Bush to Saddam: “Time’s Up”
Tonight, President Bush addressed the nation and the world. CNN’s music was militant, the graphics prepared and by all standards available to the Proconsul on the Potomac, the nation was girded for war. He gave Iraqi president Saddam Hussein 48 hours — Thursday morning local Baghdad time — to quit his country and avoid war. No doubt Saddam will ungallantly refuse, and one can hear the echo of Bush’s father’s famous phrase: “The liberation of Kuwait has begun.”
“The day of your liberation is here.” Well, not so fast, Tex. In 15 minutes of earnest, non-sedated verbiage, not once did Bush utter the word “democracy.” Oh, he feinted at it, with near-misses like “liberty,” “freedom” and “self-governing,” Self-governing means nothing; almost every nation-state is self-governing. Liberty and Freedom, while nice, mean quite different things in different parts of the world. Chinese patriots are free to buy what they choose, but criticizing the government is asking for trouble. Are they free? Are they liberated? Not by Western standards. But most important was “peaceful,” often stressed, indicating a pacified Iraqi nation was more important than a democratic one.
Basra in the south will be an early test of liberation, that’s for sure, because video of cheering Iraqis hugging Doughboys and GIs, tossing rice (a traditional Arab gesture of welcome) and roses, will be beamed to a world in an attempt show the world the American eagle’s embrace is warm and loving, never mind the talons.
I’m not saying Iraq won’t be better off without Saddam. It very well might, as long as it doesn’t collapse into civil war and thuggery the moment the U.S. gets distracted by something else shiny.
But while liberation has not yet begun, the fallout already has. Moscow has hinted it might retaliate against the United States by not ratifying the arms reduction treaty recently signed. You know, the one that would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world?
And the business opportunities are already in the air! Instead of a Marshall Plan, which rebuilt Europe at the end of World War II with a combination of direct grants and loans to the amount of $13 billion (in 1948 dollars,) The Wall Street Journal reported that instead of a long-term reconstruction effort, the Bush White House envisions a one-year occupation with reconstruction contracted out to private companies (Paid reg. required.) Left out of the effort are most of the U.N. development agencies and Non-governmental organizations. With $1.5 billion (in 2003 dollars) being offered to private companies, only $50 million is set aside for groups such as CARE and Save the Children.
The Marshall Plan was an amazing example of enlightened self-interest. Direct grants (mostly) and loans administered by the Economic Cooperation Administration, a specially created bureau of the U.S. government, helped restore agricultural and industrial production, establish financial stability and expand trade (since much of the money went to buy American products and food.) Europe, led by the U.K. and France, coordinated all this through the Committee of European Economic Cooperation — later the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation. A lot of American businessmen got rich selling their products to the desperate Europeans. In the process, western Europe was aligned more closely with the United States, Communism was contained and the major military alliances — recently smashed by you-know-who — crafted.
But this plan, shocking in its optimism and, yes, naiveté, farms out the reconstruction to major U.S. companies directly answerable — and often funding — Washington. Within weeks of the end of the war, the plan envisions the administration repairing schools, roads and hospitals, revamping the country’s financial rules and handling the government payroll (Ooh, bet you some embarrassing skeletons will come out of that last one.) The Treasury Department will be “deeply involved” in overhauling Iraq’s central bank and some U.S. government officials will serve as “shadow ministers.”
The cost? Well, the White House will ask Congress for $100 billion to wage the war and pay for its aftermath. Included in this is $1.8 billion for a year of reconstruction and $800 million for relief assessment. Doesn’t sound like much does it?
Don’t worry, the Iraqis will pay for the rest!
The paper reports that Europeans, of course, and Iraqi dissidents have reacted with disbelief. Keeping the U.N. and NGO players out of the game will delay reconstruction and foster more ill-will in a part of the world that suffered from colonialism.
The best quote goes to Chris Patton, head of the EU’s external relations, who slammed the Bush plan as “maladroit.” He also suggested last week that if the United States was so keen on making a mess in Iraq, then it could bloody well clean it up itself.
Bush administration figures, leery of any kind of working-togetherness, say delays in reconstruction in Afghanistan prove that multilateralism doesn’t work. Hey, Bush, here’s a suggestion: Instead of blaming cooperation, why don’t you _fund_ the reconstruction effort and not _forget_ to put Afghanistan in your 2004 budget?
The Journal also says the U.S. officials want “credit” for reconstruction, indicating the whole thing is seen more as a PR plan than a real policy (Shades of Gen. Rove! How will happy, loyal Iraqis play in Iowa?)
“The administration’s goal is to provide tangible evidence to the people of Iraq that the U.S. will support efforts to bring the country to political security and economic prosperity,” says a U.S. contract document for up to $900 million in reconstruction work.
Not surprisingly, Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Vice President Dick Cheney’s company Halliburton Co., is part of a bidding consortium. All companies mentioned — Bechtel Group Inc., Parsons Corp., Louis Berger Group and Fluor Corp. — made a combined $2.8 million in political donations between 1999 and 2002, with more than two-thirds going to Republicans.
(I’m shocked — shocked!)
What’s FUBAR about this is that while the Marshall Plan made many American businessmen rich, it also made a fair number of European businessmen rich, too, as well as allowed the rehabilitation of Europe’s industrial sector thanks to access to capital and investment from the national governments. In Iraq, a state-run economy at the moment, the money will flow back to American companies rather than staying in the country. Once the reconstruction is done, where will the Iraqi industrial sector be? The roads might be laid and the schools might be running, but with Bush’s mealy-mouthed dancing about “democracy” and a plan straight out of Corporate Exploitation of Cheap Labor 101, it points to Iraq as a dependent colony of the United States, requiring heavy American investment (hmm), foreign aid with a tapestry of strings attached (hmm) and an inability to say “no” to American offers of “protection.” (Ah hah!)
Southwest Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, anyone?