Saturday, October 30, 2004
Remember the Tim Russert interview when he asked Bush how he was so sure that a democratic Iraq would not elect for an Islamic governement? Chalabi assured him. Yes, that was CHALABI.
Religious Leaders Ahead in Iraq Poll U.S.-Supported Government Is Losing Ground
By Robin WrightWashington Post Staff WriterFriday, October 22, 2004; Page A01
Leaders of Iraq's religious parties have emerged as the country's most popular politicians and would win the largest share of votes if an election were held today, while the U.S.-backed government of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is losing serious ground, according to a U.S.-financed poll by the International Republican Institute.
More than 45 percent of Iraqis also believe that their country is heading in the wrong direction, and 41 percent say it is moving in the right direction.
Within the Bush administration, a victory by Iraq's religious parties is viewed as the worst-case scenario. Washington has hoped that Allawi and the current team, which was selected by U.S. and U.N. envoys, would win or do well in Iraq's first democratic election, in January. U.S. officials believe a secular government led by moderates is critical, in part because the new government will oversee writing a new Iraqi constitution.
"The picture it paints is that, after all the blood and treasure we've spent and despite the [U.S.-led] occupation's democracy efforts, we're in a position now that the moderates would not win if an election were held today," said a U.S. official who requested anonymity because the poll has not been released.
U.S. officials acknowledge that the political honeymoon after the handover of political power on June 28 ended much earlier than anticipated. The new poll, based on 2,000 face-to-face interviews conducted among all ethnic and religious groups nationwide between Sept. 24 and Oct. 4, shows that Iraqi support for the government has plummeted to about 43 percent who believe it is effective, down from 62 percent in a late-summer poll.
A senior State Department official played down the results. "When the interim government took over, the [poll] numbers were artificially high. It's very difficult to meet expectations when they're sky-high," he said on the condition of anonymity because the data are still being analyzed.
But in another blow, one out of three Iraqis blames the U.S.-led multinational force for Iraq's security problems, slightly more than the 32 percent who blame foreign terrorists, the poll shows. Only 8 percent blame members of the former government.
"We had convinced everyone -- Americans and Iraqis -- that things might change with the return of sovereignty, but, in fact, things went the other way," a congressional staff member said. "What's particularly damning is that the multinational force gets more blame than the terrorists for the problems in Iraq. It's all trending in the wrong way . . . and it's not likely we'll be able to change public sentiment much before the election. "
In positive news for the administration, the poll found that 85 percent of Iraqis want to vote in the January election.
Despite the current strife, about two-thirds of Iraqis do not believe civil war is imminent, the poll found. Asked if their households had been hurt by violence, injuries, death or monetary loss over the past year, only 22 percent of those questioned said yes -- a figure that surprised pollsters and U.S. officials.
With voter registration due to begin Nov. 1, the poll found that 64 percent of Iraqis are still unwilling to align with any party, which U.S. officials attribute to the legacy of the Baath Party. The most valuable indicators, officials say, may be the data on Iraq's politicians.
The poll found the most popular politician is Abdel Aziz Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). The group was part of the U.S.-backed opposition to Saddam Hussein and is now receiving millions of dollars in aid from Iran, U.S. officials say.
Hakim had 80 percent name recognition among Iraqis, with more than 51 percent wanting to see him in the national assembly, which will pick a new government.
Allawi had the greatest name recognition of any politician, with 47 percent of Iraqis supporting him for a seat in the new parliament. But rebel Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr came in a very close third, with 46 percent backing him for an assembly seat.
Ahmed Chalabi, once favored in Washington as a possible successor to Hussein, had wide national recognition, but only 15 percent want him in parliament -- and more than half oppose him.
The one factor that skews the poll, analysts said, is that Ibrahim Jafari, the Dawa Party chief and current vice president, was not included. He had the highest popularity rating in previous polls.
That may still be the case, since almost 18 percent of Iraqis surveyed by IRI said they were most likely to vote for Dawa candidates -- the largest backing among the top 11 parties listed. Dawa is another former U.S.-backed group supported by aid from Iran, U.S. officials say.
U.S. officials and Iraqi analysts believe candidates aligned with the Supreme Council and with Dawa are likely to capture the highest percentage of votes, giving religious parties an edge in forming a new government.
Iraqi President Ghazi Yawar, a Sunni leader of the country's largest tribe, was also omitted from the poll.
In an interview with Abu Dhabi television, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday that Iraqis want democracy and are unlikely to go "from one form of totalitarian state to another form of totalitarian state." Both U.S. officials and Iraq experts note that the rise of Islamic parties does not necessarily mean creation of an Islamic government or theocracy such as Iran's.
President Bush said Tuesday that he would be "disappointed" if free and fair elections in Iraq led to the seating of an Islamic government, but that the United States would accept the results. "Democracy is democracy," he said. "If that's what people choose, that's what the people choose."
The IRI, founded in 1983, is a private, nonprofit organization that has worked in more than 60 countries to advance democracy worldwide. With U.S. grants, it has been in charge of public opinion polls in advance of the election.
Friday, October 29, 2004
Bush counts on his supporters having no memory
White House Groans Over LoanWASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2003The Bush administration threatened for the first time Tuesday to veto an $87 billion package for Iraq and Afghanistan if Congress converts any Iraqi rebuilding money into loans. White House officials issued the warning even though many lawmakers agree that the bill's final version is likely to bow to President Bush and omit any loans. By underscoring Mr. Bush's opposition to loans, the administration threat could make it easier for congressional Republican leaders to nail down enough votes to help the president prevail. The House bill included $18.6 to help Iraq rebuild its water supplies, health clinics and Army, and made the money a grant that country would not have to repay. The Senate included $18.4 billion but would require Iraq to repay about half — unless Saudi Arabia, Russia and other countries forgave 90 percent of the debt Baghdad ran up under Saddam Hussein's regime. Mr. Bush and a host of administration officials had repeatedly expressed their opposition to loans in recent weeks, but had not issued a veto threat before. A letter written Tuesday reiterated White House arguments, but contained the first such veto warning. "If this provision is not removed, the president's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill," wrote White House budget director Joshua Bolten. "Including a loan mechanism slows efforts to stabilize the region and to relieve pressure on our troops, raises questions about our commitment to building a democratic and self-governing Iraq, and impairs our ability to encourage other nations to provide badly needed assistance without saddling Iraq with additional debt," the letter said. Later this week, U.S. officials are hoping to get billions in pledges from foreign countries at an Iraq donors' conference in Madrid. So far, according to The New York Times, Japan has pledged $1.5 billion for next year and more in the future, Britain said it would donate $800 million, Spain nearly $300 million and Canada $260 million. The Pentagon estimates Iraqi reconstruction will require $55 billion. Were Congress to pass the Senate version of the reconstruction bill, countries could follow the U.S. example and provide loans rather than grants. In addition, U.S. officials are hoping to steer the donors' conference away from debt relief and toward grants. If the U.S. reconstruction plan links America aid to debt relief, it might be difficult to get donors to focus on new aid. Loan supporters say that with some of the world's richest oil reserves, Iraq should be required to eventually repay some U.S. aid. That is especially true with the United States facing record federal deficits, and many members of Congress hearing requests from their home districts for more funds for local roads and other projects. House-Senate bargainers hope to reach compromise on a final version of the bill next week. Both houses overwhelmingly approved similar bills Friday providing most of the $87 billion that Mr. Bush requested for U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and for rebuilding the two countries. The House vote was 303-125, while the Senate roll call was 87-12. The loans-vs.-grants debate concerns only a portion of the massive bill, which provide nearly $66 billion for U.S. troops in the field. Both chambers chopped nearly $2 billion off the $20.3 billion he requested for retooling Iraq's oil industry, its court system and the rest of its economy and government. Minutes before final passage, the Senate voted by voice to strip nearly $1.9 billion from that part of the bill, erasing money for ZIP codes, sanitation trucks and other items that some lawmakers had derided as frivolous. The House had already killed most of those same items. Senators also voted to add $1.3 billion for veterans' health care programs. The bills also contained rebuilding aid for Afghanistan; assistance for Pakistan, Jordan, and other U.S. allies; and cash for rewards for the capture of Saddam and Osama bin Laden.
