Telling It Like It Is (And Doesn’t Need to Be)
July 27th, 2006
Review of The Bush Agenda: Conquering the World, One Economy at a Time (HarperCollins), 2006.
This is an infuriating book.
It infuriates the way truth does when you get a cold splash of it and you learn how you’ve been taken. (Example: In 2004, Halliburton, the world’s largest energy services corporation, and the happy hunting grounds of its former CEO, Dick Cheney, charged American taxpayers $27,500,000 to deliver $82,000 worth of heating oil from Kuwait to Iraq.)
This is also a hopeful book.
How the author manages this alchemy of outrage and uplift requires close attention and willingness to learn. Ms. Juhasz names names and doesn’t pull her punches. She has done her homework, filled in the gaps. She argues her case like a lawyer, and I’m glad she’s on our side.
The Bush Agenda is subsumed in the subtitle: to invade and conquer the world by conflating America’s “national interest” with American-based multinational corporations’ interests in instituting trade policies that cripple our trading partners and make them dependent upon our political largesse and military power. Ms. Juhasz exposes the squirrelly cast of characters hiding behind masks of preemptive patriotism and hard-power “democracy.”
I’d divide her book into four parts: Vision, Methodology, Rebuttal, and Revision.
Vision is Bush and Company’s dystopic vision of “war and free trade,” the “twin solutions to virtually all of the world’s problems.” Listen as carefully as Ms. Juhazs has to Bush’s stump speeches and you hear the constant refrain: “the surest path to greater wealth is greater trade.” Free trade and “free markets” are not, of course, synonymous with “freedom,” though our cheerleading President never makes the distinction. Ms. Juhasz prefers the less euphonious, more accurate reality: corporate globalization. In her words, our policies “expand the rights of multinational corporations and investors to operate in more locations, under fewer regulations, with less commitment to any specific location.”
Bush’s vision is abetted “through the barrel of a gun.” The major corporate players are Halliburton, Bechtel (the world’s largest construction company), Lockheed Martin (the world’s largest weapons manufacturer), and Chevron (one of the “Four Sisters” oil companies). These corporations thrive on the control and exploitation of energy — namely, oil production and distribution, and they have spearheaded America’s imperialist thrust into the “developing” world. Integrated boards of directors, seats on “development” agencies like the World Bank, IMF, and WTO, and revolving-door blurring of public and private sectors — all serve to promote their mutual interests. Chevron, for example, is “the only oil company in the world that can count the former U.S. national security adviser and current secretary of state
as a former director.” That’s Condoleezza, of course, proud bearer of the name of a Chevron oil tanker! Then there’s Bechtel, where George Shultz, Reagan’s Secretary of State, has been pasturing for decades. The point is, they all know each other. They go to the same parties!
Add the NeoCon media and think-tank hucksters — William Kristol, James Woolsey, Kenneth Edelman, Robert Zoellick, Lynne Cheney (the V.P.’s wife served on Lockheed Martin’s board from 1994 to 2000), and, of course, Henry Kissinger, et. al. — salivating in print and broadcast venues since the end of the Cold War, about the need to establish a global Pax Americana and we’ve all the ingredients for a Superpower empire. Then, light the fuse with 9/11 and Iraq!
Juhasz devotes more than half her book to the “mutual seduction” of Iraq. She describes how, “over the course of several administrations,” the four corporations used their influence “to increase economic engagement with Iraq and then, when Saddam Hussein no longer played ball, to advocate for war.” Bechtel, Chevron, Halliburton, and Lockheed Martin “were part of a chorus of corporations desiring increased and more secure access to Iraqi profits.” Clearly, our corporate-governmental alliance used 9/11 and then the myth of WMD to declare illegal war — in violation of the Geneva Conventions, which our Constitution upholds as a treaty obligation, “the law of the land” — to seize the oil wealth of 25 million people and establish new military bases in the Middle East. How Provisional Authority “Dictator” Paul Bremer spent 14 months in Iraq issuing 100 Orders that lock Iraq into deleterious “free-market,” judicial and military agreements, should comprise a book in itself (but not one written by Bremer!).
Juhasz will not allow us to buy the bilge-water that we’ve been dealing with a cast of well-meaning incompetents who simply improvised poorly when it came to implementing their New World (“Democratic”) Order. “It is now repeated as gospel that the Bush administration had no plan for post-conflict Iraq,” she reminds us (and we may recall Rumsfeld’s shrug: “Stuff happens … Freedom is untidy”). “But the gospel is not correct,” she continues. “There was at least one clear plan — an economic plan — the blueprint for which was ready and in Bush administration hands at least two months prior to the invasion.”
One of the principal architects of that plan was Paul Bremer, who left the U.S. State Department in 1989 to become the managing director of Kissinger Associates. Bremer was no naïf in suit and combat boots, struggling to bring order to a devastated Iraq. He was following a carefully scripted plan, devised by the corporate and government elite for over a decade. He knew exactly what he was doing. In 2001, he had warned companies that “the painful consequences of globalization are felt long before its benefits are clear.” The point is, the War on Iraq, and the “War on Terror” have never really been about spreading democracy or freedom, or finding weapons of mass destruction or toppling a dictator. They have always been about globalization — and war as the chief instrument to spread the American brand of it.
Bremer’s 100 Orders are akin to Presidential Executive Orders. It doesn’t matter what sort of Constitutional government Iraq may evolve into, Iraqis are hidebound by the Orders they were given. Order #62 enabled Bremer to determine which Iraqis could run for or hold public offices. Order # 65 established an Iraqi Communications and Media
Commission, and Bremer appointed its members. Order #’s 57 and 77 placed American representatives in key decision-making positions within each government ministry for terms that last five years — well after the permanent elected government of Iraq takes office in 2006.
Perhaps the icing on the cake, Order # 39 “does no less than ‘transition [Iraq] from a … centrally planned economy to a market economy’ virtually overnight and by U.S. fiat.” It allows for the privatization of Iraq’s state-owned enterprises; 100 percent foreign ownership of Iraqi businesses; “national treatment,” or, “no preferences for local over foreign businesses”; “unrestricted, tax-free remittance of all profits and other funds”; “the right to take legal disputes out of Iraq’s courts and into international tribunals.”
What we have here is not freedom, but the perversion of freedom. Not well-meaning Americans spreading the ideals of democracy, but the worst kind of hypocrites. Do we still wonder why these people hate us? Do we wonder why the “insurgency” goes on and on and on when we lock our clients, our colonies, into alien systems, forcing them to bow before our alien gods of commerce and our martial law?
Juhasz describes the tragedy of imperial over-reach, but she concludes with a ray of hope and a call to arms: the interlocked arms of citizens, consumers, students, working people, mothers — all those who stand for community against empire, localization against corporate hierarchialism, human values against profits. She was Congressman John Conyer’s aide, and she has served as the project director of the International Forum on Globalization. She has marched and protested, appeared on CBS News, CNN and NPR. She’s been there and she’s done that, and in this fine, thoughtful book, she tells it like it is, and, if we awake in time, like it still could be.
Gary Corseri has taught in public schools and prisons in the U.S., and at US and Japanese universities. His work has appeared at Dissident Voice, Palestine Chronicle, TeleSurtv.net, CounterPunch, CommonDreams, The New York Times, Village Voice, Uruknet, City Lights Review, Atlanta-PBS, WorldProutAssembly and 200 other websites and publications. His books include: Manifestations (edited); Holy Grail, Holy Grail; and A Fine Excess. He can be contacted at: email@example.com.