Between Iraq and a Hard Place
The U.S. Coast Guard has stationed members of its Strike Force in the Persian Gulf to respond to possible intentional oil spills by Iraq in retaliation for U.S. military action. The Strike Force, which responds to chemical and environmental crises, has been called upon in the recent past to manage hazardous debris from the space shuttle Columbia and to monitor anthrax threats following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — but this is the first time the unit has been deployed to prepare for environmental disasters provoked by war. During the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq released some 11 million gallons of crude oil into the sea; the Coast Guard says it will be prepared if the same thing happens again. “We know we’re not going to be able to contain it all, no one could,” said Chief Petty Officer Mike Jolly — but, he said, the environmental impact would be minimized.