Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Walter Palmer, “Tiny-Dick” Hunter

While we lived in Germany and Qatar and Kuwait, we went every year to Africa. On the smaller flights out of Johannesburg to Windhoek or into Zimbabwe or Zambia, we would encounter swaggering men, hanging out in the aisles, talking loudly, usually with big bellies, all decked out in safari gear/ersatz military camo. At first, I thought they were mercenaries of some sort, they seemed to be so full of themselves. Then a stewardess told me they were the “tiny-dick” hunters.

I had never heard the term. These are men, who, to make themselves feel good, pay thousands of dollars to be taken to an animal, like Cecil, the lion below, to kill. They have these hunts in the United States, too, where semi-tamed lions are shot at game farms, trapped, and fed, only to be sacrificed to the egos of the “tiny-dick” men.

Walter Palmer says he was told all the permits were in order. A news article on NPR yesterday tells how this famous lion from a protected game reserve was lured across the boundary so that Walter Palmer could shoot his with is little bow and arrow. Walter Palmer has broken the rules and lied before. He has a history of imagining that the boundaries do not apply to him.

I love it that his shameful behavior has been outed, and that his name and his detestable hobby are now known internationally as a man who would shoot a beloved lion for the sake of his ego. Below is the story from Associated Press via AOL News:

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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota dentist who went on a guided bow hunting trip for big game in Zimbabwe said that he had no idea the lion he killed was protected and that he relied on the expertise of his local guides to ensure the hunt was legal.

Walter Palmer, who has a felony record in the U.S. related to shooting a black bear in Wisconsin, released a statement Tuesday after Zimbabwean authorities identified him as the American involved in the July hunt. They said Palmer is being sought on poaching charges, but Palmer said he hasn’t heard from U.S. or Zimbabwean authorities.

“I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt,” said Palmer, a dentist who lives in the Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie. He said his guides had proper permits, and to his knowledge, everything was handled properly.

“I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion,” he said.

The 55-year-old was identified by the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe and police as the American facing poaching charges for the crossbow killing of Cecil, a well-known lion. Local authorities allege the lion was lured from a protected area and killed in early July. Zimbabwean conservationists said the American allegedly paid $50,000 for the trip.

The lion’s death has outraged animal conservationists and others, including U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat. In a statement late Tuesday, the congresswoman called for an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to see whether any U.S. laws were violated.
Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, condemned the lion’s killing in a statement.

“To get a thrill at the cost of a life, this man gunned down a beloved lion, Cecil with a high-powered weapon,” the PETA statement said.

Palmer’s hired spokesman, Jon Austin, said he believed Palmer was in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area Tuesday. No one answered the door at Palmer’s home, and a woman who came out of his dental office in nearby Bloomington said he wasn’t there or taking patients Tuesday. Phone calls to listed home numbers went unanswered.

According to U.S. court records, Palmer pleaded guilty in 2008 to making false statements to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about a black bear he fatally shot in western Wisconsin. Palmer had a permit to hunt but shot the animal outside the authorized zone in 2006, then tried to pass it off as being killed elsewhere, according to court documents. He was given one year probation and fined nearly $3,000.

Doug Kelley, a former federal prosecutor and Palmer’s attorney in the bear case, was unavailable for comment Tuesday, according to his assistant.

Palmer has several hunts on record with the Pope and Young Club, where archers register big game taken in North America for posterity, said Glenn Hisey, the club’s director of records. Hisey said he didn’t have immediate access to records showing the types and number of animals killed by Palmer, but he noted that club records involve legal hunts “taken under our rules of fair chase.”
Although African game wouldn’t be eligible, Hisey said he alerted the group’s board that Palmer’s ethics were being called into question. He said Palmer’s domestic records could be jeopardized if he’s found to have done something illegal abroad.

A Facebook page for Palmer’s Minnesota dental practice was taken offline Tuesday after users flooded it with comments condemning Palmer’s involvement in the hunt. Hundreds of similar comments inundated a page for his dental practice on the review platform Yelp, which prior to Tuesday had only three comments.
Some people left stuffed animals at the door to his shuttered office Tuesday in a sign of protest.

Palmer is properly licensed and able to practice in the state, according to the Minnesota Board of Dentistry. Board records show that Palmer was the subject of a sexual harassment complaint settled in 2006, with Palmer admitting no wrongdoing and agreeing to pay a former receptionist more than $127,000.

