Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Rebuilding what? Where?

John Howard says that Australia is sending more troops to Iraq. On the pretext of "helping to build". Wouldn't it be more realistic to provide building materials and pay some Iraqi architects, I mean what would an army build? Hmm. Where exactly in Iraq are they going, and what might they build there...

Australia sends "taskforce"
February 22, 2005 - 3:58PM - smh. (or view here)

Australia will send another 450 troops to Iraq to provide security for Japanese military engineers in the southern province of Al Muthanna.

Providing security for Japanese military engineers. Hmm.

Mr Howard said... Al Muthanna was one of the safer parts of Iraq and was far less dangerous than areas around Baghdad and further north.

"It's remained relatively benign," he told reporters today.

"Relatively benign"? Al Muthanna is the former site of project 922. A chemical weapons production facility built in 1975 that produced nerve agents and mustard gas between 1982 and 1991. Known variously as the al-Muthanna facility, the State Enterprise for Pesticide Production (SEPP), and or the Samarra Drying Industries Plant. During operation, project 922 was the largest CW agent production facility in Iraq.

Things got a bit leaky in June 1990, no that's not an information euphemism - things got literally leaky. The seals on the storage containers started breaking down. So stuff was stored in smaller containers to help control leakages. You wouldn't want to be lugging around a big leaky tub of nerve agent and drop it everywhere, in large amounts.

The site was bombed during Gulf War 91. Heavily. UNSCOM later investigated and found that co-alition bombing had released contaminants. The UNSCOM Chemical Destruction Group hung around the site trying to clean it up between 1992 and 1994.

Biological agents were also tested in Muthanna, including anthrax, botulinum toxin, aflatoxin, and ricin. Small amounts of botulinum toxin were produced at the Muthanna facility. You can read more about the Muthana facility here.

Anyway, back to the present. Japanese troops have been stationed near Samawah, Muthanna's capital. Although apparently under Japan's constitution they aren't to partake in armed combat and are supposed to be building stuff instead. Apart from Samawah, Muthanna has a pretty low population density, which makes one wonder exactly what Japanese troops are constructing, and for whom.

Other troops stationed in Muthanna, presumably to provide cover for Japanese troops who are building things, are mostly UK. British to be specific, since the Netherlands pulled out (hope you're sending your boys and girls for medicals when they get home, Netherlands).

Muthanna is a southern province bordering Saudi Arabia - where all the oil is.

Update: what I meant was, Al Muthana is very near other places that have a lot of oil. There is not much oil in Al Muthana itself, as far as I can tell. The biggest thing in Al Muthana, is an old weapons factory.

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