The Anti-Empire Report #29
By William Blum – Published January 9th, 2006
The sign has been put out front: “Iraq is open for business.”
We read about things done and said by the Iraqi president, or the Ministry of this or the Ministry of that, and it’s easy to get the impression that Iraq is in the process of becoming a sovereign state, albeit not particularly secular and employing torture, but still, a functioning, independent state. Then we read about the IMF and the rest of the international financial mafia – with the US playing its usual sine qua non role – making large loans to the country and forgiving debts, with the customary strings attached, in the current instance ending government subsidies for fuel and other petroleum products. And so the government starts to reduce the subsidies for these products which affect almost every important aspect of life, and the prices quickly quintuple, sparking wide discontent and protests. 1 Who in this sovereign nation wanted to add more suffering to the already beaten-down Iraqi people? But the international financial mafia are concerned only with making countries meet certain criteria sworn to be holy in Economics 101, like a balanced budget, privatization, and deregulation and thus making themselves more appealing to international investors.
In case the presence of 130,000 American soldiers, a growing number of sprawling US military bases, and all the designed-in-Washington restrictive Coalition Provisional Authority laws still in force aren’t enough to keep the Iraqi government in line, this will do it. Iraq will have to agree to allow their economy to be run by the IMF for the next decade. The same IMF that Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel prize-winning economist and dissident former chief economist at the World Bank, describes as having “brought disaster to Russia and Argentina and leaves a trail of devastated developing economies in its wake”. 2
On top of this comes the disclosure of the American occupation’s massive giveaway of the sovereign nation’s most valuable commodity, oil. One should read the new report, “Crude Designs: The Rip-Off of Iraq’s Oil Wealth” by the British NGO, Platform. Among its findings:
This report reveals how an oil policy with origins in the US State Department is on course to be adopted in Iraq, soon after the December elections, with no public debate and at enormous potential cost. The policy allocates the majority of Iraq’s oilfields – accounting for at least 64% of the country’s oil reserves – for development by multinational oil companies.
The estimated cost to Iraq over the life of the new oil contracts is $74 to $194 billion, compared with leaving oil development in public hands.
The contracts would guarantee massive profits to foreign companies, with rates of return of 42 to 162 percent. The kinds of contracts that will provide these returns are known as production sharing agreements. PSAs have been heavily promoted by the US government and oil majors and have the backing of senior figures in the Iraqi Oil Ministry. However, PSAs last for 25-40 years, are usually secret and prevent governments from later altering the terms of the contract. 3
“Crude Designs” author and lead researcher, Greg Muttitt, says: “The form of contracts being promoted is the most expensive and undemocratic option available. Iraq’s oil should be for the benefit of the Iraqi people, not foreign oil companies.” 4
Noam Chomsky recently remarked: “We’re supposed to believe that the US would’ve invaded Iraq if it was an island in the Indian Ocean and its main exports were pickles and lettuce. This is what we’re supposed to believe.” 5
Reconstruction, thy name is not the United States
The Bush administration has announced that it does not intend to seek any new funds for Iraq reconstruction in the budget request going before Congress in February. When the last of the reconstruction budget is spent, US officials in Baghdad have made clear, other foreign donors and the fledgling Iraqi government will have to take up what authorities say is tens of billions of dollars of work yet to be done merely to bring reliable electricity, water and other services to Iraq’s 26 million people. 6
It should be noted that these services, including sanitation systems, were largely destroyed by US bombing – most of it rather deliberately – beginning in the first Gulf War: 40 days and nights the bombing went on, demolishing everything that goes into the making of a modern society; followed by 12 years of merciless economic sanctions, accompanied by 12 years of often daily bombing supposedly to protect the so-called no-fly zones; finally the bombing, invasion and widespread devastation beginning in March 2003 and continuing even as you read this.
“The U.S. never intended to completely rebuild Iraq,” Brig. Gen. William McCoy, the Army Corps of Engineers commander overseeing the work, told reporters at a recent news conference. In an interview this past week, McCoy said: “This was just supposed to be a jump-start.” 7
It’s a remarkable pattern. The United States has a long record of bombing nations, reducing entire neighborhoods, and much of cities, to rubble, wrecking the infrastructure, ruining the lives of those the bombs didn’t kill. And afterward doing shockingly little or literally nothing to repair the damage.