July 29, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Civility, Crime, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Quality of Life Issues, South Africa, Travel, Values, Wildlife, Zimbabwe | Leave a comment

Praying for Ruaha

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer, we pray for the Diocese of Ruaha, in Tanzania.

We have such happy memories of exploring the Ruaha, and Selous. Many people visit the more famous sites in northern Tanzania, but fewer go to the more remote south. Wonderful people, we learned so much there.

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July 27, 2015 Posted by | Africa, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Friends & Friendship, Geography / Maps, Interconnected, Tanzania, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Tucson, and the Great Saguaros, and Zeman’s

On our way to the interstate from Tombstone, we see our first giant Saguaro, one of the reasons we wanted to stop in Tucson. It is awe-inspiring, just growing in someone’s front yard, about two stories high. Did you know that these giant cactus only grow in a very limited environment? Tomorrow, we are going to the Saguaro National Park; we can hardly wait.

Meanwhile, we check in to our very odd Residence Inn. It is near the Tucson airport, and it looks like a resort, but when we go to use the pool, it isn’t even filled, it is being repaired. Repaired? It looks brand new.

It is in an area with a lot of other new looking hotels, near the airport, but while in other places there are usually a lot of restaurants around the airport, in Tucson, there are few, and not ones we care about.

Using our Trip Advisor research, and our Google Maps App, we find Zeman’s. Zeman’s is Ethiopian, and gets great reviews. We love Ethiopian food, and because most of what we order is vegetarian, we also know it is really good for us.

It is an easy drive into the big city, and we find Zeman’s right where it is supposed to be. We are warmly welcomed when we go in, and take a look at the menu.



They do something we really like; they have a combination where you can order one meat and two vegetables. We ordered two combinations, as did most of the other customers, and it was delicious!


We really loved the ground beef, which was exotic and spicy, and the collard greens, also exotic and spicy, but with different spices. I always think of Vargese’s Cutting for Stone when I eat Ethiopian food. When I read it, I felt like I had grown up in Ethiopia.

It’s in the university part of town, and most of the customers appeared to be students and faculties who enjoy good eats at reasonable prices. Zeman’s is exactly that. Tucson is blessed to have such a delightful restaurant. I understand there is another Zeman’s and even a third one in the planning.🙂

April 18, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Books, Eating Out, Food, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where is Mbeere District, Kenya?

Today the church prays for the diocese in Mbeere, in Kenya. It is north of Nairobi, mountainous, farming area.

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March 3, 2015 Posted by | Africa, Faith, Geography / Maps, Lectionary Readings, Lent | | 2 Comments

Best Group Ever!

Sometimes, out of nowhere, comes a wallop, even a good wallop. Yesterday came such a startling change. The itinerary looked ordinary, do-able, nothing inspirational, but all get-the-job-done.

My group had a great weekend. They got to sleep, they got to walk on the beach, they got to eat a great meal or two. They had fabulous weather, a chance to chill and to integrate all the information we are piling on them, and a chance to walk away for a little while. They love Pensacola. Who wouldn’t, when the weather hits around 70° and the beach is white and the sky is blue?

First, we hit our volunteer experience, working at Manna to sort donations, making sure all the items were within acceptable expiration dates. At first, I wasn’t sure this group was going to “get” volunteering, but in a very short time, they were all focused and working hard, and working efficiently. As they sorted, other volunteers drove up in SUV’s, in big cars, in vans and we all helped unload. By the end of their experience, the warehouse manager said “You have processed enough food for over 1,000 people!” and complimented them. They glowed. None of them are from countries with a tradition of volunteerism, and this was a new – and thrilling – experience for them. It always gives me a thrill to see that light go on, to see oneself as part of something larger, organic, to see how connected we all are and to love being a part of something good, sharing. It thrilled my heart.

We ate lunch together downtown, and talked about events going on in each country, about the weekend, about their experiences. We bought coffee – oh! the universal need for caffein! – and headed on to our next appointment, which featured environmental issues and complex ways governments interact to combat the problems and enforce the regulations. It was a tough slog. These relationships are so complex that most of us don’t even think about it. These delegates have work to do; they are here to solve problems in their own countries, and they are persistent and dogged about getting solutions that they can apply in their own bureaucracies. It is a delight to see people so committed to solving problems that seem . . . almost unsolvable.

