The rape of Iraq

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Posted by Andreas from ( on Tuesday, May 13, 2003 at 12:07PM :

The rape of Iraq

By the Editorial Board
9 May 2003

During the buildup to the last world war, it was common to speak of Nazi
Germany's "rape of Czechoslovakia," or "rape of Poland." What characterized
Germany's modus operandi in these countries was the use of overwhelming
military force, the complete elimination of their governments and all civic
institutions followed by the takeover of their economies for the benefit of
German capitalism.

It is high time that what the US is doing is called by its real name. A
criminal regime in Washington is carrying out the rape of Iraq.

One month after the fall of Baghdad to the US military, the real reasons for
the Bush administration's illegal war against Iraq are coming clearly into
focus. Behind Washington's rhetoric about "liberation" and "democracy,"
America's financial oligarchy is preparing to enrich itself through the
outright theft of an entire nation's wealth.

The weapons of mass destruction and terrorist cells-the supposed targets of
the US invasion-are nowhere to be found. Only the hopelessly na´ve or
willfully obtuse can believe that these were the real motives for the war.
That the US government sent hundreds of thousands of troops and expended
billions of dollars worth of munitions and materiel to "liberate" the Iraqi
people is even less credible.

Washington's real intentions are the creation of an out-and-out colonial
regime. In Iraq, Washington is confronting the world with the reemergence of
imperialism in the classic sense of the word. It is repudiating the right of
small nations to self-determination and asserting its own right to use
military force to seize whatever it desires.

Today Iraq lies in ruins. A campaign that can better be described as a
massacre than a war yielded combined civilian and military casualties that
number in the many tens if not hundreds of thousands. Hospitals, schools,
power facilities, water and sewage services, trash collection and every
other section of infrastructure required to sustain life in a highly
urbanized society have been smashed. Cholera and other diseases have reached
epidemic proportions.

Virtually the entire population is without work or any means of support. No
money has been budgeted to pay the salaries of displaced government workers,
and US officials have made it clear that there are no plans to revive the
Iraqi civil service.

In Baghdad last Saturday, several hundred desperate job seekers stormed the
Palestine Hotel, which, unbeknownst to them, the US military command had
recently abandoned. Protesting the desperate conditions facing working
people as the result of the invasion, they shouted: "George Bush, Ali Baba."

The comparison of the American occupation with the exploits of the fabled
Arabian bandit and his 40 thieves is well-founded. Washington has unleashed
an army of thieves upon this battered country.

US occupation forces began by actively encouraging rampant looting-including
the pillaging of the irreplaceable treasures of the National Museum-as a
means of smashing whatever had been built up by Iraqi society.

The aim is to reduce the country's people to a destitute and atomized mass,
creating what the Bush administration sees as a tabula rasa upon which it
can imprint its own right-wing and predatory schemes. They are carving out
an area to carry out an economic, social and military experiment that
gravely threatens not only the people of Iraq and the region, but also the
working people of America and the world.

A secret US document entitled "Moving the Iraqi Economy from Recovery to
Sustainable Growth," first reported by the Wall Street Journal last week,
provides a glimpse into US intentions.

BearingPoint Inc., a consulting firm known previously as KPMG Consulting,
has been awarded a contract for introducing this plan. The firm was one of a
number connected to the auditing giants that changed their names and
separated from parent companies in the wake of the series of financial
scandals that reached their high point with the collapse of the Enron
Corporation, a key corporate ally of the Bush administration.

Had it not been for Enron's debacle, it would today undoubtedly be one of
the major contractors seeking to profit from the misery of the Iraqi people.
In essence, US intentions in Iraq manifest the same criminal tendencies that
were revealed at Enron, WorldCom and company after company in recent years.

The thrust of the US plan is the wholesale privatization of state-owned
industries, particularly the oil sector, and the formation of a stock market
as well as the imposition of a US-style tax code aimed at benefiting foreign

Privatization in Iraq, as elsewhere, is designed as a ruthless form of
triage. Most of the state-owned companies upon which people have depended
for their livelihoods and their basic needs will simply be declared
insolvent and liquidated.

Those deemed potentially profitable will be sold off through what the
document describes as a "broad-based Mass Privatization Program," which
could include the distribution of vouchers to Iraqi citizens. A similar
procedure was used in Russia. While touted as a form of "people's
capitalism," that allows ordinary citizens to "own" the national wealth, it
turned quickly into a means of transferring state-owned property into the
hands of a coalition of criminals and former Stalinist bureaucrats. Ordinary
people quickly sold off the vouchers for a fraction of their face value to
get money for food.

The document says that the job of the multiple contractors being chosen by
the Bush administration will be to facilitate "private sector involvement in
strategic sectors, including privatization, asset sales, concessions, leases
and management contracts, especially in the oil and supporting industries."

