The Second Iraq War

The Iraq war is a shining and sickening example of the shock doctrine-disaster capitalism-free market complex. With the start of the war prominent journalist Thomas Friedman positively envisioned Iraq as a model of free market capitalism in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world. Based on Shock and Awe technique developed in the first Iraq war, the US followed perfectly the time honoured routine of bombardment, psychological operations, personal abuse, fear mongering, and sweeping political and economic shock therapy - basically Cameron's torture techniques and identity wiping on a huge and lightning fast scale.

Amidst the apparent difficulties of military strategy, the driving ideology comes through: soldiers were told not to stop looters taking cultural materials, airline equipment or school supplies because interim Coalition administrators like the education advisor, John Agresto, thought the state needed to downsize its assets anyway.

Agresto had never studied Iraq, but his job was not to maintain continuity of education in a nation whose literacy (89%) had been higher than some American states. His job, as with all of the reconstruction, was to wipe the slate clean and start again - while creating profits for any business lucky enough to be involved. 500,000 state workers were laid off, with no sign of respect given to the educated and capable human resources of Iraq. There was no attempt to give Iraq immediate ownership or control of the reconstruction effort.

This disruption of national identity and sense of reconstructing from scratch is perhaps the closest and most powerful analogy in Klein's narrative to Cameron's torture experiments. Ensuing the bombardment and large scale movements, thousands of civilians and combatants alike were rounded up, interrogated and tortured as their rights were completely ignored and widespread fear was created.

The face-to-face conflict itself was highly privatised as security and mercenary firms like Blackwater made up significant shortages in US troop numbers. In one of her impressive power-facts, Klein tells that apparently some of these private soldiers even had experience in Pinochet's Chile. Soldiers like Jeff Perry, who went to Human Rights Watch, spoke out against the torture (including electric shock) in Abu Ghraib and other prisons. Fighting and mass fear-tactics increased as protest and frustration among the Iraqi population mounted.

When the central wave of fighting stopped, Paul Bremer, leading the temporary administration, immediately opened Iraq for sale, with no taxes or tariffs, and every government asset up for grabs. All 200 state firms were to be privatised, some with 100% foreign ownership. Never one to miss an opportunity, Bremer had had practice in homeland security since starting his own Crisis Consulting Practice on October 11, 2001. Only the oil sector was excepted from full privatisation because the Coalition believed such an act would start the war anew, this time bringing in other countries in the region. Nonetheless, $20 billion in oil revenues was appropriated for the reconstruction effort. By 2006, Halliburton also received $20 billion in Iraq contracts.

Another figure for the business side of the war, at the height of it there was one contractor (including private soldiers) for every 1.4 US soldiers. With $70 billion in total gathered for reconstruction, foreign firms like Halliburton, Bechtel, and Parsons assumed command with no open bidding, and no policy in place to ensure national or local Iraqi firms would receive any contracts.

The lack of regulation, the glut of international funding and national asset sales, criminal embezzlement and idiotic layers of subcontracting meant that billions of dollars poured into private hands with little or no result in the rebuilding of Iraq. The Parsons company, for example, was given $186 million dollars in contracts, and ended up building 6 out of 142 scheduled health clinics. The Custer company was found guilty after an insider whistle-blower case, but faced no punishment as any company involved in the reconstruction was deemed outside of US jurisdiction.

When people in cities and towns around the country organised local elections, Bremer dismissed the results as unimportant and unofficial. Unbelievably, he actually prohibited any further such elections. Klein posits that the difficulty in handing power over to a new government was created by the fact that no government elected by or responsive to the people of Iraq would have followed the economic plan and junked the state. Eventually an administration was selected from outcasts, exiles, and US-friendly figures.

The result of the attacks and mismanaged reconstruction was an increase in fundamentalist support and violence in Iraq. Klein suggests that Bremer and others had been aware of this risk, the free market risk of the wealthy few and the angry many, but that they had counted on the shock of the war keeping the Iraqis dumbfounded and quieted. By 2006 some state firms were reconstituted and staffed with local workers; but the selected administration could still push through a law offering the majority of oil-generated profits to foreign-owned firms, despite clear and outspoken protest. The atrocities committed in Iraq and evidence of blatant corruption extend far beyond this short account.

Lesson learned: The US pulled the Coalition of the Willing into an unjustified attack on a sovereign nation under prepense of weeding out terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and followed precisely disaster capitalism as Naomi Klein describes it, blasting free market reforms into Iraq, and generating unimaginable private profit from the tragedy of war. This seems to be the height of the progression, with all the lessons learned previously coming out of the shadows to create an overt, conscious, corrupt, greedy and violent imposition of one country's (or group's) economic ideology on another, to the detriment of the many and benefit of the few.


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