Bush's economic invasion of Iraq
U.S. corporations march into Baghdad, at the expense of self-determination.
This article has been reposted at http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/24307/ along with viewer comments.
ON MONDAY, Iraq's National Assembly will release a draft constitution
to be voted on by the people in two months. Since February, vital
issues have been debated and discussed by the drafting committee: the
role of Islamic law, the rights of women, the autonomy of the Kurds
and the participation of the minority Sunnis.
But what hasn't been on the table is at least as important to the
formation of a new Iraq: the country's economic structure. The Bush
administration has succeeded in maintaining a stranglehold on issues
such as public versus private ownership of resources, foreign access
to Iraqi oil and U.S. control of the reconstruction effort — all of
which are still governed by administration policies put into place
immediately after the invasion. The Bush economic agenda favors
foreign interests — American interests — over Iraqi
Over a year ago, orders were put in place by L. Paul Bremer III, then
the U.S. administrator of Iraq, that were designed to "transition
[Iraq] from a … centrally planned economy to a market economy"
virtually overnight and by U.S. fiat. Those orders were also
incorporated into the transitional administrative law — Iraq's interim
constitution — and the economic restructuring they mandate is well
Laws governing banking, investment, patents, copyrights, business
ownership, taxes, the media and trade have all been changed according
to U.S. goals, with little real participation from the Iraqi people.
(The TAL can be changed, but only with a two-thirds majority vote in
the National Assembly, and with the approval of the prime minister,
the president and both vice presidents.) The constitutional drafting
committee has, in turn, left each of these laws in place.
A central component of the Bush economic agenda is foreign corporate
access to, and privatization of, Iraq's once state-run economy. Thus,
an early Bremer order allowed foreign investment in and the
privatization of all 192 government-owned industries (excluding oil
After the election of the transitional government, the Ministry of
Industry and Minerals fell right in line, announcing plans to
partially privatize most of its 46 state-owned companies and open them
to foreign investment as part of a plan to establish a "liberal,
Oil is, of course, at the heart of the agenda. In 2004, U.S.-appointed
interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi submitted guidelines to Iraq's
Supreme Council for Oil Policy suggesting that the "Iraqi government
disengage from running the oil sector … and that the [Iraq National
Oil Company] be partly privatized in the future" and opened to
international foreign investment, according to International Oil
Daily. (U.S oil imports from Iraq increased by more than 86% between
2003 and 2004 alone.)
Plans for a new Iraqi oil law were made public last December at a news
conference in Washington hosted by the U.S. government. The
U.S.-appointed interim Finance Minister Adel Abdul Mehdi explained
that the new law would be "very promising to the American investors
and to American enterprise, certainly to oil companies."
A few weeks later, Mehdi became one of Iraq's two vice presidents and
Allawi was elected to the National Assembly. Iraq's new oil law is on
track for implementation in 2006.
Finally, consider Iraq's reconstruction, which also remains firmly
under U.S. control. One of Bremer's orders denied the Iraqi government
the ability to give preference to Iraqis in the reconstruction effort.
Instead, more than 150 U.S. companies were awarded contracts totaling
more than $50 billion, more than twice the GDP of Iraq. Halliburton
has the largest, worth more than $11 billion, while 13 other U.S.
companies are earning more than $1.5 billion each.
These contractors answer to the U.S. government not the Iraqi people,
several thousand of whom in the last few days have protested the
failure of U.S. companies to provide accessible water, sanitation and
electricity at pre-war levels. Iraqis argue that they have the
knowledge, skill and experience to conduct the reconstruction
themselves; what they need is the money and decision-making control
that they are being denied.
By all accounts, the draft constitution has failed to provide Iraqis
with the means to control their economic future. As Iraq prepares for
the October 15 referendum on the constitution these crucial issues
must be added to the debate, and the influence of the Bush
administration countered, so that Iraqis can truly determine their own
economic and political fate.
Just as discussions are finally emerging for ending the U.S. military
occupation of Iraq, so too must the economic invasion be brought to an
ANTONIA JUHASZ is a scholar with the think tank Foreign Policy In
Focus. Her book "The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a
Time" will be published by Regan Books in 2006.