The document likewise calls for turning Iraq's primitive stock market into a
"world-class exchange" for trading shares in the newly privatized companies.
Not only would US government contractors create the basic infrastructure for
this exchange, American taxpayers' money would also go to train a cadre of
Iraqi stockbrokers, presumably imparting the wisdom of financial fraud that
has been so much in evidence on Wall Street in recent years.

Privatization at gunpoint

The shamelessness of the US plan has shocked even some of those who have
participated in previous privatization plans. "Privatization would end up
being done by American guns, not by democratic decision," Jeffrey Sachs, the
Harvard economist who played a key role in the elaboration of privatization
schemes in Russia and Eastern Europe, commented recently. "If there was
privatization like people are talking about, it will help our oil companies
and the European oil companies in grabbing the Iraqi oilfields."

For the US corporations, the conquest of Iraq is about more than just oil,
it presents a field of opportunity for unrestrained exploitation and an
infusion of badly needed profits through the looting of an entire nation.

Iraq represented a defenseless and, in many ways, irresistible target from
the standpoint of the capitalist drive for profit. It possesses vast natural
resources, with proven oil reserves of around 112 billion barrels, second
only to Saudi Arabia. It likewise has a highly skilled workforce. Yet, as a
result of US military attacks and 12 years of punishing sanctions, it
remained one of the most economically undeveloped countries in the world,
with a per capita income of just $800 and a Gross Domestic Product that has
plummeted by over 70 percent in the last two decades.

Before the war, Iraq's oilfields were pumping out 2.5 million barrels a day.
It is estimated that with several billion dollars worth of capital
investment, output could reach 7 million barrels a day within the next
several years, bringing in annual revenues of more than $60 billion at today
's oil prices.

Lack of capitalist development characterizes virtually every other sector.
The county's stock market traded just 95 companies and the country has one
of the lowest capitalization to GDP ratios for the region.

Iraq's telecommunications network is one of the least advanced in the world,
the result of being denied access to technology by the US-backed sanctions.
There are presently just 2.9 telephone lines per 100 people and no mobile

The takeover of the oil industry is already under way. Philip Carroll, the
former CEO of Shell Oil, has been tapped to oversee the oil ministry. It was
also revealed this week that the supposed "oil fire fighting contract"
awarded secretly to a subsidiary of the Halliburton Corp. in the midst of
the war covers not just the limited task of fighting oil well fires-as
government officials previously maintained-but also the "operation and
distribution of products."

In other words, the company that was headed by US Vice President Richard
Cheney from 1995 to 2000-and still pays him up to $1 million annually-will
operate Iraq's oilfields and control whatever oil is produced.

The subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), secured a no-bid contract that
has no limit either on its length or dollar amount. Like most of the
contracts awarded, it is structured on a cost-plus basis, meaning the more
the company incurs in costs the more profit it makes.

The revelation about the KBR contract came in response to a demand for more
information made by Rep. Henry Waxman, Democrat of California, who
questioned whether Halliburton's political ties had won it the deal.

In a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, which released the information,
Waxman noted that previous descriptions of the contract had mentioned only
oil well fires and repairs. "These new disclosures are significant and they
seem at odds with the administration's repeated assurances that the Iraqi
oil belongs to the Iraqi people."

Publicly embracing American imperialism

What is taking place in Iraq is the onset of a fundamental change in US
foreign policy with vast implications both for the world and for the
American people. Washington has embarked on a nakedly neo-colonialist
venture. The fiction that it is preparing a democracy in Iraq is
self-evident. Democracies are not created at the point of a bayonet or by
the decrees of military occupation authorities. Those Iraqis whom the US has
selected to assist in this project, led by the convicted embezzler Ahmed
Chalabi, are a gang of criminals and CIA agents.

The retired US general in charge of the military occupation, Jay Garner,
announced this week that "by the middle of the month you'll see a beginning
of a nucleus of an Iraqi government with an Iraqi face on it, that is
dealing with the coalition." This "Iraqi face" excludes any force in Iraq
that enjoys genuine mass support. Where indigenous forces have come forward
to restore order and essential services, as in Mosul and Fullajah, the US
military's response has been one of bloody massacres.

Perhaps one of the most significant political features of this process is
the lack of opposition across the official political spectrum within the US
itself. In an earlier period, US imperialist politicians and their
ideological defenders eschewed the label of empire and not infrequently
cited the country's origins in an anti-colonial revolutionary war in order
to claim moral superiority over its rivals in "old Europe." Now, US empire
and colonialism are shamelessly embraced.

The New York Times chief foreign affairs commentator, Thomas Friedman, a
scoundrel who faithfully echoed the administration's multiple pretexts for
the war, is a prime example. In a plea to liberal opponents of the war to
become "constructive critics" and participants in the task of "nation
building," Friedman writes: "We now have a 51st state of 23 million people.
We just adopted a baby called Baghdad." He concludes by urging Democrats in
the US not to "miss the opportunity to shape-and help make happen-one of the
most important turning points in US foreign policy."

