Editor's Choice Archive 1

The Mosul Dam - Iraq's Imminent Disaster!

By Patricia Keegan

(Nov. 30) We keep hearing that the “surge” has been a success, and we see Iraqi people, forced into refugee status, beginning to return to their country. This is promising; nevertheless, there remains an underlying sense of insecurity in the mixed messages coming from Iraq.

On October 30, the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and several other major newspapers ran a startling and disturbing front page story headlined, “Mosul Dam Seen in Danger of Deadly Collapse.”

Should this catastrophe happen, the estimated death toll is as high as 500,000 people. The gargantuan impact of such a blow would shred any lingering optimism for order in an already devastated country. Hope would be washed away with human loss, and the world would be left stunned. Yet, since that story ran, there has not been the uproar I would expect. Outside of a congressional hearing, there has been little follow-up in the mainstream media.

There are many issues in today’s world that are either beyond our control or will eventually be resolved. But in this instance, we are talking about preventing a full-scale catastrophe, one that will not resolve itself or go away.

If one were to take a moment to ponder the consequences of the collapse of the Mosul Dam, it should jolt us into action. Just imagine turning on the television one morning and seeing a population being caught up in a tidal wave of one trillion gallons of water. Mosul would be under 65 feet of water and parts of Baghdad under 15 feet. The dam holds back 3.3 trillion gallons of the Tigris River. As Americans, we have seen and experienced the tragedy inflicted by Hurricane Katrina on an unsuspecting populace. This would be a calamity surpassing even the Asian Tsunami which took some 275,000 lives.

When something is preventable, and we neglect to harness the capacity of our “superpower” status to prevent it, we should not be surprised if we hear ourselves condemned by the world.

Used for both water supply and electricity, Mosul Dam is considered the most dangerous dam in the world. Built in 1984 on a foundation of gypsum, a soft mineral that dissolves in contact with water, the foundation is sustained by machines injecting the dam with grout -- around the clock!

British newspaper Independent, on November 29, said “there are irreparable, essential flaws within the foundation of the Mosul Dam.”

To make the matter even more inconceivable, the results of safety studies commissioned by the US government have been discussed with Iraq, the Iraqi government has rejected the report’s findings, and the imminent danger has not been shared with the Iraq people.

Are there not parallels between this forecast of danger and predictions of a terrorist attack on America before 9-11? Our government knew it was likely to happen, but they didn’t know when or where. Since nothing could be pinpointed, they neglected to warn the public. In the case of the Mosul Dam, they know it’s likely to happen, they know where it will happen, and it is within our means to avoid the catastrophe.

The Mosul Dam story that broke in the Washington Post included portions of a draft from an Army Corps of Engineers report. It was brought to the Post by an Army Corps official speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Despite the warning, the Iraqi government, according to the Washington Post, believes the dam is safe. Salar Bakir, Director General of Planning and Development at the Water Resources ministry, said, according to the Post, that Iraqi officials do not think it is necessary to spend an estimated $10 billion to complete a partially constructed dam downstream that could be a stopgap measure in case Mosul Dam collapses.” The Iraqi official was already thinking the unthinkable.

If this is a reflection of how Iraq’s government conducts the business of protecting its people, it is a tragic and pathetic picture of ineptitude. If they cannot show the leadership expected of a sovereign country, the US, led by Ambassador Crocker and General Patraeus in this case, should step in and do what needs to be done to protect lives while the world’s best engineers decide how to prevent this imminent, DEADLY disaster.

There will be no room for recriminations once the dam breaks loose. Thousands more Iraqi lives will be lost, and all that our soldiers fought and died for will be washed away.