Following the resolution of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, American troops returned home to a rousing welcome from a grateful public. But for many of these veterans, their war had just begun. Widespread incidents of memory loss, eyesight impairment and cancer were reported among the troops, and their offspring born after the conflict often presented with physical abnormalities and severely debilitating conditions like leukemia. Were these the effects of some highly advanced form of post-traumatic stress syndrome, or something else?
The troubling answers to that mystery lay the foundation for Born at the Burnt Land, a thought-provoking exploration of the deadly unforeseen complications which linger long after a war has come to a close. In the case of the Gulf War, these complications weren't limited to American troops. Many Iraqi citizens experienced these symptoms as well, particularly those who resided closest to the regions of battle.
Thus, health investigators began an exhaustive search to uncover the possible culprits behind these mystifying illnesses and maladies. The single common denominator among the afflicted was an exposure to depleted uranium, a hazardous element used to create various destructive weapons of war. Essentially a waste product of the nuclear industry, depleted uranium is an inexpensive ingredient used in the construction of protective armor and projectile weaponry such as missiles and bullets. It also contains the most elevated toxicity level of all the elements, and burns at an alarmingly high temperature. When even the smallest amount of depleted uranium is absorbed within the body, its presence remains for an entire life span as it "attaches" itself to a person's DNA and causes irreparable damage.
In spite of these findings, United States government and Iraqi Ministry of Health officials hesitate to confirm the harmful consequences associated with the use of depleted uranium. The film speculates that this defiant stance is motivated in large part by greed. After all, weapons manufacturing is big business, and the banning of depleted uranium could result in a significant loss of revenue. Relying on the expertise of assorted scientists and health officials, Born at the Burnt Land makes a compelling and harrowing argument for change, and successfully shows that the wounds of war can often resound for generations.