If you follow the news, you know that the Bush administration is finally coming close to achieving its objective in Iraq. Thousands of US soldiers are dead. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dead. Millions are displaced. The whole region is a volatile quagmire. But it was worth it, because Operation Iraqi Freedom has succeeded: we are finally going to get the oil. Just in time too, what with gas at $4 per gallon and all.
No-bid contracts are about to be handed over to Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total, BP, Chevron and a number of smaller companies so that they can help “rebuild the decrepit Iraqi oil industry.” In exchange, they will receive premium access to one of the largest remaining oil deposits in the world. These foreign firms are positioned to keep 75 percent of the value of the contracts granted under the control of the Iraqi National Oil Company. As other global sources dwindle, this is going to lead to a cash-flow for the chosen few that will make last year’s record-setting profits laughable. Mission accomplished, he said.
Here’s how it went down. We went in for the oil. We destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure, raided its coffers, despoiled priceless and ancient national treasures, illegally held and tortured detainees, killed people, decimated the economy, spawned a civil/religious war, alienated most of the world, and reduced the place to chaos. Then we handed out no-bid contracts (see a theme emerging?) to companies such as Haliburton and Bechtel with direct connections to the highest reaches of our government, funneling billions of US citizens’ dollars into a grossly negligent privatized reconstruction of Iraq. Now we want Iraq to pay for this “reconstruction” by handing over the oil.
Iraq is nearly destroyed, the American people were first lied to and then robbed blind, and a handful of multinational corporations are getting rich beyond their wildest dreams. You want to know what Iraq was really about? Take the advice Deep Throat gave during the Watergate scandal: follow the money.
That’s Iraq, but what I really want to talk about is Naomi Klein.
The mess in Iraq is just one the most recent and egregious examples of the consequences of what Naomi Klein calls “Disaster Capitalism”. Klein’s latest book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (a New York Times best seller) is now being released in paperback. It is the story of “how America’s free market policies have come to dominate the world– through the exploitation of disaster-shocked people and countries.” Klein systematically takes us through a modern history of human catastrophe, war, and natural disaster and shows how multinational corporations in bed with political and economic free-market ideologues have seized advantage of crises to impose draconian economic policies on wounded populations, handing over to private companies the riches of the public sphere, and creating conditions advantageous to only the biggest global players, often with brutal repression of dissent. Russia, China, Central and South America, the South-East Asia crisis, South Africa, the tsunami, New Orleans, Guantanamo, Iraq… She covers it all. Disaster profiteering has become one of the most lucrative ventures available for those who are positioned to exploit a shocked and beaten populace. We, as Americans, need to understand how powerful interests play on our fears to garner support for international interventions in the name of national defense (i.e. the “war on terror”) that do little to secure us from harm, but do a lot to secure vast amounts of wealth for an elite few.
This, in my opinion, is one of the most important stories of our time. It’s scary as hell. Buy the book. Read it.
Visit The Shock Doctrine website to find out more.
Read Naomi Klein’s latest (short) article in The Nation, in which she talks about the connections between disaster capitalism and the current food and fuel crises.
Update - A conversation between Naomi Klein and Amy Goodman concerning all of the above, and Obama’s true economic colors.