On January 27, 1973, in Paris, the United States signed the “Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam”. Among the principles to which the United States agreed was that stated in Article 21: “In pursuance of its traditional [sic] policy, the United States will contribute to healing the wounds of war and to postwar reconstruction of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam [North Vietnam] and throughout Indochina.”
Five days later, President Nixon sent a message to the Prime Minister of North Vietnam in which he stipulated the following:
- The Government of the United States of America will contribute to postwar reconstruction in North Vietnam without any political conditions.
- Preliminary United States studies indicate that the appropriate programs for the United States contribution to postwar reconstruction will fall in the range of $3.25 billion of grant aid over 5 years.
Nothing of the promised reconstruction aid was ever paid. Or ever will be.
During the same period, Laos and Cambodia were wasted by US bombing as relentlessly as was Vietnam. After the Indochina wars were over, these nations, too, qualified to become beneficiaries of America’s “traditional policy” of zero reconstruction.
Then came the American bombings of Grenada and Panama in the 1980s. There goes our neighborhood. Hundreds of Panamanians petitioned the Washington-controlled Organization of American States as well as American courts, all the way up to the US Supreme Court, for “just compensation” for the damage caused by Operation Just Cause (this being the not-tongue-in-cheek name given to the American invasion and bombing). They got just nothing, the same amount the people of Grenada received.
In 1998, Washington, in its grand wisdom, fired more than a dozen cruise missiles into a building in Sudan which it claimed was producing chemical and biological weapons. The completely pulverized building was actually a major pharmaceutical plant, vital to the Sudanese people. The United States effectively admitted its mistake by releasing the assets of the plant’s owner it had frozen. Surely now it was compensation time. It appears that nothing has ever been paid to the owner, who filed suit, or to those injured in the bombing. 8
The following year we had the case of Yugoslavia; 78 days of round-the-clock bombing, transforming an advanced state into virtually a pre-industrial one; the reconstruction needs were breathtaking. It’s been 6 1/2 years since Yugoslavian bridges fell into the Danube, the country’s factories and homes leveled, its roads made unusable, transportation torn apart. Yet the country has not received any funds for reconstruction from the architect and leading perpetrator of the bombing campaign, the United States.
The day after the above announcement about the US ending its reconstruction efforts in Iraq, it was reported that the United States is phasing out its commitment to reconstruction in Afghanistan as well. 9 This after several years of the usual launching of bombs and missiles on towns and villages, resulting in the usual wreckage and ruin.
Oh those quaint tribal customs
On December 7, the “All things considered” feature of National Public Radio had a report about the “honor” killing of a young woman in Iraq who had been kidnaped. She had to be killed by her family because of the mere possibility of her having been raped by her captors; the family had to protect its honor; a much loved and admired daughter she was, but still, her cousin shot her dead. It had nothing to do with Islam, the story said, it was a “tribal custom”.
This report was followed immediately by Col. Gary Anderson, US Marines retired, arguing that the United States has to stay the course in Iraq. He’s concerned that bin Laden et al. will think the United States is “a quitter”. He says that leaving now would “dishonor” the Iraqis and he’s apparently prepared to continue killing any number of the very same Iraqi people to preserve their honor. Anthropologists report that this seems to be some kind of “tribal custom” in Anderson’s country.
Presumably it doesn’t bother the good colonel that a large majority of the informed people of the world think the United States is a murderous imperialist power – he’s probably proud of that – but a “quitter”? Over his dead body. Or someone’s dead body.
The questions concerning immigration into the United States from south of the border go on year after year, with the same issues argued back and forth: How to/should we block the flow into the country? granting amnesty, a guest-worker program, whether the immigrants help the economy, immigrants collecting welfare, policing employers who hire immigrants … on and on, round and round it goes, for decades. Once in a while someone opposed to immigration will question whether the United States has any moral obligation to take in these Latino immigrants. Here’s one answer to that question: Yes, the United States has a moral obligation because so many of the immigrants are escaping situations in their homelands made hopeless by American interventions. In Guatemala and Nicaragua Washington overthrew progressive governments which were sincerely committed to fighting poverty. In El Salvador the US played a major role in suppressing a movement striving to install such a government, and to a lesser extent played such a role in Honduras.