As part of the $87 billion request for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Bush's $20.3 billion proposal for rebuilding Iraq includes:
$2.9 billion to repair the electrical system
$150 million for emergency communications system
$150 million for a new children's hospital in Basra.
$130 million for irrigation projects.
$125 million for railroads.
$100 million to protect witnesses
$100 million for war crimes experts
$100 million for housing
$99 million for prisons
$67 million for guards
$55 million for an oil pipeline repair team
$30 million for English classes
$9 million to modernize Iraq's postal system
$1 million for a museum on atrocities by Saddam's regime. AP
Tue October 21, 2003 01:01 PM ET By Vicki Allen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Tuesday threatened to veto an $87 billion bill for military operations and reconstruction in Iraq if Congress keeps a Senate-passed provision to convert $10 billion of the package into loans.
The chairman of the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee meanwhile said he was confident the loan provision would be eliminated when a House-Senate conference meets to reconcile differences in their two versions, enabling a final measure to be sent to President Bush.
"I believe the House position will prevail. We are determined to support the president," said Rep. Bill Young, a Florida Republican.
But sentiment remained strong among lawmakers in both chambers to make Iraq repay a portion of the $20 billion Bush wants for Iraq's reconstruction from its future oil revenues.
White House budget director Joshua Bolten in a letter to the House and Senate appropriations committees said the president's senior advisers would recommend a veto if the loan was not dropped from the final bill.
"Including a loan mechanism slows efforts to stabilize the region and to relieve pressure on our troops, raises questions about our commitment to building a democratic and self-governing Iraq, and impairs our ability to encourage other nations to provide badly needed assistance without saddling Iraq with additional debt," Bolten said.
The Senate last week narrowly voted to make $10 billion of the package into loans, while the House narrowly defeated a similar measure pushed by Democrats. House Republican leaders had maneuvered to prevent a vote on a Republican loan plan.
The House later Tuesday was to take a nonbinding vote that Republicans acknowledged could put a majority on the record in support of the loans, as well as additional money for veterans' health care and improvements in the quality of life for U.S. troops in Iraq.
John Feehery, spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, said he did not feel that vote would be significant. "We're not going to send the president a bill he's going to veto," he said.
Young said he expected a final bill will be ready later this month to send to Bush, and said conferees will meet on next Tuesday on the bill.
While the bill could not be completed as hoped in time for international donors conference for Iraq on Thursday and Friday in Madrid, he said, the strong House and Senate votes last week for somewhat different measures demonstrate the United States will offer at least half of rebuilding money in grants and should encourage other donor countries.
"The United States is committed. Both houses have passed one version or another for a construction grant," said Young.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
From Feb 8 Meet the Press interview with Bush (Tim Russert the interviewer):
Russert: If the Iraqis choose, however, an Islamic extremist regime, would you accept that, and would that be better for the United States than Saddam Hussein?
President Bush: They're not going to develop that. And the reason I can say that is because I'm very aware of this basic law they're writing. They're not going to develop that because right here in the Oval Office I sat down with Mr. Pachachi and Chalabi and al-Hakim, people from different parts of the country that have made the firm commitment, that they want a constitution eventually written that recognizes minority rights and freedom of religion.
I remember speaking to Mr. al-Hakim here, who is a fellow who has lost 63 family members during the Saddam reign. His brother was one of the people that was assassinated early on in this past year. I expected to see a very bitter person. If 63 members of your family had been killed by a group of people, you’d be a little bitter. He obviously was concerned, but he -- I said, you know, "I'm a Methodist, what are my chances of success in your country and your vision?" And he said, "It's going to be a free society where you can worship freely." This is a Shiia fellow.
And my only point to you is these people are committed to a pluralistic society. And it's not going to be easy. The road to democracy is bumpy. It's bumpy particularly because these are folks that have been terrorized, tortured, brutalized by Saddam Hussein.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
The World According to a Bush Voter
By Jim Lobe, AlterNetPosted on October 21, 2004, Printed on October 25, 2004http://www.alternet.org/story/20263/
Do the supporters of President Bush really know their man or the policies of his administration?
Three out of 4 self-described supporters of President George W. Bush still believe that pre-war Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or active programs to produce them. According to a new survey published Thursday, the same number also believes that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein provided "substantial support" to al Qaeda.
But here is the truly astonishing part: as many or more Bush supporters hold those beliefs today than they did several months ago. In other words, more people believe the claims today –- after the publication of a series of well-publicized official government reports that debunked both notions.
These are among the most striking findings of a survey conducted in mid-October by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) and Knowledge Networks, a California-based polling firm.
The survey polled the views of nearly 900 randomly chosen respondents equally divided between Bush supporters and those intending to vote for Democratic Sen. John Kerry. It found a yawning gap in the perceptions of the facts between the two groups, particularly with regards to President Bush's claims about pre-war Iraq.
According to the accompanying analysis offered by PIPA:
It is normal during elections for supporters of presidential candidates to have fundamental disagreements about values or strategies. The current election is unique in that Bush supporters and Kerry supporters have profoundly different perceptions of reality. In the face of a stream of high-level assessments about pre-war Iraq, Bush supporters cling to the refuted beliefs that Iraq had WMD or supported al Qaeda.
The survey probed each respondent's views at three separate levels: One, their personal belief about the two issues; two, their perception of what "most experts" had concluded about the same; and three, their knowledge of the Bush administration's claims on either WMDs or al Qaeda.
The survey found that 72 percent of Bush supporters believe either that Iraq had actual WMD (47 percent) or a major program for producing them (25 percent). This despite the widespread media coverage in early October of the CIA's "Duelfer Report" – the final word on the subject by the one billion dollar, 15-month investigation by the Iraq Survey Group – which concluded that Hussein had dismantled all of his WMD programmes shortly after the 1991 Gulf War and never tried to reconstitute them.
Nonetheless, 56 percent of Bush supporters are under the impression that the expert consensus is exactly the opposite – that Iraq had actual WMD. Another 57 percent think that the Duelfer Report itself concluded that Iraq either had WMD (19 percent) or a major WMD program (38 percent).
Only 26 percent of Kerry supporters, by contrast, believe that pre-war Iraq had either actual WMD or a WMD program, and only 18 percent said "most experts" agreed on the same.
Results on Hussein's alleged support for al Qaeda are similar. The contention – which has been most persistently asserted by Vice President Dick Cheney – was thoroughly debunked by the final report of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission earlier this summer.
Seventy-five percent of Bush supporters said they believed that Iraq was providing "substantial" support to al Qaeda, with 20 percent asserting that Iraq was directly involved in the 9/11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon. Sixty-three percent of Bush supporters even believe that clear evidence of such support has actually been found, and 60 percent believe that "most experts" have reached the same conclusion.
By contrast, only 30 percent of Kerry supporters said they believe that such a link existed or that most experts have concluded that it did.
