Friday, September 24, 2004

Iraq: Year Zero

Finally. Answers to my questions. April 9, 2003, the day Baghdad fell, was Day One of Year Zero.

Pillaging Iraq in pursuit of a neocon utopia

It was only after I had been in Baghdad for a month that I found what I was looking for. I had traveled to Iraq a year after the war began, at the height of what should have been a construction boom, but after weeks of searching I had not seen a single piece of heavy machinery apart from tanks and humvees. Then I saw it: a construction crane. It was big and yellow and impressive, and when I caught a glimpse of it around a corner in a busy shopping district I thought that I was finally about to witness some of the reconstruction I had heard so much about. But as I got closer I noticed that the crane was not actually rebuilding anything—not one of the bombed-out government buildings that still lay in rubble all over the city, nor one of the many power lines that remained in twisted heaps even as the heat of summer was starting to bear down. No, the crane was hoisting a giant billboard to the top of a three-story building. SUNBULAH: HONEY 100% NATURAL, made in Saudi Arabia.

Seeing the sign, I couldn’t help but think about something Senator John McCain had said back in October. Iraq, he said, is “a huge pot of honey that’s attracting a lot of flies.” The flies McCain was referring to were the Halliburtons and Bechtels, as well as the venture capitalists who flocked to Iraq in the path cleared by Bradley Fighting Vehicles and laser-guided bombs. The honey that drew them was not just no-bid contracts and Iraq’s famed oil wealth but the myriad investment opportunities offered by a country that had just been cracked wide open after decades of being sealed off, first by the nationalist economic policies of Saddam Hussein, then by asphyxiating United Nations sanctions.

Looking at the honey billboard, I was also reminded of the most common explanation for what has gone wrong in Iraq, a complaint echoed by everyone from John Kerry to Pat Buchanan: Iraq is mired in blood and deprivation because George W. Bush didn’t have “a postwar plan.” The only problem with this theory is that it isn’t true. The Bush Administration did have a plan for what it would do after the war; put simply, it was to lay out as much honey as possible, then sit back and wait for the flies.

Kenneth Bigley. Nick Berg. Egyptian Telecom Workers. Eugene Armstrong. Jack Hensley. Hundreds of others.

The honey theory of Iraqi reconstruction stems from the most cherished belief of the war’s ideological architects: that greed is good.

[snip]

The problem is that governments, even neoconservative governments, rarely get the chance to prove their sacred theory right: despite their enormous ideological advances, even George Bush’s Republicans are, in their own minds, perennially sabotaged by meddling Democrats, intractable unions, and alarmist environmentalists.

Iraq was going to change all that. In one place on Earth, the theory would finally be put into practice in its most perfect and uncompromised form. A country of 25 million would not be rebuilt as it was before the war; it would be erased, disappeared. In its place would spring forth a gleaming showroom for laissez-faire economics, a utopia such as the world had never seen.

[snip]

The fact that the boom never came and Iraq continues to tremble under explosions of a very different sort should never be blamed on the absence of a plan. Rather, the blame rests with the plan itself, and the extraordinarily violent ideology upon which it is based.


The article explains how L. Paul Bremer declared Iraq "Open for Business" two weeks after he arrived and the move would later be described as "the largest state liquidation sale since the collapse of the Soviet Union."

It might have been the plans for the McDonald’s in downtown Baghdad, or the planned Starwood luxury hotel and General Motors auto plant, that, when mixed with the myriad power struggles raging in the war-torn country, finally broke the proverbial camel's back and turned the neocons' dreams of a utopian society into the chaos and madness that is Iraq today. One thing is certain: For the neocons, their ideological belief in greed turned out to be stronger than greed itself.


1 Comments:

At 6:09 PM, Blogger Poor_Statue said...

That was one of the creepiest things I've ever read.

 

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