Learn about the impact of burning Iraqi oil wells
March 30, 2003
Web posted at: 11:11 PM EST (0411 GMT)
Overview: Gen. Tommy Franks held a news conference on Sunday at the U.S. Central Command in Qatar. Coalition forces have accused Iraqi troops of burning trenches of oil around strategic positions. Iraq's apparent goal in doing so would be to obscure potential targets from air attacks by filling the atmosphere with thick, black smoke. Sources at the Central Command say the number of oil-filled trenches burning around Baghdad has increased significantly. But U.S. military officials say that while the smoke harms the environment, it has little or no effect on the coalition air campaign against Iraq.
After students read "Franks: Coalition progress is ‘truly remarkable’" and watch the first segment of CNN Student News (the video can be accessed fromCNNStudentNews.com) pose the following questions:
1. How many U.S. soldiers died during a car bomb attack near the central Iraqi city of Najaf? How does the U.S. plan to respond to this event? What action took place in the city of Basra during the weekend? Where do officials believe the most intensive fighting of the war will take place?
2. Who is General Tommy Franks? What is Gen. Franks' overall perspective on the progress of the war in Iraq? What does Gen. Franks say about Saddam Hussein? How does Gen. Franks respond to the question of how long the war in Iraq may continue? What information did a captured Iraqi general provide? How has this information helped the allied war effort?
3. How many oil-filled trenches are reportedly burning around Baghdad? According to the story, what are the effects of the burning trenches? Why do you think Iraq is doing this, even tough it allegedly has little or no effect on the U.S. air campaign?
4. Inform students that not only have Iraqis been filling ditches with oil and lighting them on fire, they have also set a number of oil wells on fire as they did during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Why has Iraq destroyed its own oil reserves during times of war? Have students, working in groups, consult online resources to learn about Iraq's oil reserves, and why they are important to Iraq, the U.S. and the international community. After groups present their findings, instruct each group to identify the environmental, economic and social impact of the oil well fires during the Persian Gulf War. After groups present their findings, ask: Why do you think Iraq has chosen to set its oil wells on fire during this conflict? What are the potential short-term and long-term consequences of burning these oil wells? Do you think setting fire to oil is an effective war strategy for Iraq? Explain.