Ironically, the only issue on which the survey found broad agreement between the two sets of voters was the role of the Bush administration in actively promoting the claims about Iraq's WMD and connections to al Qaeda.
"One of the reasons that Bush supporters have these (erroneous) beliefs is that they perceive the Bush administration confirming them," notes Steven Kull, PIPA's director. "Interestingly, this is one point on which Bush and Kerry supporters agree."
In regard to WMD, those majorities have actually grown since last summer, according to PIPA.
On WMD, 82 percent of Bush supporters and 84 percent of Kerry supporters believe that the administration claims that Iraq either had WMD or major WMD programs. On ties with al Qaeda, 75 percent of Bush supporters and 74 percent of Kerry supporters believe that the administration claims that Iraq provided substantial support to the terrorist group.
Remarkably, when asked whether the U.S. should have gone to war without evidence of a WMD program or support to al Qaeda, 58 percent of Bush supporters said no. Moreover, 61 percent said they assumed that Bush would also not have gone to war under those circumstances.
"To support the president and to accept that he took the U.S. to war based on mistaken assumptions likely creates substantial cognitive dissonance and leads Bush supporters to suppress awareness of unsettling information about pre-war Iraq," Kull says.
He added that this "cognitive dissonance" could also help explain other remarkable findings in the survey. The poll also found a major gap between Bush's stated positions on a number of international issues and what his supporters believe Bush's position to be. A strong majority of Bush supporters believe, for example that the president supports a range of international treaties and institutions that the White House has vocally and publicly opposed.
In particular, majorities of Bush supporters incorrectly assume that he supports multilateral approaches to various international issues, including the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (69 percent), the land mine treaty (72 percent), and the Kyoto Protocol to curb greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming (51 percent).
In August, two-thirds of Bush supporters also believed that Bush supported the International Criminal Court (ICC). Although that figure dropped to a 53 percent majority in the PIPA poll, it's not much of a drop considering that Bush explicitly denounced the ICC in the first, most widely watched presidential debate in late September.
In all of these cases, majorities of Bush supporters said they favored the positions that they imputed, incorrectly, to Bush. Large majorities of Kerry supporters, on the other hand, showed they knew both their candidate's and Bush's positions on the same issues.
Bush supporters also have deeply erroneous views regarding the extent of international support for the president and his policies. Despite a steady flow over the past year of official statements by foreign governments and public-opinion polls showing strong opposition to the Iraq war, less than one-third of Bush supporters believe that most people in foreign countries oppose the U.S. decision to invade Iraq. Two-thirds believe that foreign views are either evenly divided on the war (42 percent) or that the majority of foreigners actually favors the war (26 percent).
Three of every four Kerry supporters, on the other hand, said it was their understanding that the most of the rest of the world oppose the war.
Similarly, polls conducted during the summer in 35 major countries around the world found that majorities or pluralities in 30 of them favored Kerry for president over Bush by an average of margin of greater than two to one. Yet 57 percent of Bush supporters believe that a majority of people outside the U.S. favor Bush's re-election, while 33 percent think that foreign opinion is evenly divided.
On the other hand, two-thirds of Kerry supporters think that their candidate is favored overseas; only one percent think that most people abroad preferred Bush.
Kull, who has been analyzing U.S. public opinion on foreign-policy issues for two decades, says that this reality gap reveals, if anything, the hold that the president has over his loyalists:
The roots of the Bush supporters' resistance to information very likely lie in the traumatic experience of 9/11 and equally in the near pitch-perfect leadership that President Bush showed in its immediate wake. This appears to have created a powerful bond between Bush and his supporters – and an idealized image of the President that makes it difficult for his supporters to imagine that he could have made incorrect judgments before the war, that world public opinion would be critical of his policies or that the president could hold foreign policy positions that are at odds with his supporters.
In other words, Bush supporters choose to keep faith in their leader than face the truth either about their president or the world as it is.
© 2004 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/20263/
Friday, October 15, 2004
Dear Mr. Bush,
Thank you for providing the illegible Xeroxed partial payroll sheets (or whatever they were)
yesterday covering a few of your days in the National Guard. Now we know that, not only didn't you
complete your tour of duty, you were actually paid for work you never did. Did you cash those
checks? Wouldn't that be, um, illegal?
Watching the press aggressively demand the truth from your press secretary -- and refusing to
accept the deceit, the dodging, and the cover-up -- was a sight to behold, something we really
haven't seen since you took office (to watch or listen to the entire press conference, or to read
the full transcript, go here).
More than one reporter pointed out that those pieces of paper your press secretary waved at them
yesterday mean nothing. Even if they aren't forged documents, getting paid does not necessarily
mean you showed up to do your duties. As retired Army Col. Dan Smith, a 26-year veteran, told the
"Pay records don't mean anything except that you're in or you're out," said Smith. "It doesn't
necessarily reflect what duty you've actually performed because pay records simply record your
unit of assignment and then all of your pay and benefits per pay period."
Mr. Bush, this issue is not going to go away -- and I think yesterday's actions just dug you into
a deeper hole. You're probably wondering why the heck this story won't just die. You probably
thought that after I brought it up last month and then got slammed by Peter Jennings for uttering
the "d" word, the whole matter would just disappear as fast as bag of blow being thrown out the
window of a speeding car on a deserted Maine highway.
But your "desertion" didn't go away -- and here's the reason why. You have sent countless numbers
of our sons and daughters in the National Guard to their deaths in the last 11 months. You did
this while misleading their parents and the nation with bogus lies about weapons of mass
destruction and scary phony Saddam ties to al Qaeda. You sent them off to a never-ending war so
that your benefactors at Halliburton and the oil companies could line their pockets. And then you
had the audacity to prance around in a soldier's uniform on an aircraft carrier proclaiming
"Mission Accomplished" -- while the cameras from your re-election campaign ad agency rolled.
THAT is what makes this whole business of you being AWOL so despicable, and makes the
grief-stricken relatives want to turn away from you in disgust. The reason your skipping-out on
your enlistment didn't matter in the 2000 election was because we were not at war. Being stuck in
a deadly, daily quagmire now in 2004 makes your military history-fiction and your fly-boy costume
You still have not answered the questions surrounding your National Guard "service." Let me repeat
them as simply as I can for you (all of them based on the investigative work of the Associated
Press and the Boston Globe):
1. How were you able to jump ahead of 500 other applicants to get into the Texas Air National
Guard, thus guaranteeing you would not have to go to Vietnam? What calls did your father (who was
then a United States Congressman representing Texas) make on your behalf for you to get this
2. Why were you grounded (not allowed to fly) after you either failed your physical or failed to
take it in July 1972? Was there a reason you were afraid to take the physical? Or, did you take it
and not pass it? If so, why didn't you pass it? Was it the urine test? The records show that,
after the Guard spent years and lots of money training you to be a pilot, you never flew for the
rest of your time in the Guard. Why?
3. Can you produce one person who can verify that he served with you in the Guard during the year
that your Texas commanders said you did not show up? Why have you failed to bring forth anyone who
served with you in the Guard while you were in Alabama? Why hasn't ONE SINGLE PERSON come forward?
4. Can you tell us what you did when you claim to have shown up in Alabama for Guard duty? What
were you duties? You were grounded, so what did they have you do instead?
5. Where are the sign-up sheets that would have your name and service number on them for each
weekend you showed up? Aaron Brown on CNN told us how, when he was in the reserves, he had to sign
in each time he reported, and his guest from the Washington Post said, that's right, and there
would be "four copies of that record" in the files of various agencies. Will you ask those
agencies to release those records?