It is also inspiring, to me, to learn so much about Pensacola, in this job. When I was working on my Masters, I studied heroism, among other things. What I am loving about these office and field visits is that my education continues, and I see heroes at every level of bureaucracy, holding back the evil forces of laziness, corruption, and cronyism. And, sustaining my initial findings about heroes, heroines and heroism, they don’t even see themselves as heroes. They say, as all heroes do, “I am/was just doing my job.” They think anybody would do it. (They are wrong.)

At our very last appointment, I was thinking I would probably cut the day short. The speaker had given out information, the delegates had bags to pack, and all of a sudden, a spark, and an explosion! The good kind!

One delegate could not believe the head of this agency could maintain an important list with integrity. He kept drilling down on the structure, the details of how things worked (all the delegates were keen on the details of how the structures of organizations and bureaucracies worked to accomplish their missions) and where there were openings for corruption.

She was explaining how her employees were constantly trained, and how the agency was monitored to ensure fairness and an adherence to procedure. The delegates, all from countries where bureaucracies function differently, kept pressing her. Is there never anyone taken out of turn? Never?

“If I did that, I would lose my job,” she replied.

What followed was one of the most exciting hours of discussion I have ever experienced, as delegates from five different countries frankly compared their own challenges and experiences, and with great intensity tried to figure out how bureaucracies could function without corruption.

We tried to explain that we, also, are not immune from corruption, and cronyism, but that the combination of training and monitoring helps keep agencies within the boundaries, as best it can. Transparency doesn’t come overnight; we are still trying to achieve it.

As I listened, I could not stop grinning. These are young leaders, and the leaders of tomorrow. They admire what they see in our country. They want to bring trust into their own governments, but how do you create trust? How do you build trust? How do you maintain trust?

I don’t know those answers. And yet the process is working; the discussion was so inspiring, so heartfelt, and they had built enough trust in one another to share their challenges, without having to maintain that artificial facade that lack-of-trust builds.

Their liaison said “You will each have to find your own path; it won’t look exactly like the US path because it has to be a fit with your own culture.”

When I left the group, I told them “You are the best group I have worked with, ever.” There is a part of me that wanted to be a part of that discussion, because they were still deep in that discussion as we parted. My role had ended; I had done what I do.

And today, I am still grinning. I love this job, I love the people it brings me into contact with, international and local. I feel so blessed.

February 10, 2015 Posted by | Africa, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Nigeria, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Tanzania, Values | , , , | 3 Comments

Zambia: “What is it like where you live?”

Today the church prays for the diocese of Lusaka, and I smile as I pray for my Zambian friends. We have stayed in Lusaka several times, and visited schools and clinics in remote parts of Zambia. Zambia is an amazing country – something like 70 different peoples and languages, and training in all the schools to help them learn how to live together.


One young Zambian told us that when they come into contact, it is normal to feel strange; the “other” doesn’t speak the same dialect, may be a traditional enemy, is just different, uncomfortable. They are trained to ask “What is it like where you live?” and to listen to the response.


I have used that phrase so many times; it is so useful. When you listen to an “other” talk about his or her life, you connect. You find similarities, and differences, and you learn the joys and challenges of this different life. It is a wonderful question. I used it the first time in Zambia, at a dinner with a lot of people we didn’t know. The woman next to me seemed stuffy, but sometimes that can be shy, so I asked “What is it like where you are from?” and she looked at me with concern and said, very sharply, “What do you mean?”  I said “what is your life like, tell me about what you do in a day?” and she said “That is a very odd question!” but she went on to tell me about her life, her country house and her passion for riding. By the end, we were having a great conversation.

May God bless you richly, Zambia. May your peoples live together in God’s peace!


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January 31, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Geography / Maps, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Relationships, Social Issues, Travel, Values, Zambia | Leave a comment

The Rains in Africa

There are times – it doesn’t matter where I am, but it’s usually a grocery store. Kuwait. Qatar. Pensacola – they all have this elevator music, music you barely notice, until you find yourself unconsciously belting out “I miss the rains in Africa . . . .”

I love that song. We’ve visited many African countries, and occasionally just before or after the rainy season. When the drops of rain hit the dry earth, there is a scent like no other, an earthy, clean perfume smell.

MIT scientists have worked out the source of that intoxicating scent – tiny bubbles.


