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Let freedom reign - the big lie

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Joined: 14 Jun 2004
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Perhaps it's 'news' in the sense of new to anyone well informed? Here's my response to 'Let Freedom Reign - the big lie'.

Iraq has now ‘full sovereignty’- over what?

So according to the news bulletins Iraq is independent, sovereign and free.

In an article by Michael Schwartz (ZNet June 17,2004) I read: …”For a government to have sovereignty, it needs three things: a monopoly on the legitimate means of coercion; the material capacity to sustain a country's social and economic infrastructure; and an administrative apparatus capable of overseeing and administering policy. By these measures, the U.S. will retain sovereignty as long as the U.S. maintains its military, monetary, and administrative domination of the country….” Of course the government installed in Baghdad by the US has already requested not to have veto-power over the foreign fighters on its soil (let alone monopoly on the legitimate means of coercion), this we understand is a token of its subservience to those who have selected it and in whose ‘Green Zone’ it survives. We would not want any more evictions on the Chalabi style.

Who’ll control the media? The authority to license Iraq’s television stations and newspapers and to regulate cell phone companies has been transferred to a commission whose members were selected by Washington. The commissioners’ five-year terms stretch far beyond the planned 18-month tenure of the interim Iraqi government.

In the MediaLens alert of 29 June ’04, Let Freedom Reign – The Big Lie, we read: “…UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi admitted publicly that his own promised authority in building the caretaker government had been "sharply limited" by American officials. Brahimi called Bremer "the dictator" of Iraq. "Whether Dr. Allawi was their choice, whether they manoeuvred to get him in [the Prime Minister's] position - you better ask them", Brahimi said. (Ibid)

Crucially, the Iraqi government will have no power over the 140,000 US and
200,000 other troops occupying the country.

The power of the budget continues to be largely set and paid for in Washington,
and will not be in Iraqi hands – Americans will decide how the $18 billion set
aside for reconstruction is spent….” End quote.

In the US some have the decency to retain some semblance of realism “…The formal occupation of Iraq came to an ignominious end yesterday... In reality, the occupation will continue under another name, most likely until a hostile Iraqi populace demands that we leave.” (Krugman, ‘Who lost Iraq?’, New York Times, June 29, 2004).

Listening to news bulletins these days one is left with the impression that Tony Blair is Britain, George Bush is America and Allawi is Iraq.

When are the news bulletins going to report facts that will give all who listen the real measure of sovereignty and independence that Iraq is in reality (rather than in empty words) likely to enjoy? Perhaps only when they become so widely known that there is not longer any point in overlooking them. The sordid game of jingoism, propaganda and catch up so necessary when one has a social position to consider and a mortgage to pay.

“…If the occupation chief Paul Bremer and his staff were capable of embarrassment, they might be a little sheepish about having spent only $3.2bn of the $18.4bn Congress allotted - the reason the reconstruction is so disastrously behind schedule. At first, Bremer said the money would be spent by the time Iraq was sovereign, but apparently someone had a better idea: parcel it out over five years so Ambassador John Negroponte can use it as leverage. With $15bn outstanding, how likely are Iraq's politicians to refuse US demands for military bases and economic "reforms"? …” (ZNet | Iraq
The Robbery of Reconstruction by Naomi Klein; June 26, 2004)

One could also ask why while the reconstruction has been hindered by the unrest in Iraq, the construction of the US Embassy and 14 permanent(!) US military bases is proceeding apace.

“…US occupation powers have been unabashed in their efforts to steal money that is supposed to aid a war-ravaged people. The state department has taken $184m earmarked for drinking water projects and moved it to the budget for the lavish new US embassy in Saddam Hussein's former palace. Short of $1bn for the embassy, Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state, said he might have to "rob from Peter in my fiefdom to pay Paul". In fact, he is robbing Iraq's people, who, according to a recent study by the consumer group Public Citizen, are facing "massive outbreaks of cholera, diarrhoea, nausea and kidney stones" from drinking contaminated water. …” (ZNet | Iraq
The Robbery of Reconstruction by Naomi Klein; June 26, 2004).

It would seem it is not just in the running of the prisons that the USUK occupying forces have a tendency to imitate Mr Hussein. This may be why Iraqis have commented on the departure of Saddam and the arrival of the US occupation that ‘the student has departed and the teachers have taken over’. So much for sovereignty!

But in the ‘reconstruction’ of Iraq there have been plenty of scandals. Halliburton, work in Iraq saw them post a net profit for the second quarter of last year of $26 million in contrast to a net loss of $498 million a year earlier. The FT of 19 May 2004 reports that “…It came as a billing dispute intensified between Halliburton, the company formerly headed by vice-president Dick Cheney, and the US army. The army has informed the company’s Kellogg Brown &Root division that it will suspend $160m in payments for meal service at 64 dining facilities in Iraq amid concerns that it has been overcharged.
Halliburton had previously been forced to cancel or suspend more than $170m in meal service bills after previous complaints.
The company re-submitted a smaller bill after conducting an audit by a special internal team that determined it had over-charged the government by 19.4% in its first assessment…”.

And of course the occupying forces’ failure to provide security, but success in introducing terrorism has resulted in a bonanza for those providing mercenaries and guns for hire – guns who will be just as likely to kill USUK introduced terrorists, as to murder legitimate Iraqi resistance fighters and civilians. The performance of such companies will no doubt provide a positive nudge to ‘employment’ and ‘economic performance’ figures that so warm the heart of the ‘Moral Nations’.

