Seething oil workers

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu May 1 06:29:20 MDT 2003


At Iraqi Oil Plant, Bitterness and Idleness
Workers' Frustrations Mount in South as Operations Remain Stalled

By Peter S. Goodman
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, May 1, 2003; Page A01

ZUBAIR, Iraq, April 30 -- The oil workers stood listlessly in front of
the plant, hair blown brittle by a dusty wind, as they shared cigarettes
and bitterness for lack of anything else to do. They complained about
the looting that has left them without a chair to sit on, let alone a
tool to wield. They worried about whether the state oil company can
continue to pay them. They wondered when crude might again flow thick
through their oil-gas separation plant, bound for the refinery up the
road in Basra.

Then, a sparkling GMC Yukon with Kuwaiti license plates pulled up to the
gate. Out stepped a round-faced American in blue jeans and a khaki
baseball cap bearing the letters "KBR," the name of the Halliburton Co.
subsidiary assisting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with the
reconstruction of southern Iraq's sprawling and prodigious oil
facilities. The KBR technician, Jim Humphries, breezed past the
gathering with a perfunctory nod and entered the plant. Minutes later he
headed back to his car, refusing a request for a report on what he saw
inside.

For many in the crowd, it was more than they could bear. They were
already seething at the damage from the widespread looting that
accompanied the end of the fighting. Many were frustrated that the
United States has yet to put in place a functioning oil ministry,
leaving managers at the giant South Oil Co. without the authority to buy
new tools, vehicles and machinery. Now, here was another indignity, a
moment that typified what many here increasingly see as the imperious
manner and overly casual work ethic of the victorious forces overseeing
the revival of the oil industry in this war-torn country -- a country
that holds the world's second-largest reserves of oil.

"You should cooperate," scolded Mohammed Mohee, an instrument
technician, speaking in Arabic, as Humphries shrugged, backed away, then
got in his car and drove off. "KBR just comes and gives orders, but they
don't do anything," Mohammed continued. "They don't give us anything to
work with. This is our oil. This is our city, our company. Our country.
We want to clear away the damage and move forward. We have no tools, no
instruments. No spare parts. They do nothing. They just look and leave."

full: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A62802-2003Apr30.html

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