The Bush administration, U.S. troops, and Iraqi citizens aren’t the only people preparing for war: Employees of American companies that specialize in extinguishing fires from oil wells are also readying themselves for what’s to come. Iraq’s economy, Middle Eastern political stability, and U.S. interests all dictate that the oil industry cannot be a casualty of war — so any fires would have to be controlled, fast. That’s a tall order in a country whose oil wells are spread over swamps and mountains, and are often far from water sources that could be used to help control flames. During the Gulf War, Iraqi troops blew up 700 oil wells in Kuwait, sending the country into a nine-month environmental nightmare the aftereffects of which are still being felt. An even worse scenario could unfold in Iraq, home to the world’s second-largest oil supply, if wells are tainted with chemical or biological weapons and oil fields are booby-trapped to make firefighting difficult and deadly.
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