6. If you were in fact paid for that time when you apparently went AWOL, will you authorize the
IRS to release your 1972-73 tax returns?
7. How did you get an honorable discharge? What strings were pulled? Who called who?
Look, I'm sorry to have put you through all this. I was just goofing around when I made that
comment about wanting to see a debate between the general and the deserter. I had no idea that it
would lead to this. And there you were, having to suffer through Tim Russert on Sunday, saying
weird things like "I'm a war president!" I guess you believe that, or you want us to believe that.
Americans have never voted out a Commander-in-Chief during a war. I guess that's what you're
hoping for. You need the war.
But we don't. And our troops in the National Guard don't either. I know you see the writing on the
wall, so why not come clean now? We are a forgiving people, and though you will not be returned to
White House, you will find us grateful for a little bit of truth. Answer our questions, apologize
to the nation, and bring our kids home.
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
I remember spotting this in early 2000. To us web professionals, this was brilliant. To think in the midst of the Dot Com boom we ended up with a President who would give us the saying 4 years later "The Internets".
View source of Al Gore's 2000 Campaign website:
<title>Welcome to Gore 2000</title>
Thanks for checking out our source code! I plan to use this space to postspecial messages to those who are helping to improve our web site -- by makingour source code the best it can be. The fact that you are peeking behind thescenes at our site means you can make an important difference to this Interneteffort. I'm grateful for your help and support in this campaign. Now let'skeep working to build the 21st Century of our dreams!
// Select a random number.
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
So what was in those "Enclosed Documents"? And
did they provided new or better evidence about Iraq's link to 9/11? I guess not, because a year later (in
September of 2003):
WASHINGTON - President Bush said Wednesday there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved
in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — disputing an impression that critics say the
administration tried to foster to justify the war against Iraq.
“There's no question that Saddam Hussein had al-Qaida ties,” the president said. But he also said,
"“We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th.”
COMMENT: Also see John Dean and Alan Dershowitz books outlining what happened.
In particular, read the following excerpts, which specify what the President must determine BEFORE
going to war:
b) PRESIDENTIAL DETERMINATION- In connection with the exercise of the authority granted in
subsection (a) to use force the President shall, prior to such exercise or as soon thereafter as
may be feasible, but no later than 48 hours after exercising such authority, make available to the
Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate his
(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either (A)
will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing
threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations
Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and
(2) acting pursuant to this resolution is consistent with the United States and other countries
continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist
organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized,
committed or aided the terrorists attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.
The fact that the President was supposed to provide Congress with info that determined the
connection between Iraq and 9/11 meant NEW information that they didn't already have, otherwise
they wouldn't be asking for the President to provide it to them. But what did Bush do? He
provided them with the EXACT same info they had before they enacted this resolution!
Text of a Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the
President Pro Tempore of the Senate
March 18, 2003
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)
Consistent with section 3(b) of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq
Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243), and based on information available to me, including that
in the enclosed document, I determine that:
(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will
neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing
threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security
Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and
(2)[/b] acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United
States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international
terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who
planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11,
GEORGE W. BUSH
According to John Dean, the enclosed documents were word for word, the EXACT same intelligence
reports as was provided to the Congress prior to the passing of the original resolution. They were the same evidence that Powell presented to the U.N.
COMMENT: Personally, I don't hold anything against the Democrats who voted for this language. See John Dean and Alan Dershowitz books that explain how Bush didn't follow through.
Joint Resolution to Authorize the use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq.
Whereas in 1990 in response to Iraq's war of aggression against and illegal occupation of Kuwait,
the United States forged a coalition of nations to liberate Kuwait and its people in order to
defend the national security of the United States and enforce United Nations Security Council
resolutions relating to Iraq;
Whereas after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, Iraq entered into a United Nations sponsored
cease-fire agreement pursuant to which Iraq unequivocally agreed, among other things, to eliminate
its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs and the means to deliver and develop them,
and to end its support for international terrorism;
Whereas the efforts of international weapons inspectors, United States intelligence agencies, and
Iraqi defectors led to the discovery that Iraq had large stockpiles of chemical weapons and a
large scale biological weapons program, and that Iraq had an advanced nuclear weapons development
program that was much closer to producing a nuclear weapon than intelligence reporting had
Whereas Iraq, in direct and flagrant violation of the cease-fire, attempted to thwart the efforts
of weapons inspectors to identify and destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction stockpiles and
development capabilities, which finally resulted in the withdrawal of inspectors from Iraq on
October 31, 1998;
Whereas in 1998 Congress concluded that Iraq's continuing weapons of mass destruction programs
threatened vital United States interests and international peace and security, declared Iraq to be
in `material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations' and urged the President `to
take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United
States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations' (Public Law 105-235);
Whereas Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and
international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material an
unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess
and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear
weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations;
Whereas Iraq persists in violating resolutions of the United Nations Security Council by
continuing to engage in brutal repression of its civilian population thereby threatening
international peace and security in the region, by refusing to release, repatriate, or account for
non-Iraqi citizens wrongfully detained by Iraq, including an American serviceman, and by failing
to return property wrongfully seized by Iraq from Kuwait;
Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its capability and willingness to use weapons of
mass destruction against other nations and its own people;
Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its continuing hostility toward, and willingness
to attack, the United States, including by attempting in 1993 to assassinate former President Bush
and by firing on many thousands of occasions on United States and Coalition Armed Forces engaged
in enforcing the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council;
Whereas members of al-Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United
States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001,
are known to be in Iraq;
Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including
organizations that threaten the lives and safety of American citizens;
Whereas the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, underscored the gravity of the
threat posed by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist
Whereas Iraq's demonstrated capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, the
risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack
against the United States or its Armed Forces or provide them to international terrorists who
would do so, and the extreme magnitude of harm that would result to the United States and its
citizens from such an attack, combine to justify action by the United States to defend itself;
Whereas United Nations Security Council Resolution 678 authorizes the use of all necessary means
to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 660 and subsequent relevant resolutions and
to compel Iraq to cease certain activities that threaten international peace and security,
including the development of weapons of mass destruction and refusal or obstruction of United
Nations weapons inspections in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687,
repression of its civilian population in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution
688, and threatening its neighbors or United Nations operations in Iraq in violation of United
Nations Security Council Resolution 949;
Whereas Congress in the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public
Law 102-1) has authorized the President `to use United States Armed Forces pursuant to United
Nations Security Council Resolution 678 (1990) in order to achieve implementation of Security
Council Resolutions 660, 661, 662, 664, 665, 666, 667, 669, 670, 674, and 677';
Whereas in December 1991, Congress expressed its sense that it `supports the use of all necessary
means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 as being consistent
with the Authorization of Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1),' that
Iraq's repression of its civilian population violates United Nations Security Council Resolution
688 and `constitutes a continuing threat to the peace, security, and stability of the Persian Gulf
region,' and that Congress, `supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of
United Nations Security Council Resolution 688';
Whereas the Iraq Liberation Act (Public Law 105-338) expressed the sense of Congress that it
should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current
Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime;
Whereas on September 12, 2002, President Bush committed the United States to `work with the United
Nations Security Council to meet our common challenge' posed by Iraq and to `work for the
necessary resolutions,' while also making clear that `the Security Council resolutions will be
enforced, and the just demands of peace and security will be met, or action will be unavoidable';
Whereas the United States is determined to prosecute the war on terrorism and Iraq's ongoing
support for international terrorist groups combined with its development of weapons of mass
destruction in direct violation of its obligations under the 1991 cease-fire and other United
Nations Security Council resolutions make clear that it is in the national security interests of
the United States and in furtherance of the war on terrorism that all relevant United Nations
Security Council resolutions be enforced, including through the use of force if necessary;
Whereas Congress has taken steps to pursue vigorously the war on terrorism through the provision
of authorities and funding requested by the President to take the necessary actions against
international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or
persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on
September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations;
Whereas the President and Congress are determined to continue to take all appropriate actions
against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations,
organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that
occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations;
Whereas the President has authority under the Constitution to take action in order to deter and
prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States, as Congress recognized in the
joint resolution on Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40); and
Whereas it is in the national security of the United States to restore international peace and
security to the Persian Gulf region: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This joint resolution may be cited as the `Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against
SEC. 2. SUPPORT FOR UNITED STATES DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS.