Even more provocatively, Max Boot, a right-wing commentator who serves as a
spokesman for the coalition behind Bush, produced an opinion piece for USA
Today entitled: "American imperialism? No need to run away from the label."
He urged US officials not to concern themselves with potential opposition to
the neo-colonial enterprise in Iraq. "More than 125,000 American troops
occupy Mesopotamia," he exulted. "They are backed up by the resources of the
world's richest economy. In a contest for control of Iraq, America can
outspend and outmuscle any competing faction."

Boot continued with a warning not to underestimate the costs associated with
the conquest of Iraq. "We'd better get used to US troops being deployed
there for years, possibly decades, to come," he writes. "If that raises
hackles about American imperialism, so be it. We're going to be called an
empire whatever we do. We might as well be a successful empire."

The vast majority of the Iraqi population has no desire to become slaves of
corporate America, and not a few have already died opposing this criminal
enterprise. Should it succeed, not only they, but working people in the
United States and internationally will pay a terrible price.

An unprecedented social and economic crisis

America's rapacious policy in Iraq is driven by profound domestic social and
economic contradictions. US capitalism confronts its most serious economic
and financial crisis since the end of the Second World War. Planned job cuts
in April rose to over 146,000, the thirty-third month in a row that has
registered the slashing of jobs. This marks the longest continuous decline
in employment during the postwar period.

Leading this jobs massacre-with nearly 58,000 planned layoffs-were state and
local governments, which are increasingly confronting the specter of
bankruptcy. Nearly 120,000 public sector layoffs have been announced since
the year began, together with drastic cuts in essential services ranging
from public education to medical care.

A Business Roundtable survey of top executives representing the largest US
employers showed that only 18 percent of their companies plan to increase
capital spending this year. The remaining 82 percent said capital spending
would remain stagnant or decline. Only 9 percent of these executives said
their companies plan to hire new workers this year, while close to half
expected to lay off more employees.

Meanwhile, the US dollar has registered a precipitous decline, falling
nearly 20 percent against the euro in the last year and a half, reflecting
the flight of capital from the US markets in the face of declining profit
rates. The supposedly invincible America, the world's "sole superpower," is
in reality beset by unprecedented economic rot.

The attempts by the financial oligarchy to reverse these trends through
financial fraud and literally criminal economic activity on the one hand,
and the turn toward militarism and colonial conquest on the other, are a
response to the crisis and decay at the heart of American capitalism.

With the way the US looting of Iraq is being organized, American working
people will be foremost among those paying the price to enrich a handful of
politically connected corporations. The "liberation" of the Iraqi people
will translate into a massive rip-off of the American people. America's
military victory has only widened the scope of activities of the criminal
layer that dominates both politics and corporate finance.

The cost-plus contracts that are awarded by the Bush administration can be
paid for in the first instance only through the intensification of attacks
on basic social conditions at home.

The rise of a new US neo-colonialism, moreover, will not be a repetition of
nineteenth century European colonialism. It will not foster a "labor
aristocracy" with the proceeds reaped from a conquered Iraq. Given the
global integration of capitalist production, Iraq becomes another source of
cheap labor. Its conquest will only accelerate the drain of money and jobs
out of the US in search of guaranteed profits in Iraq.

At the same time, this neo-colonial plunder will only strengthen the grip of
the most corrupt and right-wing elements in the American government. Those
winning the lucrative deals in Iraq will be those who have anted up to the
Republican Party's campaign committees. It is a game in which one has to
"pay to play."

The struggle against war, colonialism and empire

American working people can defend their own rights only by unconditionally
opposing the turn toward colonialism and empire. This process goes
hand-in-hand with the destruction of living standards and jobs at home and
the creation of an ever-more repressive political regime that is bent on
abrogating fundamental democratic rights.

In Europe, workers must reject the opportunist and cowardly efforts of their
governments to adapt themselves to America's predatory aims and thereby win
a share of the booty. Whether these efforts succeed or fail, the end result
will be an intensified assault on the tattered remains of the welfare states
built up during the postwar period. The appeasement of US imperialism can
only facilitate new campaigns of colonial conquest and ultimately the
descent into a third world war.

In Iraq, the masses must intransigently oppose the imposition of a
neo-colonial regime. The claims that Washington is interested in democracy
and modernization in Iraq are a patent lie. The only interest of the
American ruling elite is expropriating whatever is capable of yielding a
profit while suppressing any resistance by Iraqis to the plundering of their

The demand must be raised for the immediate withdrawal of all US and British
occupation forces from Iraq and the convening of a democratically elected
constituent assembly to form a new independent Iraqi government committed to
protecting Iraq's resources and utilizing them for the benefit of the masses
of the country's working people.

The struggle against war and resurgent neo-colonialism can be successfully
waged only by one social force-the international working class. A new
revolutionary party must be built to mobilized the working class
independently and unite it internationally on the basis of a socialist
perspective that replaces the profit principle with the conscious
development of the world economy in the interests of all. This is the
perspective of the World Socialist Web Site and of the Socialist Equality

-- Andreas
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