The subtleties surrounding the sensitive role oil plays in the Iraqi war
may have eluded the United States Army. Deep in some newspaper coverage
yesterday was a report that the 101st Airborne Division had named one
central Iraq outpost Forward Operating Base Shell and another Forward
Operating Base Exxon.
The Pentagon shrugged off concerns that now might not be the time to
mention the names of foreign oil companies on Iraqi soil. "The forward
bases are normally refueling points they're basically gas stations in
the desert," a Pentagon spokeswoman said. "Whether or not we're going to
lecture everyone that, due to political sensitivities, you should be
careful what you call your gas stations, I don't know if that's something
that should be done or would be done."
Neither Royal Dutch/Shell nor Exxon knew about the Iraqi bases. Cerris
Tavinor, a spokeswoman for Shell, heard of the base only when a reporter
"We don't have anything in Iraq," Ms. Tavinor said. "Clearly they pick
their names for whatever they want to use."
Tom Cirigliano, a spokesman for Exxon Mobil, said he first heard of the
bases when he read a press review on Wednesday morning, but the mention
did not bother the company, the world's largest publicly traded
"My first reaction when I saw it was this was not a political statement in
any way by the men and women of 101st," Mr. Cirigliano said. "I think the
101st was being pretty creative and naming things after what reminds them
of home. And I think that's pretty neat."
But others involved in the oil industry say the Pentagon's indifference to
the names of the bases was poorly considered. "You have this atmosphere of
suspicion and apprehension now, and that's just among your allies," Jan
Stuart, head of research for global energy futures at ABN Amro, the Dutch
investment bank, said. "And in this atmosphere, you call your own supply
effort this. It's mind-boggling the degree of insensitivity. There is
little doubt the Americans will win the war, but you have to wonder how
people who are so insensitive are going to win the peace."
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