?

Yes, that is correct. There is a massive, stagnant lake of human feces and urine that permeates the air of Kandahar Air Force Base. It is so disgusting that the military has to actively dispel rumors of people swimming in it. It is so well known that it has a Facebook page and it is so shocking to the senses, it had to be put to song and even a mini documentary.

The American Society for Safety Engineers reports that “for centuries mankind has recognized that human excreta and urine contain harmful bacteria” and must be quickly and safely disposed of because of the dangers to life and health.

People, in this case our warriors, who are exposed to raw sewage may develop a range of illnesses, including gastroenteritis, the life threatening Weil's disease, which attacks the kidneys and liver, to say nothing of the asthma, skin irritations and eye infections, but Washington knows this.

The Department of Defense knows or should know that of 620,000 Soviets who served in Afghanistan over the nine years of that war, “about 15,000 died there, but fully 470,000 became casualties, of which an astonishing 416,000 fell victim to infectious disease [hepatitis, typhoid fever, meningitis, malaria, dysentery],” says retired U.S. Marine Corps Col. Lawrence Kelley. In fact, the Soviet military had extraordinary high rates of infectious diseases (53%–69%) while in Afghanistan during the 1980’s. “The majority of which was caused by viral hepatitis, typhoid, dysentery, and respiratory tract infections.” A study produced by the Naval Medical Center San Diego concludes, “The prevention of typhoid depends primarily on the provision of uncontaminated water and effective sewage disposal.”

The Department of State and the Veterans Administration are clearly aware that diphtheria, tuberculosis, measles, and influenza are serious problems. Tuberculosis rates in Afghanistan are among the highest in the world.

So while being the secretary is normally a glamorous job, in this case, belly crawling with the grunts through the muck is the right thing to do. Secretary Kerry and soon-to-be Secretary Hagel, you are now the leaders you once looked for. It is time to show the troops that sh*t doesn’t just roll down hill and real leaders clean up the mess even if that mess was made by others; no matter how disgusting.