Earthy, Post-Rain Smell Explained by MIT Scientists

By Jim Algar, Tech Times | January 18, 11:22 PM

Raindrop aerosols

Researcher create slow-motion video of “champagne bubble” effect to show the origin of the familiar after-rain smell. Raindrops can release aerosols from the ground into the air as they hit, researchers find.
(Photo : MIT)


Researchers say they’ve used high-speed photography to show the origin of the familiar earthy, sweet smell that lingers in the air following a rainstorm.

Scientists call that aroma petrichor, and have long ascribed it to chemicals and oils in soil released as aerosols when raindrops hit the ground.

Now researchers at MIT say they’ve created super-slow-motion footage to demonstrate how that “rain smell” moves from the ground into the air.

“It’s a very common phenomenon, and it was intriguing to us that no one had observed this mechanism before,” says professor of mechanical engineering Cullen R. Buie.

“Rain happens every day — it’s raining now, somewhere in the world,” he says.

When a raindrop impacts a porous surface, the researchers found, it traps tiny bubbles of air that then shoot upwards like the bubbles in a glass of champagne, ultimately bursting out of the raindrop in a fizz of aerosols.

Those aerosols contain aromatic elements that can be released by light rainfall and spread by winds, they say.

More aerosols are produced by light or moderate rainfall than during heavy rainfall, which is why the familiar petrichor odor is more commonly apparent after a light shower, they add.

“Heavy rain [has a high] impact speed, which means there’s not enough time to make bubbles inside the droplet,” says postdoctoral researcher Youngsoo Joung.

The scientists filmed raindrops falling on a variety of surfaces, including 16 kinds of soil and 12 engineered materials.

Identifying a mechanism for raindrop-induced generation of aerosols may help to explain how some kinds of soil-based diseases are spread, Joung says.

“Until now, people didn’t know that aerosols could be generated from raindrops on soil,” he says. “This finding should be a good reference for future work, illuminating microbes and chemicals existing inside soil and other natural materials, and how they can be delivered in the environment, and possibly to humans.”

The MIT scientists are conducting further experiments with surfaces containing soil bacteria and pathogens, including E. coli, to see if rainfall and its aerosol-generating mechanism can spread them.

“Aerosols in the air certainly could be resulting from this phenomenon,” Buie says. “Maybe it’s not rain, but just a sprinkler system that could lead to dispersal of contaminants in the soil, for perhaps a wider area than you’d normally expect.”

The results of the MIT study have been published in the journal Nature Communications.


January 22, 2015 Posted by | Africa, ExPat Life, Experiment, Quality of Life Issues, Technical Issue, Travel, Weather | , | 2 Comments

219 Girls Remain Missing; Nigerian Villages Beset by Boko Haram

Today, on AOL News, a report on the ravaging of two villages in Nigeria by Boko Haram, with satellite images showing the carnage and destruction as survivors tally more than 2,000 dead. The craven Nigerian Army claims the losses are more like 200.


Meanwhile, of the almost 300 girls kidnapped a year ago by Boko Haram, 219 are still missing. Those who returned, returned by escaping. No one rescued them. The remainder are likely “married” to their captors, slaves to the household and many of them are probably pregnant. To be pregnant by a Boko Haram soldier creates a severe social problem if they are ever freed or rescued – the family cannot marry off an impure daughter. The children of these unions face a desolate future, wherever they are.

The world watches when terrorists wreak havoc in Paris, thousands crush the cretins who kill in the name of God, but no-one lifts a finger to help these small villages in Northeast Nigeria, beset by destructive vermin.

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Large areas of Nigerian towns attacked by Islamic extremists were razed to the ground in a widespread campaign of destruction, according to satellite images released Thursday by Amnesty International.
Amnesty International said the detailed images of Baga and Doron Baga, taken before and after the attack earlier this month, show that more than 3,700 structures were damaged or completely destroyed.

The images were taken Jan. 2 and Jan. 7, Amnesty International said. Boko Haram fighters seized a military base in Baga on Jan. 3 and, according to witnesses, killed hundreds of civilians in the ensuing days.

Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for the human rights group, said in a statement that the assault on the two towns was the largest and most destructive of all the Boko Haram assaults analyzed by Amnesty International.

The group said interviews with witnesses as well as local government officials and human rights activists suggest hundreds of civilians were shot; last week, the human rights group noted reports of as many as 2,000 dead. The Nigerian military has cited a figure of 150 dead, including slain militants.
Nigeria’s home-grown Boko Haram group drew international condemnation when its fighters kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a boarding school in northeast Chibok town last year. Dozens escaped but 219 remain missing.