The end result of these policies has been an army of desperate people heading north in search of a better life, in the process of which they have added to Mexico’s poverty burden, inducing many Mexicans to join the trek to Yanquiland.
Although Washington has not intervened militarily in Mexico since 1919, over the years the US has been providing training, arms, and surveillance technology to Mexico’s police and armed forces to better their ability to suppress their own people’s aspirations, as in Chiapas, and this has added to the influx of the impoverished to the United States. Moreover, Washington’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), has brought a flood of cheap, subsidized US agricultural products into Mexico and driven many Mexican farmers off the land and into the immigration stream north.
Hmmm, perhaps we really are in danger of a biological attack … but not from al Qaeda
A week after the massive anti-war demonstration in Washington on September 24, it was revealed that deadly bacteria had been detected at several sites in the city, including by the Lincoln Memorial, situated very close to the demonstration. Biohazard monitors installed at various sites gave positive readings on the 24th and 25th for the bacterium francisella tularensis, which causes the infectious disease tularemia, a pneumonia-like ailment that can be acquired by inhaling airborne bacteria and can be fatal. This biological agent is on the “A list” of the Department of Homeland Security’s biohazards, along with anthrax, plague and smallpox. 10
My first thought upon reading about this was: Those bastards, they’d love to punish people who protest against the war. There’s nothing I would put past them.
My second thought was: Oh stop being so paranoid. The news report cited federal health officials saying that the tularemia bacterium can occur naturally in soil and small animals.
My third thought came more than a month later, when I happened to be reading about a US Army program of the 1960s which carried out numerous exercises involving aircraft spraying of American warships with thousands of servicemen aboard. A wide variety of chemical and biological warfare agents were used to learn the vulnerabilities of these ships and personnel to such attacks and to develop procedures to respond to them. Amongst the CBW agents used were pasteurella tularensis (another name for francisella tularensis), which, said the Department of Defense later, causes tularemia, can produce very serious symptoms, and has a mortality rate of about six percent. 11
These tests in effect used members of the armed forces as guinea pigs, without their informed consent and without proper medical follow-up. This was a scenario enacted on numerous occasions during the Cold War, and subsequently as well, involving literally millions of service members, with frequent harmful effects, including at least several deaths, military and civilian. It’s a good bet that on some future date we’ll learn that similar tests are still going on as part of the war on terrorism. I conclude from all this that if our glorious leaders are not particularly concerned about the health and welfare of their own soldiers, the wretched warriors they enlist to fight the empire’s wars, how can we be surprised if they don’t care about the health and welfare of those of us standing in opposition to the empire?
Civil liberties holds an important place in the heart of the Bush administration’s rhetoric.
“This is a limited program designed to prevent attacks on the United States of America and, I repeat, limited,” said President Bush about the National Security Agency’s domestic spying on Americans without a court order. 12
Let’s give the devil his due. It’s easy to put down the domestic spying program, but the fact is that the president is right, it is indeed limited. It’s limited to those who are being spied upon. No one – I repeat, no one – who is not being spied upon is being spied upon.
On the other hand, there have been legal scholars, such as former Supreme Court Justice Lewis Brandeis, who have felt strongly that all wiretapping by the government should be considered an unconstitutional search under the Fourth Amendment, which, we should remember, states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Thomas Jefferson said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. But, as someone has pointed out, he was talking about citizens watching the government, not the reverse.
- Los Angeles Times, December 28, 2005, p.1; Agence France Presse, December 23, 2005
- Johann Hari, “Why Are We Inflicting This Discredited Market Fundamentalism on Iraq?” The Independent (UK), December 22, 2004; yes, 2004, this has been a work carefully in progress for some time.
- Interview with Institute for Public Accuracy (Washington, DC), November 22, 2005
- Interview by Andy Clark, Amsterdam Forum, December 18, 2005, audio and text at: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article11330.htm
- Washington Post, January 2, 2006, p.1
- William Blum, “Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire”, p.134-8
- Washington Post, January 3, 2006, p.1
- Washington Post, October 2, 2005, p.C13
- Part of Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD), Department of Defense “Fact Sheets” released in 2001-2, “Shady Grove” test; see also Associated Press, October 9, 2002, The New York Times May 24, 2002, p.1
- Associated Press, January 2, 2006
Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to williamblum.org is provided.