Monday, August 16, 2004
Where's the ice cream truck?
Over the past month the insurgents have brought civilian trucking into central Iraq to a virtual standstill. Three months ago, for example, 1,500 Jordanian trucks plied Highway 10 between Amman and Baghdad every day. Now only 30 a day make the perilous trip. Abdul Majid Habashneh, head of the Truckers Association of Jordan, calls the situation "a disaster." He says 30 Jordanian drivers have been killed in the past year, and 300 trucks have been either stolen or lost. Only 4 percent of Jordan's fleet of independent trucks (which once totaled 11,500) are now operating. "It's never been this bad, even during the [beginning] of the war," says Habashneh.
The shutdown of the Jordanian drivers follows upon the withdrawal of Turkish drivers.
U.S. officials and Iraqi puppets are of course denying that the actions of the insurgents are having any effect.
"Critical supplies such as food, fuel, spare parts and ammunition will continue to be delivered on time and where needed," says Maj. Richard Spiegel , a spokesman for the Coalition's convoy operations. True, military convoys aren't being attacked for the most part. But many less vital Coalition supplies come in civilian trucks. Muhammed Suleiman Saley, a Jordanian, was carrying ice cream and meat to U.S. bases in Tikrit a month ago when he and his truck disappeared without a trace.
Iraq's Interior minister, Falah al-Nakib, claims the truck attacks "haven't affected the economy of the country yet." But Iraq is heavily dependent on imports of everything from wheat to consumer products, and nearly all goods come in by road. Tanker trucks even bring in most of the oil-rich country's gasoline, and lines have been steadily growing at the pumps.
The sabotage campaign, combined with unrest in southern areas, has cut oil exports from the Basra terminal from an average of 1.9 million barrels a day to 840,000. That's one of the major factors that sent worldwide oil prices above $45 per barrel last week for the first time in decades. "We will be able to pick up these gangsters in a very short time, and we are working on it," vows al-Nakib. That may be wishful thinking. A U.S. contractor says there isn't enough manpower to significantly upgrade highway security. The supply effort is too big and, ominously, the insurgents are getting more aggressive, not less.