Janus’ Musings

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There seems to be no end in sight to the mess in Iraq. You’d imagine that after Saddam’s fall and with the 2nd (or 3rd) largest oil reserves in the world, some of the oil revenue would trickle back into helping people rebuild their lives. Not so, writes the NYT

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 is diverted to the black market, according to American military officials. Tankers are hijacked, drivers are bribed, papers are forged and meters are manipulated — and some of the earnings go to insurgents who are still killing more than 100 Iraqis a week.

“It’s the money pit of the insurgency,” said Capt. Joe Da Silva, who commands several platoons stationed at the refinery.

And then later, the article says:

Before the invasion of Iraq, eight gasoline stations dotted the region around Sharqat, an hour north of the refinery at the northern edge of Saddam Hussein’s home province, Salahuddin. Now there are more than 50.

Economic growth? Not exactly. It is one of the more audacious schemes that feed money to the black marketeers. Most tanker trucks intended for Sharqat never make it there. “It’s all a bluff,” said Taha Mahmoud Ahmed, the official who oversees fuel distribution in Salahuddin. “The fuel is not going to the stations. It’s going to the black market.”

Life for the ordinary citizen has changed dramatically.

With her fair skin and large brown eyes, Ms. Abood is considered a beauty in these parts. A Shiite teacher, she married Amjad Ubeid, a Sunni electrician, in 2002, back when the two sects lived peacefully in many neighborhoods. She was 28; he was 31. The young couple owned a three-story home in the comfortable Huriyah neighborhood of Baghdad. They filled it with the luxuries of a middle-class life: nice furniture, a CD player and a large television.

March 19 also marks the 5th anniversary of the start of the war. In another great analytical article in the NYT the author looks back on the war and talks about what went wrong (in hindsight) and what (if anything) good came out of the war:

It was not long, of course, before events in Iraq began giving everybody cause to reconsider. On April 9, the day the Marines entered Baghdad and used one of their tanks to help the crowd haul down Saddam’s statue in Firdos Square, American troops stood by while mobs began looting, ravaging palaces and torture centers, along with ministries, museums and hospitals. Late in the day, at the oil ministry, I discovered it was the only building marines had orders to protect. Turning to Jon Lee Anderson, a correspondent for The New Yorker who had been my companion that day, I saw shock mirrored in his face. “Say it ain’t so,” I said. But it was.

The harsh reality is that many Iraqis, at least by the time of the two elections held in 2005, had little zest for democracy, at least as Westerners understand it. This, too, was not fully understood at the time. To walk Baghdad’s streets on the voting days, especially during the December election that produced the Shiite-led government now in power, was inspiriting. With 12 million people casting ballots, a turnout of about 75 per cent, it was natural enough for President Bush to say Iraqis had embraced the American vision. In truth, what the majority produced was less a vote for democracy than a vote for a once-and-for-all, permanent transfer of power, from the Sunni minority that ruled in Iraq for centuries, to an impatient, and deeply wounded, if not outright vengeful, Shiite majority.


Written by janusmusings

March 17, 2008 at 1:07 am

Posted in Middle East

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