The Congress of the United States supports the efforts by the President to
(1) strictly enforce through the United Nations Security Council all relevant Security Council
resolutions applicable to Iraq and encourages him in those efforts; and
(2) obtain prompt and decisive action by the Security Council to ensure that Iraq abandons its
strategy of delay, evasion and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant
Security Council resolutions.
SEC. 3. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.
(a) AUTHORIZATION- The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he
determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to
(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq;
(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.
(b) PRESIDENTIAL DETERMINATION- In connection with the exercise of the authority granted in
subsection (a) to use force the President shall, prior to such exercise or as soon thereafter as
may be feasible, but no later than 48 hours after exercising such authority, make available to the
Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate his
(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either (A)
will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing
threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations
Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and
(2) acting pursuant to this resolution is consistent with the United States and other countries
continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist
organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized,
committed or aided the terrorists attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.
(c) WAR POWERS RESOLUTION REQUIREMENTS-
(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers
Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory
authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
(2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supersedes any requirement of
the War Powers Resolution.
SEC. 4. REPORTS TO CONGRESS.
(a) The President shall, at least once every 60 days, submit to the Congress a report on matters
relevant to this joint resolution, including actions taken pursuant to the exercise of authority
granted in section 3 and the status of planning for efforts that are expected to be required after
such actions are completed, including those actions described in section 7 of Public Law 105-338
(the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998).
(b) To the extent that the submission of any report described in subsection (a) coincides with the
submission of any other report on matters relevant to this joint resolution otherwise required to
be submitted to Congress pursuant to the reporting requirements of Public Law 93-148 (the Wap
Xnwers Resolution), all such reports may be submitted as a single consolidated report to the
(c) To the extent that the information required by section 3 of Public Law 102-1 is included in
the report required by this section, such report shall be considered as meeting the requirements
of section 3 of Public Law 102-1.
By Naomi Klein (Harper's Magazine, September 2004)
[Naomi Klein is the author of No Logo and writer/producer of The Take, a new documentary on Argentina's occupied factories]
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. SUNBULA: 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.
The honey theory of Iraqi reconstruction stems from the most cherished belief of the war's ideological architects: that greed is good. Not good just for them and their friends but good for humanity, and certainly good for Iraqis. Greed creates profit, which creates growth, which creates jobs and products and services and everything else anyone could possibly need or want. The role of good government, then, is to create the optimal conditions for corporations to pursue their bottomless greed, so that they in turn can meet the needs of the society. 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. Every policy that liberates multinational corporations to pursue their quest for profit would be put into place: a shrunken state, a flexible workforce, open borders, minimal taxes, no tariffs, no ownership restrictions. The people of Iraq would, of course, have to endure some short-term pain: assets, previously owned by the state, would have to be given up to create new opportunities for growth and investment. Jobs would have to be lost and, as foreign products flooded across the border, local businesses and family farms would, unfortunately, be unable to compete. But to the authors of this plan, these would be small prices to pay for the economic boom that would surely explode once the proper conditions were in place, a boom so powerful the country would practically rebuild itself.
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.
Torturers believe that when electrical shocks are applied to various parts of the body simultaneously subjects are rendered so confused about where the pain is coming from that they become incapable of resistance. A declassified CIA "Counterintelligence Interrogation" manual from 1963 describes how a trauma inflicted on prisoners opens up "an interval - which may be extremely brief - of suspended animation, a kind of psychological shock or paralysis ... [A]t this moment the source is far more open to suggestion, far likelier to comply." A similar theory applies to economic shock therapy, or "shock treatment," the ugly term used to describe the rapid implementation of free-market reforms imposed on Chile in the wake of General Augusto Pinochet's coup. The theory is that if painful economic "adjustments" are brought in rapidly and in the aftermath of a seismic social disruption like a war, a coup, or a government collapse, the population will be so stunned, and so preoccupied with the daily pressures of survival, that it too will go into suspended animation, unable to resist. As Pinochet's finance minister, Admiral Lorenzo Gotuzzo, declared, "The dog's tail must be cut off in one chop."
That, in essence, was the working thesis in Iraq, and in keeping with the belief that private companies are more suited than governments for virtually every task, the White House decided to privatize the task of privatizing Iraq's state-dominated economy. Two months before the war began, USAID began drafting a work order, to be handed out to a private company, to oversee Iraq's "transition to a sustainable market-driven economic system." The document states that the winning company (which turned out to be the KPMG offshoot Bearing Pint) will take "appropriate advantage of the unique opportunity for rapid progress in this area presented by the current configuration of political circumstances." Which is precisely what happened. L. Paul Bremer, who led the U.S. occupation of Iraq from May 2, 2003, until he caught an early flight out of Baghdad on June 28, admits that when he arrived, "Baghdad was on fire, literally, as I drove in from the airport." But before the fires from the "shock and awe" military onslaught were even extinguished, Bremer unleashed his shock therapy, pushing through more wrenching changes in one sweltering summer than the International Monetary Fund has managed to enact over three decades in Latin America. Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate and former chief economist at the World Bank, describes Bremer's reforms as "an even more radical form of shock therapy than pursued in the former Soviet world."
The tone of Bremer's tenure was set with his first major act on the job: he fired 500,000 state workers, most of them soldiers, but also doctors, nurses, teachers, publishers, and printers. Next, he flung open the country's borders to absolutely unrestricted imports: no tariffs, no duties, no inspections, no taxes. Iraq, Bremer declared two weeks after he arrived, was "open for business."
One month later, Bremer unveiled the centerpiece of his reforms. Before the invasion, Iraq's non-oil-related economy had been dominated by 200 state-owned companies, which produced everything from cement to paper to washing machines. In June, Bremer flew to an economic summit in Jordan and announced that these firms would be privatized immediately. "Getting inefficient state enterprises into private hands," he said, "is essential for Iraq's economic recovery." It would be the largest state liquidation sale since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
But Bremer's economic engineering had only just begun. In September, to entice foreign investors to come to Iraq, he enacted a radical set of laws unprecedented in their generosity to multinational corporations. There was Order 37, which lowered Iraq's corporate tax rate from roughly 40 percent to a flat 15 percent. There was Order 39, which allowed foreign companies to own 100 percent of Iraqi assets outside of the natural-resource sector. Even better, investors could take 100 percent of the profits they made in Iraq out of the country; they would not be required to reinvest and they would not be taxed. Under Order 39, they could sign leases and contracts that would last for forty years. Order 40 welcomed foreign banks to Iraq under the same favorable terms. All that remained of Saddam Hussein's economic policies was a law restricting trade unions and collective bargaining.
