Red and Black Notes article on the imperialist aims of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
News of the August blackout that left millions in the eastern United States and Canada without power was greeted in Iraq with amusement. "Now they know how we feel," said one Iraqi. Another remarked in acid tones, "I just hope it's not left to the Americans to restore power, or else things will never get put right.
The irony of United States, with its crumbling infrastructure and massive social polarization, "rebuilding" Iraq is lost on few. Nevertheless, the US is going ahead with its plan to remake Iraq into a free market economy, never mind that in the "Arab world" this is a completely new creation.
Under Saddam Hussein's Baath party, nearly every part of the economy was under government control. Now almost the entire economy will be opened to the "free market" with unlimited foreign ownership; the sole exception being the oil industry which will remain a state monopoly. However because of the history of Iraqi capitalism, the market will be overwhelmingly dominated by foreign companies, and so currently 192 have lined up to start business in Iraq.
Western sources project that within five years all of Iraq's national banks will be owned by foreign banks and up to 50% of local banks will be available for sale. Meanwhile non-Iraqi firms will not be able to own land, but will be able to lease it for up to 40 years. In this mania to dismantle Saddam's state, even privatization has been privatized: US company BearingPoint Inc. (formerly KPMG) recently received a one-year contract for almost $80 million to help privatize the economy.
And look who's lining up to buy: KBR, an energy and services subsidiary of Halliburton, received a $7 billion contract without even having to bid for it. Meanwhile Bechtel, the sixth largest engineering firm in the US received a $680 million contract for "capital reconstruction." But perhaps the most spectacular success in Iraq has been the awarding of a no-bid contract to rebuild Iraq's mobile phone network to MCI. MCI is the new name for the poster children of accounting fraud, WorldCom. Needless to say WorldCom have never built a mobile network in the US.
So the US feels quite confident. Despite an interim CIA report which has so far failed to find any Weapons of Mass Destruction. It has been able to impose its agenda on the region, secure Iraq's oil reserves for itself and push its rivals to one side. And although the US economy has yet to respond, the US appears to have achieved its aims. Or has it?
Sometime before the war began a retired British general commented that the problem for the US was not getting to Baghdad, but what to do once they got there. This simple assessment appears to be more accurate than many professional commentators, both leftist and other wise.
For despite the US success in imposing its agenda, the peace seems more difficult. To date more US soldiers have been killed since the end of the war, then died during the brief conflict. Hardly a day passes without some brazen act of sabotage. While the US has been quick to blame remnants of the Baath Party or even Al-Qaeda for these attacks, it has been able to do little to prevent them. As such, the continued US presence in Iraq while essential to its economic plans, also threatens to become an endless sinkhole of money and resources.
The point is not whether Iraqi workers would benefit from being exploited by their "own" people rather than the imperialists, but to note that the peace is proving to be a lot harder than the war.
First Published in Red and Black Notes #18, Autumn 2003, this article has been archived on libcom.org from the Red and Black Notes website.