Canadian Underwriter

Editorial: War as perpetual business interruption insurance

August 28, 2015   by Jeff Pearce

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“You. Are. Crazy!” That’s how our publisher responded to an email telling her I’d flown into Erbil, Kurdistan, an hour’s drive away from ISIS-occupied Mosul.

It was a steaming 45°C, and this was where I’d chosen to spend part of my summer vacation. I can’t recommend it. But for 15 years, I’ve tried to visit Mosul to research a book I’ve been working on, and war keeps getting in the way. The best I could do was go to the front.

Up in the craggy mountains of the Bashik region, behind a wall of sandbags, a deputy commander of the Peshmerga (the Kurdish defence forces) pointed to a small town two kilometres away—but still visible to the naked eye—under ISIS control. I sent friends a photo with the caption, “Hey, I can see Evil’s house from here!”

Those militants won’t be strolling up any time soon— the Kurds can see them coming miles away. And the Kurds can’t advance—the road is mined with explosives. ISIS still makes attacks, often at night, but I missed my chances to see them.This eerie stalemate is the war in Kurdistan. You’d barely know there’s a war on here. We drove for miles close to Suleimani as well as Kirkuk, where fighting is going on, past checkpoints at which we barely had to slow down. In Erbil, you don’t see bomb rubble; you get the steel scarecrows of abandoned construction sites. Vestiges of progress interrupted.

Read: Smuggled antiquities, from mountain battlegrounds to London shops

A block away from my hotel in the upscale Ankawa district was the U.S. consulate, near which a late April car bomb went off and killed two people; the road is now dead quiet, devoid of traffic. The incident shook people up, but most locals complain more frequently about the poor economy. There are, however, folks from Mosul whose lives are parked in the limbo of a swelteringly hot tent. They wait to go home… when?

War can’t be hell, because human beings can unfortunately get used to this hell, one that’s created a new, independent state of perpetual soul-crushing resignation. I’ve always thought insurance is for coping with catastrophe. Yet how do we define insurance now that war has been reduced to a kind of existential national migraine?

In Erbil, Business as Usual means the Business of War, which suggests Business Interruption insurance, endlessly renewed. And that’s the real horror in this heart of darkness: that the deductible over war keeps climbing, and people hardly notice.

Copyright 2015 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the August 2015 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine

This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.