If these policies sound familiar, it's because they are the same ones multinationals around the world lobby for from national governments and in international trade agreements. But while these reforms are only ever enacted in part, or in fits and starts, Bremer delivered them all, all at once. Overnight, Iraq went from being the most isolated country in the world to being, on paper, its widest-open market.
At first, the shock-therapy theory seemed to hold: Iraqis, reeling from violence both military and economic, were far too busy staying alive to mount a political response to Bremer's campaign. Worrying about the privatization of the sewage system was an unimaginable luxury with half the population lacking access to clean drinking water; the debate over the flat tax would have to wait until the lights were back on. Even in the international press, Bremer's new laws, though radical, were easily upstaged by more dramatic news of political chaos and rising crime.
Some people were paying attention, of course. That autumn was awash in "rebuilding Iraq" trade shows, in Washington, London, Madrid, and Amman. The Economist described Iraq under Bremer as "a capitalist dream," and a flurry of new consulting firms were launched promising to help companies get access to the Iraqi market, their boards of directors stacked with well-connected Republicans. The most prominent was New Bridge Strategies, started by Joe Allbaugh, former Bush-Cheney campaign manager. "Getting the rights to distribute Procter & Gamble products can be a gold mine," one of the company's partners enthused. "One well-stocked 7-Eleven could knock out thirty Iraqi stores; a Wal-Mart could take over the country."
Soon there were rumors that a McDonald's would be opening up in downtown Baghdad, funding was almost in place for a Starwood luxury hotel, and General Motors was planning to build an auto plant. On the financial side, HSBC would have branches all over the country, Citigroup was preparing to offer substantial loans guaranteed against future sales of Iraqi oil, and the bell was going to ring on a New York-style stock exchange in Baghdad any day.
In only a few months, the postwar plan to turn Iraq into a laboratory for the neocons had been realized. Leo Strauss may have provided the intellectual framework for invading Iraq preemptively, but it was that other University of Chicago professor, Milton Friedman, author of the anti-government manifesto Capitalism and Freedom, who supplied the manual for what to do once the country was safely in America's hands. This represented an enormous victory for the most ideological wing of the Bush Administration. But it was also something more: the culmination of two interlinked power struggles, one among Iraqi exiles advising the White House on its postwar strategy, the other within the White House itself.
As the British historian Dilip Hiro has shown, in Secrets and Lies: Operation 'Iraqi Freedom' and After, the Iraqi exiles pushing for the invasion were divided, broadly, into two camps. On one side were "the pragmatists," who favored getting rid of Saddam and his immediate entourage, securing access to oil, and slowly introducing free-market reforms. Many of these exiles were part of the State Department's Future of Iraq Project, which generated a thirteen-volume report on how to restore basic services and transition to democracy after the war. On the other side was the "Year Zero" camp, those who believed that Iraq was so contaminated that it needed to be rubbed out and remade from scratch. The prime advocate of the pragmatic approach was Iyad Allawi, a former high-level Baathist who fell out with Saddam and started working for the CIA. The prime advocate of the Year Zero approach was Ahmad Chalabi, whose hatred of the Iraqi state for expropriating his family's assets during the 1958 revolution ran so deep he longed to see the entire country burned to the ground - everything, that is, but the Oil Ministry, which would be the nucleus of the new Iraq, the cluster of cells from which an entire nation would grow. He called this process "de-Baathification."
A parallel battle between pragmatists and true believers was being waged within the Bush Administration. The pragmatists were men like Secretary of State Colin Powell and General Jay Garner, the first U.S. envoy to postwar Iraq. General Garner's plan was straightforward enough: fix the infrastructure, hold quick and dirty elections, leave the shock therapy to the International Monetary Fund, and concentrate on securing U.S. military bases on the model of the Philippines. "I think we should look right now at Iraq as our coaling station in the Middle East," he told the BBC. He also paraphrased T. E. Lawrence, saying, "It's better for them to do it imperfectly than for us to do it for them perfectly." On the other side was the usual cast of neoconservatives: Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (who lauded Bremer's "sweeping reforms" as "some of the most enlightened and inviting tax and investment laws in the free world"), Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and perhaps most centrally, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. Whereas the State Department had its Future of Iraq report, the neocons had USAID's contract with Bearing Point to remake Iraq's economy: in 108 pages, "privatization" was mentioned no fewer than fifty-one times. To the true believers in the White House, General Garner's plans for postwar Iraq seemed hopelessly unambitious. Why settle for a mere coaling station when you can have a model free market? Why settle for the Philippines when you can have a beacon unto the world?
The Iraqi Year Zeroists made natural allies for the White House neoconservatives: Chalabi's seething hatred of the Baathist state fit nicely with the neocons' hatred of the state in general, and the two agendas effortlessly merged. Together, they came to imagine the invasion of Iraq as a kind of Rapture: where the rest of the world saw death, they saw birth - a country redeemed through violence, cleansed by fire. Iraq wasn't being destroyed by cruise missiles, cluster bombs, chaos, and looting; it was being born again. April 9, 2003, the day Baghdad fell, was day One of Year Zero.
While the war was being waged, it still wasn't clear whether the pragmatists or the Year Zeroists would be handed control over occupied Iraq. But the speed with which the nation was conquered dramatically increased the neocons' political capital, since they had been predicting a "cakewalk" all along. Eight days after George Bush landed on that aircraft carrier under a banner that said MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, the President publicly signed on to the neocons' vision for Iraq to become a model corporate state that would open up the entire region. On May 9, Bush proposed the "establishment of a U.S.-Middle East free trade area within a decade"; three days later, Bush sent Paul Bremer to Baghdad to replace Jay Garner, who had been on the job for only three weeks. The message was unequivocal: the pragmatists had lost; Iraq would belong to the believers.
A Reagan-era diplomat turned entrepreneur, Bremer had recently proven his ability to transform rubble into gold by waiting exactly one month after the September 11 attacks to launch Crisis Consulting Practice, a security company selling "terrorism risk insurance" to multinationals. Bremer had two lieutenants on the economic front: Thomas Foley and Michael Fleischer, the heads of "private sector development" for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). Foley is a Greenwich, Connecticut, multimillionaire, a longtime friend of the Bush family and a Bush-Cheney campaign "pioneer" who has described Iraq as a modern California "gold rush." Fleischer, a venture capitalist, is the brother of former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. Neither man had any high-level diplomatic experience and both use the term corporate "turnaround" specialist to describe what they do. According to Foley, this uniquely qualified them to manage Iraq's economy because it was "the mother of all turnarounds."
Many of the other CPA postings were equally ideological. The Green Zone, the city within a city that houses the occupation headquarters in Saddam's former palace, was filled with Young Republicans straight out of the Heritage Foundation, all of them given responsibility they could never have dreamed of receiving at home. Jay Hallen, a twenty-four-year-old who had applied for a job at the White House, was put in charge of launching Baghdad's new stock exchange. Scott Erwin, a twenty-one-year-old former intern to Dick Cheney, reported in an email home that "I am assisting Iraqis in the management of finances and budgeting for the domestic security forces." The college senior's favorite job before this one? "My time as an ice-cream truck driver." [story]. In those early days, the Green Zone felt a bit like the Peace Corps, for people who think the Peace Corps is a communist plot. It was a chance to sleep on cots, wear army boots, and cry "incoming" - all while being guarded around the clock by real soldiers.
The teams of KPMG accountants, investment bankers, think-tank lifers, and Young Republicans that populate the Green Zone have much in common with the IMF missions that rearrange the economies of developing countries from the presidential suites of Sheraton hotels the world over. Except for one rather significant difference: in Iraq they were not negotiating with the government to accept their "structural adjustments" in exchange for a loan; they were the government.
