The real cause of the Iraq debacle: the Year Zero plan

Harpers is too stupid to put it online, but there is a fucking fantastic article by Naomi Klein in the last issue of Harper’s; I picked it up on vacation. I think Klein’s mostly an idiot, but she’s the only person so far who’s connected the dots between the fights over the Iraqi constitution, Iraqi trade policy, rules on foreign investment, and privitization of state assets.

Here’s the short version: as soon as the neocons landed, they implemented their fantasy version of the US economy in Iraq: flat taxes, no restrictions on foreign ownership, no taxes on capital, sale of all state assets, elimination of large segments of public sector jobs, etc., etc. Klein makes a pretty good case that their economic policies - or rather, the bizarre way they went about them - is actually at the root of the ongoing rebellions.

Basically, it’s a new slightly new spin on the mercantilist interpretation of what to do with a colony: open it up to outside investment - but not for exploitation like before; the theory is that when Wal-Mart and Citigroup come in and get to use the libertarian fantasy economy, everyone will get rich, Iraq will turn into a rich western-aligned democracy, and so on.

What actually happened is that the hordes of unemployed state employees and factory workers are running the rebellion. Klein says all of the back-and-forth between Sistani, Sadr, and the real story of the US occupation has actually been:

a) To whom, and for what price, Iraqi assets will be sold. Klein says that the US authorities have been squeezing the Iraqi factories in various ways to drive them out of business/make them cheaper, so US companies can pick up the state licenses cheaper.
b) The early handover of power was done to help Bush’s reelection, sure - but they also needed a way to end run the Geneva convention regulations on selling off state assets and what not - the laws put in there to keep occupying powers from making off with a conquered country. Laws written by the US occupying authority have no authority at all under the convention, so they needed a friendly puppet to be a legitimate signing authority on all those contracts. This may not actually work for various technical reasons (not withstanding the Sadr & Sistani resistance).
c) All of Sistani’s manuevering and Sadr’s fighting is because they don’t want these rules to pass, because they think the whole of Iraq’s wealth will end up transferred to the US and their country reduced to indentured servitude.
d) The Iraqi public at large isn’t stupid, and knows what’s going on. There’s a story where some factory workers are refusing to let their factory be sold to a US company - they’ve already killed one plant manager who agreed to let the sale go through, scuttling it. They fear both unemployment and “colonialism”, apparently.

It’s not bulletproof, but it’s the only coherent story of the postwar I’ve seen. And it finally explains why the hell Bremer spent all his time fiddling with stuff like a flat tax over there, rather than getting the water working. I don’t know what to think of it.

Good info. So greed still rules every move of our govt. in Iraq. I am surprised.

Welcome back, by the way. Can you go ahead and make up about 200 posts by morning? :wink:

I don’t know if it is the fantasy version of the US or the fantasy version of doing to the middle east what we did to central and south america. Which means open those markets up to the corporations, get our little nightmare into their culture as well. As you said privatise resources, liberal trade policies, and no oversight on foreign investment.

In fact we could expand this to apply to the reason why the war on terror exists. It would not be the first time we used soldiers to open a country up to our banks and corporations.

I’m not surprised if that’s the case. I’ve considered for quite some time one of the biggest problems of rebuilding a stable Iraq is that the US administration is too right wing and may therefore not take decisions to, for the time being, keep assets national. I didn’t quite think they’d be so cynical to actively open Iraq for looting, though.

Hell, Iraq had a new intellectual property and copyright law written for it by the US before most of their government groundwork had been completed. One of the chief architects of their new copyright codes? Hillary Rosen, formerly chief of the RIAA.

Really? Jesus.

Stiglitz has apparently been saying things along these lines:

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/business/story/0,6903,1060955,00.html

Controversial plans to privatise all of Iraq’s non-oil assets have been attacked by Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. The former World Bank chief economist has warned that laws signed off by US and British occupation forces ‘risk social stability and Russia-style asset stripping’.

Navy research org article along these lines, and the parallels in post-communism Russia:

http://www.ccc.nps.navy.mil/si/2004/jun/looneyJun04.asp

Fuck. My confidence interval that this is what’s going on just went up…