Reconstruction may translate into millions of dollars for US and UK companies but it should be made clear that this is not necessarily so for Iraqi companies and workers. Iraq may be described by ITN or the BBC as ‘sovereign’, it is certainly not ‘employed’.

Iraqi companies have been locked out of the process. Fluor and Amec have been awarded contracts in the sewage, water and electricity sectors. However The General Co for Water Projects has been excluded by US-regulations that stipulate that agencies and contractors should not acquire services or supplies from entities owned by the government of Iraq (perhaps there is a concern that US contributions should remain the greatest source of finance for Mr Allawi’s party; not to mention that Iraqi companies must be made as cheap as possible for foreign take over).

Sabah al-Ani, of the General Co for Water Projects, is one of Iraq’s top experts in water treatment, ‘who kept the country’s system up and running through countless floods and droughts, years of economic sanctions and three wars’. The general manager at the Sharkh Dijlah water treatment plant told the Washington Post that ‘if he had had a choice in the matter’ he would have rehired the Iraqi company al-Ani works for to expand the plant, a project they used to run and would have finished at the beginning of this year had they been allowed to restart work immediately after the war. Instead the US put Bechtel in charge. Bechtel spent four months studying the General Co. plans before adopting them. They believe they will be finished in June (if they’re lucky). In the New York Times of 30 September Paul Krugman is quoted as saying that the Bush administration has been ‘delaying Iraq’s recovery’ by ‘treating (reconstruction) contracts as prizes to be handed to their friends’.

Iraqi workers have to fight to regain even the meagre earnings and bonuses they had under Saddam, as the ‘liberation forces’ have imposed salaries that are even more miserable – so much for sovereignty and human rights.
To quote Naomi Klein again “…But then, if financial scandals made you blush, the entire reconstruction of Iraq would be pretty mortifying. From the start, its architects rejected the idea that it should be a New Deal-style public works project for Iraqis to reclaim their country. Instead, it was treated as an ideological experiment in privatisation. The dream was for multinational firms, mostly from the US, to swoop in and dazzle the Iraqis with their speed and efficiency.
Iraqis saw something else: desperately needed jobs going to Americans, Europeans and south Asians; roads crowded with trucks shipping in supplies produced in foreign plants, while Iraqi factories were not even supplied with emergency generators. As a result, the reconstruction was seen not as a recovery from war but as an extension of the occupation, a foreign invasion of a different sort. And so, as the resistance grew, the reconstruction itself became a prime target….” “…If Iraq's occupiers were capable of feeling shame, they might have responded by imposing tough new regulations. Instead, Senate Republicans have just defeated an attempt to bar private contractors from interrogating prisoners and also voted down a proposal to impose stiffer penalties on contractors who overcharge. Meanwhile, the White House is also trying to get immunity from prosecution for US contractors in Iraq and has requested the exemption from the new prime minister, Iyad Allawi….”
Why have the news bulletins not mentioned Mr Allawi field of expertise as a member of the Ba’ath party? Why have the allegations that his ties with the CIA and MI6 may extend to his involvement in CIA sponsored terrorism in Baghdad at the time of Saddam not been mentioned? Would this not make him at least a rather controversial choice? Then again maybe he will be a perfect match for Mr Negroponte. Nobody has so much as whispered that this is the same Negroponte who presided as US Ambassador in Honduras when that country was the nerve centre for US sponsored terrorist activities in Latin America.
And of course nobody would dream to announce another remarkably well chosen member of the team “…And then there's Aegis, the company being paid $293m to save the PMO from embarrassment. It turns out that Aegis's CEO, Tim Spicer, has a bit of an embarrassing past himself. In the 90s, he helped to put down rebels and stage a military coup in Papua New Guinea, as well as hatching a plan to break an arms embargo in Sierra Leone….” (ZNet | Iraq The Robbery of Reconstruction by Naomi Klein; June 26, 2004). (PMO - Program Management Office, which oversees the $18.4bn in US reconstruction funds).

The pathetic saga of omission we are fed as ‘news bulletins’ tells us more about those who accept to be used in such fashion, than about the situation in Iraq.

PS – I understand the following is part of former Vice President Al Gore’s speech delivered on Thursday, June 24 at Georgetown University Law Center.
“CNN’s Christiane Amanpour said on CNBC last September, “I think the press was muzzled and I think the press self-muzzled. I’m sorry to say but certainly television, and perhaps to a certain extent my station, was intimidated by the Administration”.
The Administration works closely with a network of “rapid response” digital Brown Shirts who work to pressure reporters and their editors for “undermining support for our troops.” Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist, was one of the first journalists to regularly expose the President’s consistent distortions of the facts. Krugman writes, “Let’s not overlook the role of intimidation. After 9/11, if you were thinking of saying anything negative of the President…you had to expect right-wing pundits and publications to do all they could to ruin your reputation.

Bush and Cheney are spreading purposeful confusion while punishing reporters who stand in the way. It is understandably difficult for reporters and journalistic institutions to resist this pressure, which, in the case of individual journalists, threatens their livelihoods, and in the case of the broadcasters can lead to other forms of economic retribution. But resist they must, because without a press able to report “without fear or favor” our democracy will disappear.”
Wed Jul 07, 2004 10:11 am
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