Some small steps were taken, however, to bring Iraq's U.S.-appointed politicians inside. Yegor Gaidar, the mastermind of Russia's mid-nineties privatization auction that gave away the country's assets to the reigning oligarchs, was invited to share his wisdom at a conference in Baghdad. Marek Belka, who as finance minister oversaw the same process in Poland, was brought in as well. The Iraqis who proved most gifted at mouthing the neocon lines were selected to act as what USAID calls local "policy champions" - men like Ahmad al Mukhtar, who told me of his countrymen, "They are lazy. The Iraqis by nature, they are very dependent.... They will have to depend on themselves, it is the only way to survive in the world today." Although he has no economics background and his last job was reading the English-language news on television, al Mukhtar was appointed director of foreign relations in the Ministry of Trade and is leading the charge for Iraq to join the World Trade Organization.
I had been following the economic front of the war for almost a year before I decided to go to Iraq. I attended the "Rebuilding Iraq" trade shows, studied Bremer's tax and investment laws, met with contractors at their home offices in the United States, interviewed the government officials in Washington who are making the policies. But as I prepared to travel to Iraq in March to see this experiment in free-market utopianism up close, it was becoming increasingly clear that all was not going according to plan. Bremer had been working on the theory that if you build a corporate utopia the corporations will come - but where were they? American multinationals were happy to accept U.S. taxpayer dollars to reconstruct the phone or electricity systems, but they weren't sinking their own money into Iraq. There was, as yet, no McDonald's or Wal-Mart in Baghdad, and even the sales of state factories, announced so confidently nine months earlier, had not materialized.
Some of the holdup had to do with the physical risks of doing business in Iraq. But there were other more significant risks as well. When Paul Bremer shredded Iraq's Baathist constitution and replaced it with what The Economist greeted approvingly as "the wish list of foreign investors," there was one small detail he failed to mention: It was all completely illegal. The CPA derived its legal authority from United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483, passed in May 2003, which recognized the United States and Britain as Iraq's legitimate occupiers. It was this resolution that empowered Bremer to unilaterally make laws in Iraq. But the resolution also stated that the U.S. and Britain must "comply fully with their obligations under international law including in particular the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Hague Regulations of 1907." Both conventions were born as an attempt to curtail the unfortunate historical tendency among occupying powers to rewrite the rules so that they can economically strip the nations they control. With this in mind, the conventions stipulate that an occupier must abide by a country's existing laws unless "absolutely prevented" from doing so. They also state that an occupier does not own the "public buildings, real estate, forests and agricultural assets" of the country it is occupying but is rather their "administrator" and custodian, keeping them secure until sovereignty is re-established. This was the true threat to the Year Zero plan: since America didn't own Iraq's assets, it could not legally sell them, which meant that after the occupation ended, an Iraqi government could come to power and decide that it wanted to keep the state companies in public hands, or, as is the norm in the Gulf region, to bar foreign firms from owning 100 percent of national assets. If that happened, investments made under Bremer's rules could be expropriated, leaving firms with no recourse because their investments had violated international law from the outset.
By November, trade lawyers started to advise their corporate clients not to go into Iraq just yet, that it would be better to wait until after the transition. Insurance companies were so spooked that not a single one of the big firms would insure investors for "political risk," that high-stakes area of insurance law that protects companies against foreign governments turning nationalist or socialist and expropriating their investments.
Even the U.S.-appointed Iraqi politicians, up to now so obedient, were getting nervous about their own political futures if they went along with the privatization plans. Communications Minister Haider al-Abadi told me about his first meeting with Bremer. "I said, 'Look, we don't have the mandate to sell any of this. Privatization is a big thing. We have to wait until there is an Iraqi government.'" Minister of Industry Mohamad Tofiq was even more direct: "I am not going to do something that is not legal, so that's it."
Both al-Abadi and Tofiq told me about a meeting - never reported in the press - that took place in late October 2003. At that gathering the twenty-five members of Iraq's Governing Council as well as the twenty-five interim ministers decided unanimously that they would not participate in the privatization of Iraq's state-owned companies or of its publicly owned infrastructure.
But Bremer didn't give up. International law prohibits occupiers from selling state assets themselves, but it doesn't say anything about the puppet governments they appoint. Originally, Bremer had pledged to hand over power to a directly elected Iraqi government, but in early November he went to Washington for a private meeting with President Bush and came back with a Plan B. On June 30 the occupation would officially end - but not really. It would be replaced by an appointed government, chosen by Washington. This government would not be bound by the international laws preventing occupiers from selling off state assets, but it would by bound by an "interim constitution," a document that would protect Bremer's investment and privatization laws.
The plan was risky. Bremer's June 30 deadline was awfully close, and it was chosen for a less than ideal reason: so that President Bush could trumpet the end of Iraq's occupation on the campaign trail. If everything went according to plan, Bremer would succeed in forcing a "sovereign" Iraqi government to carry out his illegal reforms. But if something went wrong, he would have to go ahead with the June 30 handover anyway because by then Karl Rove, and not dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld, would be calling the shots. And if it came down to a choice between ideology in Iraq and the electability of George W. Bush, everyone knew which would win.
At first, Plan B seemed to be right on track. Bremer persuaded the Iraqi Governing Council to agree to everything: the new timetable, the interim government, and the interim constitution. He even managed to slip into the constitution a completely overlooked clause, Article 26. It stated that for the duration of the interim government, "The laws, regulations, orders and directives issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority ... shall remain in force" and could only be changed after general elections are held.
Bremer had found this legal loophole: There would be a window - seven months - when the occupation was officially over but before general elections were scheduled to take place. Within this window, the Hague and Geneva Conventions' bans on privatization would no longer apply, but Bremer's own laws, thanks to Article 26, would stand. During these seven months, foreign investors could come to Iraq and sign forty-year contracts to buy up Iraqi assets. If a future elected Iraqi government decided to change the rules, investors could sue for compensation.
But Bremer had a formidable opponent: Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, the most senior Shia cleric in Iraq. al Sistani tried to block Bremer's plan at every turn, calling for immediate direct elections and for the constitution to be written after those elections, not before. Both demands, if met, would have closed Bremer's privatization window. Then, on March 2, with the Shia members of the Governing Council refusing to sign the interim constitution, five bombs exploded in front of mosques in Karbala and Baghdad, killing close to 200 worshipers. General John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, warned that the country was on the verge of civil war. Frightened by this prospect, al Sistani backed down and the Shia politicians signed the interim constitution. It was a familiar story: the shock of a violent attack paved the way for more shock therapy.
When I arrived in Iraq a week later, the economic project seemed to be back on track. All that remained for Bremer was to get his interim constitution ratified by a Security Council resolution, then the nervous lawyers and insurance brokers could relax and the sell-off of Iraq could finally begin. The CPA, meanwhile, had launched a major new P.R. offensive designed to reassure investors that Iraq was still a safe and exciting place to do business. The centerpiece of the campaign was Destination Baghdad Exposition, a massive trade show for potential investors to be held in early April at the Baghdad International Fairgrounds. It was the first such event inside Iraq, and the organizers had branded the trade fair "DBX," as if it were some sort of Mountain Dew-sponsored dirt-bike race. In keeping with the extreme-sports theme, Thomas Foley traveled to Washington to tell a gathering of executives that the risks in Iraq are akin "to skydiving or riding a motorcycle, which are, to many, very acceptable risks."
