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U.S. military protected Baghdad's Oil Ministry from being ransacked

by Duane J. Roberts Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 8:01 PM

While most other public buildings in Baghdad have been left unguarded, the huge Oil Ministry headquarters on Palestine Street has been ringed by more than 70 US troops and protected by up to a dozen or more armoured personnel carriers

I strongly disagree with the following article's assertion that the U.S. military was sent to protect Baghdad's Ministry of Oil from being ransacked.

It's my opinion they were sent there for the purpose of ensuring that Exxon-Mobil, Chevron-Texaco, Royal Dutch Shell, and British Petroleum got a chance to loot it first!

These thieves just don't want the common folks to take anything before they roll into town!


Duane J. Roberts

From The Australian

US protection pours oil on mistrust's fire

By Peter Wilson in Baghdad

April 15, 2003

THE MINISTRY of Irrigation, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Oil, the Iraq Olympic Committee and the Sahat Antar Telephone Exchange.

All but one of these Baghdad public buildings has been looted, burned, or destroyed in the past few weeks.

Even the Kindi Hospital, Baghdad's largest, has been attacked by looters while the US military controlling most of the city said it was not its job to protect every institution from the breakdown of law and order following the US-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime.

The glaring exception is the Ministry of Oil, the nerve centre of Iraq's lucrative oil export industry and the only one of these major public sites to be specially protected by US troops.

While most other public buildings in Baghdad have been left unguarded, the huge Oil Ministry headquarters on Palestine Street has been ringed by more than 70 US troops and protected by up to a dozen or more armoured personnel carriers.

That glaring contrast has convinced many angry Iraqis that Washington's invasion of Iraq was motivated by its own commercial interests and the state of international oil markets rather than its professed concern for the Iraqi public and its democratic rights.

Iraqis had long been told by Saddam Hussein's regime that any US invasion of Iraq would be motivated by oil, and the special protection of the Ministry of Oil has become a public relations disaster that Washington is likely to regret.

The growing scepticism about American motives in Iraq is now the greatest threat to US chances of installing a new Iraqi government with some chance of enjoying popular support.

Middle-class Iraqis have complained bitterly over the past week that the looting of ministry buildings will have to be paid for by taxpayers, while Muslims have been deeply offended by the failure of US troops to protect shrines such as the 1200-year-old Abu Hanifa Mosque, which had its cherished clock tower blasted in a US attack.

"People only have to use their eyes to see what the Americans are really interested in," Hayder Daoud Salman said yesterday.

"Everyone is looking around at what the Americans are protecting and what they are leaving to the Ali Babas (looters), and knowing why they came here."

Salman, a television repairman, was working yesterday as a spokesman for armed Shi'ite Muslims protecting the Kindi hospital.

The new informal Shi'ite militia began by protecting the hospital in the mostly Shi'ite slum area of Saddam City but has now expanded its role to protect several other hospitals like Kindi.

"I spoke to a (US) officer and asked them to secure the hospital and he said 'I am not allowed to protect you'. I said 'can just one tank stay so everybody can see it and they will leave the hospital alone', and he said 'I'm following orders, we can't do that.' Yesterday the soldiers came for two hours; today nothing.

"Instead it is only the Ministry of Oil they protect. I think it is a message that their only interest is oil. They are showing us the truth. My personal opinion is there is a message here for other countries that America is interested in something bigger (than Iraq)."

The same argument has been aired by dozens of angry Baghdad residents in interviews with The Australian in recent days, following similar sentiments expressed in southern Iraq over the previous two weeks. The breaking of the coalition's promise to maintain law and order and basic services such as water, power and hospitals had stoked suspicions that Washington was not really driven by the needs of the Iraqi people.

A US military spokesman yesterday defended the high-profile protection of the Oil Ministry, saying the US military had no regrets about the way it had handled the law and order challenges in Baghdad.

"Our military presence, given the size of the city, is very small," said Major Paul Konopka of the US Marines 1st Regimental Combat Team. "It was appropriate to the size of the (Iraqi) military force we faced but it is very small in terms of protecting the whole city.

"So when you had the looting, we could only protect so much of it. In that situation it's like first aid. You have to set priorities and stop the bleeding, then you can do other things later. The first priority was things like water, power and sanitation, things the Iraqi people told us they wanted."

On that basis, why would the Ministry of Oil rank above basic services, such as hospitals?

"The answer is obvious. Oil fuels everything it fuels hospitals, trucks that deliver food, everything."

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