You can find much more information in this article on BBC News/Africa.

January 15, 2015 Posted by | Africa, Bureaucracy, Community, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Nigeria, Political Issues, Rants, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Freedom of Speech: Je Suis Charlie

In our country, in the West, open discussion is a part of life. Your point of view may be ignorant, or repugnant to me, but I will defend to the death your right to express your opinion. One of the great weapons of freedom of speech is humor. It’s hard to maintain a dignified moral high-ground when one of the cartoonists piques with a cartoon showing the emperor has no clothes. Or at least the emperor has flaws, as do we all.


Pensacola is blessed with such an editorial cartoonist, Andy Marlette. Andy Marlette is controversial, and in a state with lax gun laws and pistol-packin-mamas, he risks his life daily, skewering the pomposity of us all. Occasionally, he is outrageous. Occasionally, he is offensive. That’s OK. If an editorial cartoonist isn’t skewering someone, or all of us at once, he isn’t doing his job. His job is to elicit discussion.







I have lived for so long in Moslem world that I take a risk now, offending my Moslem friends, by printing the cartoon of Mohammed weeping. It’s the cartoon that touched me to the bone. I have listened and learned in the Moslem world, and I have never met with hatred. The Mohammed I have read about in the Qu’ran and in hadith, and heard about in legend and stories from my Moslem friends portrayed a prophet who, like Jesus, was all about loving and serving the one true God. He would weep at what has been done in his name, as Jesus weeps for us, when we kill others in his service.


January 8, 2015 Posted by | Afghanistan, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Communication, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Faith, Free Speech, Humor, Interconnected, Kuwait, Language, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual, Values | , , , | 2 Comments

ISIS: Follow the Money

I wish I could say that I had written this, but no, this is an article by Howard Shatz, published in Politico and brought to my attention by Digg, who sends me remarkable items:


President Obama is laying out his strategy to counter the Islamic State, whose rampages across Iraq and Syria have riveted Americans’ attention on a zone of conflict that many had hoped to forget. Many are urging him to step up military action. But if Obama wants to defeat the jihadis, he will need more than airstrikes—he should follow the money.

For all that ideology, religious belief and perhaps a lust for violence and power might motivate those who fight for the Islamic State (known variously by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL), money is what keeps the group going. As with any state, ISIL has bills to pay and mouths to feed. Even for the world’s richest terrorist organization—which, by all available accounts, ISIL is—money doesn’t grow on trees, and nothing in the world comes for free.

So where does ISIL’s money come from? As part of my research at the RAND Corporation, since late 2006 I have been studying the finances, management and organization of the precursors to the Islamic State—Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State of Iraq—using their own documents, manuals and ledgers. More recently, Rand has teamed up with scholars from Princeton and Emory universities, as well as analysts from other organizations, to study more than 150 documents produced between 2005 and 2010. Although our work is still not yet done, we can draw a number of conclusions.

The most important thing for U.S. policymakers to remember is that ISIL now possesses the financial means to support a long-term fight—some $2 billion, according to a recent report in the Guardian, citing a British intelligence official. At the same time, ISIL’s preferred fundraising methods and many financial commitments create vulnerabilities. The organization was badly damaged by late 2009, thanks to a combination of coalition and Iraqi forces, as well as intervention by the Iraqi government, and it can be badly damaged again. But without the establishment of a widely accepted, legitimate political order in Iraq, ISIL cannot be eradicated—and will continue to seek out and mete out cash.

ISIL raises most of its money domestically in Iraq and Syria. Its income streams include oil smuggled to other countries in the region, extortion, taxes—especially on non-Muslim minorities—and other essentially criminal activities.

Oil is ISIL’s biggest source of revenue but also presents the biggest problem. ISIL controls about a dozen fields in Syria and Iraq, in addition to a number of refineries, including mobile refineries. Based on media accounts, RAND has estimated the total production capacity of these fields to be more than 150,000 barrels per day, although actual production is estimated to be much lower: The website Iraq Oil Report has reported that exports for the month of August at about 2.4 million barrels per day, for instance.

