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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Selling of Iraq

Okay, what does Naomi Klein have to say about US economic actions in Iraq? Consider this (p. 345): "Before the invasion, Iraq's economy had been anchored by its national oil company and by two hundred state-owned companies, which produced the staples of the Iraqi diet and the raw materials of its industry, everything from cement to paper to cooking oil. The month after he arrived in his new job [as director of the ruling Coalition Provisional Authority], [Paul] Bremer announced that the two hundred firms [excluding the oil company] were going to be privatized immediately . . . . Next came the new economic laws. To entice foreign investors . . . Bremer enacted a radical set of laws . . . . One law lowered Iraq's corporate tax to a flat 15 percent (straight out of the Friedman playbook). Another allowed foreign companies to own 100 percent of Iraqi assets . . . . Even better, investors could take 100 percent of the profits they made in Iraq out of the country; they would not be required to reinvest and they would not be taxed. The decree [not voted upon by the Iraqi people] also stipulated that investors could sign leases and contracts that would last for forty years and then be eligible for renewal, which meant that future elected governments would be saddled with deals signed by their occupiers." What this means to a journalist is that Bremer laid the groundwork for the floor of Iraqi industry to be sold out from beneath the feet of the Iraqi people. Whatever happened to due process and fair play? Chucked out the frickin' window.

Klein goes on to write (p. 360-65): "The 'fiasco' of Iraq is one created by a careful and faithful application of unstrained Chicago School ideology . . . . [I]n November 2003, after he canceled local elections, Bremer flew back to Washington for huddled meetings at the White House. When he returned to Baghdad, he announced that general [i.e., national] elections were off the table. Iraq's first 'sovereign' government would be appointed, not elected . . . . Had the Bush administration kept its promise to hand over power quickly to an elected Iraqi government, there is every chance that the resistance would have remained small and containable, rather than becoming a countrywide rebellion. But keeping that promise would have meant sacrificing the economic agenda behind the war, something that was not going to happen--and that is why the violent repercussions of America's denial of democracy in Iraq must also be counted as a form of ideological blowback . . . ."

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