Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Free Markets, Iraqi Style

Welcome to capitalism, Baghdad!
Many Iraqis say basic services are at their worst level in decades. More than four years of war has crippled infrastructure while unrelenting violence has hobbled reconstruction efforts.

To make matters worse, summer temperatures can remain above 40 degrees centigrade (104 degrees Fahrenheit) even at night.

Some residents say they get electricity in Baghdad and other provinces for around two hours a day, while water supplies are often cut for days at a time. Motorists sometimes queue for half a day to get petrol.[...]

"I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I see the situation with fuel in a country that sits on a sea of oil," [Taxi driver Mustafa al-Zubaidi] said, before edging closer to the petrol station.
Mr. al-Zubaidi, here's a reason for that. From an article on the BBC website dated March 17, 2005:
Two years ago today - when President George Bush announced US, British and Allied forces would begin to bomb Baghdad - protesters claimed the US had a secret plan for Iraq's oil once Saddam had been conquered.

In fact there were two conflicting plans, setting off a hidden policy war between neo-conservatives at the Pentagon, on one side, versus a combination of "Big Oil" executives and US State Department "pragmatists".

"Big Oil" appears to have won. The latest plan, obtained by Newsnight from the US State Department was, we learned, drafted with the help of American oil industry consultants.
The official story is somewhat different, of course:
Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani told lawmakers that acts of sabotage by insurgents and people drilling holes in fuel pipelines to steal refined oil products were a major reason for petrol shortages.

"In just one stretch of pipeline between Baghdad and Baiji, we found 1,488 holes," he said, referring to a key pipeline running from a refinery in the city of Baiji, 180 km (112 mile) south to the capital. "It doesn't function as a pipeline ... it's more like a sieve."
An excuse which is ludicrous on its face. Where is an average Iraqi citizen going to go with refined petroleum, which needs still further processing to turn it into usable oil products? Insurgents popping pipelines, while certainly a possibility, run into allied patrols regularly, as nearly all of our "temporary bases" are strung along oil pipelines, and one of the first things the Bush administration secured in the invasion were oil production and transport facilities.

Nonetheless, the insurgents have reason to blow up as much of the oil infrastructure as they can: to prevent the aforementioned privatization plans by foreigners hellbent on exploiting Iraqis. Which sort of makes them less insurgents and more patriots, in this limited instance. Think of this aspect of the struggle as the Boston Tea Party, if you need an historical framework.

It's not just the energy and electricity services that are down and out. Basic services like water supply, heavily dependent in a desert country like Iraq on electricity (which of course, requires oil to fuel it and cabling to deliver it), is failing badly, as well as food delivery systems.

These people would be happy for a bath and a cool night's sleep. Is it any wonder that, the longer we keep troops in Iraq, the more insurgents we're generating? That's about ALL that's being generated in Iraq right now.