Recently The New York Times (3/16/08) reported that up to one third of the oil supplies from an Iraqi oil refinery in Baiji are being stolen and sold on the black market. The reporter, Richard A Oppel, Jr., noted that most if not all of these stolen monies are going to insurgents and, thus, being used to kill Iraqis and Americans. Oppel writes: "The sea of oil under Iraq is supposed to rebuild the nation, then make it prosper. But at least one-third, and possibly much more, of the fuel from Iraq's largest refinery here [in Baiji] is diverted to the black market, according to American military officials." He continues to note that oil tankers are being hijacked, drivers are being bribed, papers forged "and some of the earnings go to insurgents who are still killing more than 100 Iraqis a week.
" This is a very unfortunate situation--not only that the oil is being diverted away from needed domestic purposes but that so many Iraqis are being killed every week, if we can believe these figures. One wonders why, after five years of this conflict, we are in this position. Why are we not able to control this kind of corruption? Why is not the Iraqi Army able to "stand up" and defend its own oil resources? (Remember when we were told that Iraqi oil revenues would pay for this entire conflict? Why then are we now spending upwards of 10 billion a month to fund this war?) Perhaps it is the case that those who are doing the stealing are people who want to heat their own homes, who want a steady stream of electricity into their living rooms. All reasonable desires. Perhaps it is also the case that those who are engaged in fueling the insurgency in this way are participating in the on-going feud between Shia, Sunni and Kurds.
It may also be the case that our "winning" with the Surge, as some claim, has not gone far enough to quell this kind of internal strife amongst the various parties. More recently, the fighting in Basra between Shia militias and Iraqi Army forces, indicates that even with our Surge troops in place we haven't helped these rival groups reconcile with each other. I wonder when we will realize that the force of armament alone, as General David Petraeus has often asserted, will not be sufficient to bring stability to Iraq. When will we realize that it is up to the politicians to effect national reconciliation? Perhaps it is a lot easier to wage military combat than slowly develop and foster the institutions required for democracy--those local and national forums where all can discuss and debate important issues.
John Barell, Author: Quest for Antarctica--A Journey of Wonder and Discovery (2007); Surviving Erebus--An Antarctic Adventure (2008); Developing More Curious Minds (2003). http://www.morecuriousminds.com