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[casi] US forces name outposts in Iraq after Oil Companies

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Published on Saturday, March 29, 2003 by the Guardian/UK

US Army's Desert Filling Stations Add Fuel to Fire
by Oliver Burkeman in Washington

In a war where public perceptions are arguably as important as the military
strategy, the US army appears to have handed a huge public relations
victory to those who believe the conflict in Iraq is all about oil. The
101st Airborne Division has chosen to name two of its main outposts in the
desert Forward Operating Base Exxon and Forward Operating Base Shell. When
US troops seizing the port city of Umm Qasr raised the stars and stripes
there last week, they were swiftly ordered to remove it for fear of giving
the impression of being conquerors, not liberators.

But Forward Operating Base Shell has caught on so comprehensively that the
Washington Post is now carrying it as the dateline in its news reports from
the base. All of which  seemed to have baffled representatives of the two oil
firms themselves, who  only heard about the names when the news reports
started to be published.
"Our feeling was that this was clearly not a political statement by the men
and women of the 101st Airborne," said Tom Cirigliano, an Exxon spokesman.
"These are desert refueling stations, and they're apparently naming them
after oil companies simply because that's what reminds them of filling
stations back home. It's a normal practice."

Meanwhile, in southern Iraq,
four miles outside Nassiriya, troops have erected a makeshift sign renaming
Tallil airfield Bush international airport. That may, at least, have a
satirical intent: Iraq's largest airport, in Baghdad, is called Saddam

A spokesman for the Pentagon referred a request for comment
to central command's headquarters in Tampa, Florida. A spokesman for its
public affairs office claimed, bafflingly, that it was not its policy "to
respond to criticisms that people may have". "This has absolutely nothing
to do with the war being about oil, a notion that we think has been
debunked by numerous independent analysts - and even in the newspaper Le
Monde," Mr Cirigliano insisted. "Anyway, I'm certain of this: that the
restrooms in Camp Exxon are much cleaner than the restrooms in Camp Shell."

 Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

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