Monday, September 22, 2003

Hello--Anybody home?

Last weekend, Tribune Bremer ordered the "free-market reform" of the Iraq economy, allowing foreign investment, including 100% private ownership, of almost all facets of its commerce. Only "natural resources," i.e., oil, was exempted, doubtless because that would have raised too much noise right now, and besides, I'm sure the private oil companies would rather wait until we taxpayers pay Halliburton to get the damned system fixed before they jump on the resultant huge asset like buzzards on roadkill.

This economic development is a complete about-face from the state-ownership policy that had been in force for decades in Iraq. Not only will it lead to a draining out of Iraq of the profits of the most lucrative businesses, (which are the only ones that might attract foreign capital), it flies completely in the face of the concept of Iraq for the Iraqis!

The various news reports of this order by Bremer consistently use the phrase, "economic reform." Well, I'm no economic historian, but isn't that the same phrase that was used to support (a) deregulation of the electric-power system in California; and (b) regulation of lobbying and campaign contributions; as well as the corporate-finance abuses of the past two years? Doesn't the word "reform" depend upon point of view? Is wholesale capitalism, especially foreign-owned capitalism, necessarily a "reform" of state-regulated, domestically-owned, commerce? Would it be a "reform" for Rupert Murdock to acquire BBC? Or Donald Trump to gain title to the Brandenburg gate?
But here's what's even more amazing. In the reports so far, I've heard not a squeak of protest that such a gigantic change in the day-to-day, as well as the mega- operation of the entire nation, was made by Tribune Bremer's unilateral decree. Not even debated by the CPA (as if that mattered, since Bremer appointed them--but not even presented to them for rubber-stamp)! Isn't this just such a decision that Iraq is supposed to make for itself, as part of the "democracy" we're supposed to be installing?

With a stroke of its pen, America has completely altered a foreign nation's economic system, as the occupying power, in the name of "reform," and as part of that nation's course toward democracy. If this is not the height of hypocrisy, if it's not the arrogance of empire, I don't know what is.

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