Jon Stewart, long a passionate advocate for compensating 9/11 first responders, was in Washington Tuesday on behalf of a cause that he says has many similarities. Stewart is lobbying Congress for legislation that would assist Iraq and Afghanistan veterans exposed to burn pits, the Hill reports. More than 200,000 veterans say they have suffered illnesses including cancers from exposure to the open-air pits at military bases, in which everything from human waste to chemicals to surplus munitions were burned, reports the Military Times. Advocates say that since the Department of Veteran Affairs demands that veterans prove a link between the toxic fumes and their illnesses, only a fraction of victims have received aid.
"The parallels are incredible. I'd say the only difference between what happened with the 9/11 community and what's happening with the veteran community is the 9/11 community was injured by toxic exposure from an enemy attack," Stewart tells Fox News. "The veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have been injured by the United States. We did this to ourselves. The smoke, the toxins, those pits were dug by contractors hired by the DOD. They knew about it." Stewart spoke Tuesday at a press conference with Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz, co-sponsors of a bill that would extend benefits to veterans exposed to toxins at bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. "Today, we plant a flag on this," Stewart said. “I can’t imagine anybody wouldn’t be on board with this cause.” (Read more Jon Stewart stories.)