It has been an accepted truth that the US invasion of Iraq wasn’t about weapons of mass destruction, or about spreading democracy. It was just about oil.
But I’ve recently come to realise that this isn’t actually the case.
The invasion of Iraq wasn’t about stealing oil, it was about stealing everything. Not just in Iraq, but everywhere that there is a crisis.
To understand what’s been happening you need a brief history lesson. Many of these ideas come from Naomi Klein’s mind-blowing book ‘The Shock Doctrine’, and I advise everyone to read it.
Milton Friedman (the god of Chicago school free market economics) famously said that if you want to change something you have to wait for a crisis to shake things up because this is the only thing that will confuse people long enough for you to get away with what you want to do.
And with this he invented ‘disaster capitalism’. The basic idea is that you wait until there is a natural disaster and then you swoop in and bully those who’ve just been “shocked” by the disaster into rebuilding their economies in a way you think is right.
Now Friedman for all his many (MANY) flaws was a genuine ideologue. He really believed that if we just removed all the restrictions on business then the economy would zoom away and everyone in the world would be happy forever.
And ride to work on Libertarian unicorns cloned from the bones of Friedrich Hayek.
Unfortunately, he believed this with the fervor of a religious fanatic and thus he ignored the abundant evidence that if you let a corporation do whatever it wants it will rape you to death and then sell your organs on the black market.
It always blows my mind the way free market thinkers can simultaneously say that we shouldn’t complain when corporations take advantage of people (because they are “just following the profit motive”) and claim that nothing bad will happen if we leave corporations in charge of things.
Doubly unfortunately Friedman’s shock therapy ideas have been appropriated by people who don’t even have the defence of being blinded by ideology: they are just in it for the money and they don’t give a shit about anything else.
So the first pillar of this article is this: disaster capitalism. Wait for a disaster and then capitalise on it.
The second pillar is closely related to the first, because another major tenet of Chicago school free market capitalism is that government will never be as efficient as business.
The fact that for most of the past 4 centuries there has been no difference between government and business seems to have slipped them by.
But, this means that they are constantly pushing for government to surrender more of their functions to business. This is why Ron Paul wants to sell the police force to corporations.
You know, because corporations can’t be corrupted…
Under Bush this “outsourcing” approach to government gained huge amounts of leeway. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld outsourced key parts of the government to companies, including giving Halliburton the contract to do all of the “logistics” for the US military.
This approach has been a huge success, for the corporations, not so much for America, or the American economy.
To understand why this outsourcing is a bad thing you need to realise that Cheney and Rumsfeld both owned fortunes in the stock of the companies who were awarded these government contracts and that many members of the Bush government went straight from their government posts into jobs for the companies to whom they awarded contracts.
It is difficult to think of something more corrupt than that.
But anyway, the point is that the second pillar of this article is that free market “thinkers” like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld (who I may now refer to as Buchey-Feld) believe that you need to get corporations to do all the things that governments usually do and that the reason they believe this is because they partly own the corporations who will be doing this work.
Which brings us to the case of Iraq. During the war much of Iraq was destroyed by the US military and naturally this destruction needed to be undone and the country rebuilt.
In fact Buchey-Feld made a promise to the Iraqi people that the country would be rebuilt and that the economy would soon be booming. They drew deliberate parallels between the reconstruction of Iraq and the rebuilding of Europe after WWII.
But there is a key difference.
After WWII it was made almost illegal for American companies to actively take part in the rebuilding of Europe because it was believed that they would probably take advantage of Europe’s battered state. Similarly, it was felt that the best way to get Europe’s economy going again was to let European businesses do the reconstruction.
This just seems logical. If local businesses are doing the work and local labour is employed then the local economy will benefit. And it worked, Europe bounced back from the worst war in history with surprising speed.
So, since this proved that a local approach is highly effective when the US wanted to rebuild Iraq they naturally used the local construction industry, right?
No, of course not. They gave the reconstruction and service delivery contracts to Halliburton, Bechtel and a bunch of other American companies.
This is bad, and not just because it means that the local companies (who know the area, the culture, the language) will not benefit from the reconstruction and that American and Iraqi tax money will simply be funneled straight to US corporations.
It’s also bad because US contractors were made largely immune to prosecution under Iraqi law, something that has only recently been challenged. This immunity was made for all US military personnel. Then it was extended to the mercenaries (oh, I’m sorry, “security contractors”) who were doing much of the military’s work in Iraq.
Things finally came to a head when a private security and reconstruction contractor called ‘Custer Battles’ (I swear, you can’t make this shit up) was found to be simply lying about doing the work it was paid to do.
But ‘CB’ had a defence ready. They claimed that because their work was so closely intertwined with that of the US government that it should also be immune from prosecution.
That’s how corrupt the US presence in Iraq is. It is so corrupt that a private company can claim, in court, that there is no difference between business and government.
But there is a further problem.
You see friends, the reason why the free market is a good idea (kinda) is because it means that companies have to offer a good service, or they won’t get any work.
There are two ways that this is enforced: competition and the law. Since US contractors in Iraq were pretty much invulnerable from a legal perspective there was no disincentive to acting illegally. But companies are supposed to compete with other companies to get work, so companies that don’t do their job soon go out of business, right?
Wrong, because many of the contractors in Iraq did not have to compete with other companies for their work. In fact Halliburton got millions and millions of dollars in contracts without even having to bid. They just said “I want that contract” and the government said “ok”.
Was this done because Buchey-Feld knew that those companies would pay them huge bribes?
Yes, it was.
So since the companies could not be prosecuted and were in no danger of losing their contracts it comes as no surprise that many of them just didn’t do what they were supposed to do.
To see the proof of this one only needs to look at the state of service delivery. Hospitals remain unbuilt, education is unavailable, roads and sewers are falling apart.
When the contractors are asked why this is they say that Iraq is just too dangerous and that the violence prevented them from doing their jobs.
Which is weird, because when you look at how foreign companies have been treating the now-privatised oil reserves you see that Iraq’s oil production is back up to several million barrels.
So the violence stops the people from benefiting, but you better believe the oil is coming out.
Because similar things were done in Chile, Russia, and New Orleans: there was some sort of disaster and in the wake corporations swooped in to take charge and fuck things up, horribly, while making massive profits.
So Iraq wasn’t about oil, it was about everything. Everything in Iraq, and everything outside of it, and the desire of private industries to suck everything of value from areas of the world to battered too defend themselves
[Standard Disclaimer: this post was entirely my own opinion and was not paid for in any way, directly or otherwise, by anyone or anything that stands to gain in any way from the ideas expressed herein.]