ISIL smuggles this oil out in tanker trucks—clearly visible from the sky should any drone pass overhead, so the smuggling is not particularly furtive. The group then sells the oil to whoever will buy it—reported in the media to be buyers in Syria, Turkey, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and possibly in Iran and even Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, among other countries. Sales take place at rates deeply discounted from world prices. But even so, revenues have been estimated in the media at $1 million, $2 million or even $3 million per day.

We have seen this before. From 2006 to 2009, ISIL’s predecessor, the Islamic State of Iraq, raised perhaps $2 billion through smuggled oil originating in the Baiji refinery in northern Iraq. This ended as a result of a concerted effort by U.S. and Iraqi forces to destroy the group and create the conditions in which the Iraqi government could exercise its law-and-order responsibilities, as well as vastly improved management at Baiji, owned by the Iraqi government.

So where does all of ISIL’s money go?

ISIL historically has paid its members (yes, it maintains payroll sheets) based on a flat monthly rate per person and then additional fixed amounts for each wife, child and dependent unmarried adult woman in the household. In Anbar, Iraq, the rate was $491 per year in 2005 and 2006, and then about $245 per year per dependent; the rate was similar in Mosul in 2007 and 2008. These payments to family are meant to continue if the ISIL member is captured or killed—a primitive form of life insurance. If enough members are captured and killed, however, these costs start to mount.

ISIL also pays rent for its members in some cases—payments that might be bonuses to high-performing members, although we cannot be sure—and medical expenses for some members and their families. In the past, the group has sometimes hired lawyers to help get captured members out of jail. And it runs safe-houses and has to buy equipment. Guidelines published by a predecessor of the group say that expense reimbursements should be filled out in triplicate and explain where each copy goes within the organization. We don’t know for sure whether ISIL today is making money or even breaking even, but at least in Anbar from 2005 to 2006, the money was being spent as fast as it came in.

As a cash-based organization, ISIL relies on couriers not only to deliver messages among its dispersed leadership but also to move money—follow the right courier and you get to the leadership. Because it deals only in cash, ISIL also needs to worry about the honesty of its members. We have seen instances of skimming for personal enrichment, as you might see in any cash-based criminal network.

As a state, albeit a twisted version of one, ISIL also has administrative expenses. It is responsible for making sure electricity and water flow and the roads stay repaired in the regions of Iraq it now controls—including parts of the Anbar, Ninewa Salah-al-Din, Kirkuk and Diyala governorates. Whether the group chooses to or is able to fulfill those responsibilities creates a vulnerability: A discontented population is unlikely to remain passive under ISIL’s leadership.

Even if ISIL is making $3 million per day—at the higher end of the various estimates out there—then it makes slightly more than $1 billion per year. Just to be conservative, in case ISIL is doing more business than we’re aware of, let’s double that to $2 billion per year. Although exact totals are difficult to find, in 2013, before ISIL’s advance, the Iraqi government spent far more than $2 billion per year running the governorates ISIL now controls, including salaries to civil servants, other costs of service provision and investment spending. That means ISIL likely isn’t keeping up the same level of service that the Iraqi government once did. True, ISIL need not maintain that level—it hardly rules with the consent of the governed. But it’s not only a problem that those under its rule can rebel, as happened in 2007 and 2008; with the exception of oil, the group’s continued revenue-raising also depends on there being enough money to skim and extort from the economy, and this requires some minimum level of services and economic activity.

There is little that outside forces can do to halt the extortion and skimming that take place within ISIL territory. Oil smuggling, though, can be disrupted, at least to an extent. Intelligence resources from the United States, Iraq and any other country that takes on ISIL should be focused on identifying middlemen and buyers for the smuggled fuel and using any means necessary to halt those purchases.

It would be counterproductive to destroy oil field infrastructure, since repairs would be expensive and legitimate governments will need those oil revenues when they reestablish control. But mobile refineries should be targeted, and roads and other pathways that tanker trucks use to transport oil to and from oil fields should be made impassable by military means. The refineries and roads can be easily repaired when the time comes, but for now, ISIL should find it very difficult to move oil from fields.

Stopping ISIL will of course require much more than disrupting its funding. It will have to be defeated militarily, and legitimate, trusted governments will have to be established in Iraq and Syria to defeat the group over time. There’s no simple path to achieving this, but as long as ISIL’s coffers remain full, the task will not get any easier.


Howard J. Shatz is senior economist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.

September 11, 2014 Posted by | Afghanistan, Africa, Bureaucracy, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Fund Raising, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Social Issues, Values | , , , , | Leave a comment