But three hours after my arrival in Baghdad, I was finding these reassurances extremely hard to believe. I had not yet unpacked when my hotel room was filled with debris and the windows in the lobby were shattered. Down the street, the Mount Lebanon Hotel had just been bombed, at that point the largest attack of its kind since the official end of the war. The next day, another hotel was bombed in Basra, then two Finnish businessmen were murdered on their way to a meeting in Baghdad. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt finally admitted that there was a pattern at work: "the extremists have started shifting away from the hard targets ... [and] are now going out of their way to specifically target softer targets." The next day, the State Department updated its travel advisory: U.S. citizens were "strongly warned against travel to Iraq." The physical risks of doing business in Iraq seemed to be spiraling out of control. This, once again, was not part of the original plan. When Bremer first arrived in Baghdad, the armed resistance was so low that he was able to walk the streets with a minimal security entourage. During his first four months on the job, 109 U.S. soldiers were killed and 570 were wounded. In the following four months, when Bremer's shock therapy had taken effect, the number of U.S. casualties almost doubled, with 195 soldiers killed and 1,633 wounded. There are many in Iraq who argue that these events are connected - that Bremer's reforms were the single largest factor leading to the rise of armed resistance.
Take, for instance, Bremer's first casualties. The soldiers and workers he laid off without pensions or severance pay didn't all disappear quietly. Many of them went straight into the mujahedeen, forming the backbone of the armed resistance. "Half a million people are now worse off, and there you have the water tap that keeps the insurgency going. It's alternative employment," says Hussain Kubba, head of the prominent Iraqi business group Kubba Consulting. Some of Bremer's other economic casualties also have failed to go quietly. It turns out that many of the businessmen whose companies are threatened by Bremer's investment laws have decided to make investments of their own - in the resistance. It is partly their money that keeps fighters in Kalashnikovs and RPGs.
These developments present a challenge to the basic logic of shock therapy: the neocons were convinced that if they brought in their reforms quickly and ruthlessly, Iraqis would be too stunned to resist. But the shock appears to have had the opposite effect; rather than the predicted paralysis, it jolted many Iraqis into action, much of it extreme. Haider al-Abadi, Iraq's minister of communication, puts it this way: "We know that there are terrorists in the country, but previously they were not successful, they were isolated. Now because the whole country is unhappy, and a lot of people don't have jobs . these terrorists are finding listening ears."
Bremer was now at odds not only with the Iraqis who opposed his plans but with U.S. military commanders charged with putting down the insurgency his policies were feeding. Heretical questions began to be raised: instead of laying people off, what if the CPA actually created jobs for Iraqis? And instead of rushing to sell off Iraq's 200 state-owned firms, how about putting them back to work?
From the start, the neocons running Iraq had shown nothing but disdain for Iraq's state-owned companies. In keeping with their Year Zero - apocalyptic glee, when looters descended on the factories during the war, U.S. forces did nothing. Sabah Asaad, managing director of a refrigerator factory outside Baghdad, told me that while the looting was going on, he went to a nearby U.S. Army base and begged for help. "I asked one of the officers to send two soldiers and a vehicle to help me kick out the looters. I was crying. The officer said, 'Sorry, we can't do anything, we need an order from President Bush.'" Back in Washington, Donald Rumsfeld shrugged. "Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things."
To see the remains of Asaad's football-field-size warehouse is to understand why Frank Gehry had an artistic crisis after September 11 and was briefly unable to design structures resembling the rubble of modern buildings. Asaad's looted and burned factory looks remarkably like a heavy-metal version of Gehry's Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, with waves of steel, buckled by fire, lying in terrifyingly beautiful golden heaps. Yet all was not lost. "The looters were good-hearted," one of Asaad's painters told me, explaining that they left the tools and machines behind, "so we could work again." Because the machines are still there, many factory managers in Iraq say that it would take little for them to return to full production. They need emergency generators to cope with daily blackouts, and they need capital for parts and raw materials. If that happened, it would have tremendous implications for Iraq's stalled reconstruction, because it would mean that many of the key materials needed to rebuild - cement and steel, bricks and furniture - could be produced inside the country.
But it hasn't happened. Immediately after the nominal end of the war, Congress appropriated $2.5 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq, followed by an additional $18.4 billion in October. Yet as of July 2004, Iraq's state-owned factories had been pointedly excluded from the reconstruction contracts. Instead, the billions have all gone to Western companies, with most of the materials for the reconstruction imported at great expense from abroad.
With unemployment as high as 67 percent, the imported products and foreign workers flooding across the borders have become a source of tremendous resentment in Iraq and yet another open tap fueling the insurgency. And Iraqis don't have to look far for reminders of this injustice; it's on display in the most ubiquitous symbol of the occupation: the blast wall. The ten-foot-high slabs of reinforced concrete are everywhere in Iraq, separating the protected - the people in upscale hotels, luxury homes, military bases, and, of course, the Green Zone - from the unprotected and exposed. If that wasn't enough, all the blast walls are imported, from Kurdistan, Turkey, or even farther afield, this despite the fact that Iraq was once a major manufacturer of cement, and could easily be again. There are seventeen state-owned cement factories across the country, but most are idle or working at only half capacity. According to the Ministry of Industry, not one of these factories has received a single contract to help with the reconstruction, even though they could produce the walls and meet other needs for cement at a greatly reduced cost. The CPA pays up to $1,000 per imported blast wall; local manufacturers say they could make them for $100. Minister Tofiq says there is a simple reason why the Americans refuse to help get Iraq's cement factories running again: among those making the decision, "no one believes in the public sector." *
[* Tofiq did say that several U.S. companies had expressed strong interest in buying the state-owned cement factories. This supports a widely-held belief in Iraq that there is a deliberate strategy to neglect the state firms so that they can be sold more cheaply - a practice known as "starve then sell."]
This kind of ideological blindness has turned Iraq's occupiers into prisoners of their own policies, hiding behind walls that, by their very existence, fuel the rage at the U.S. presence, thereby feeding the need for more walls. In Baghdad the concrete barriers have been given a popular nickname: Bremer walls.
As the insurgency grew, it soon became clear that if Bremer went ahead with his plans to sell off the state companies, it could worsen the violence. There was no question that privatization would require layoffs: the Ministry of Industry estimates that roughly 145,000 workers would have to be fired to make the firms desirable to investors, with each of those workers supporting, on average, five family members. For Iraq's besieged occupiers the question was: Would these shock-therapy casualties accept their fate or would they rebel?
The answer arrived, in rather dramatic fashion, at one of the largest state-owned companies, the General Company for Vegetable Oils. The complex of six factories produces cooking oil, hand soap, laundry detergent, shaving cream, and shampoo. At least that is what I was told by a receptionist who gave me glossy brochures and calendars boasting of "modern instruments" and "the latest and most up to date developments in the field of industry." But when I approached the soap factory, I discovered a group of workers sleeping outside a darkened building. Our guide rushed ahead, shouting something to a woman in a white lab coat, and suddenly the factory scrambled into activity: lights switched on, motors revved up, and workers - still blinking off sleep - began filling two-liter plastic bottles with pale blue Zahi brand dishwashing liquid.
I asked Nada Ahmed, the woman in the white coat, why the factory wasn't working a few minutes before. She explained that they have only enough electricity and materials to run the machines for a couple of hours a day, but when guests arrive - would-be investors, ministry officials, journalists - they get them going. "For show," she explained. Behind us, a dozen bulky machines sat idle, covered in sheets of dusty plastic and secured with duct tape.
In one dark corner of the plant, we came across an old man hunched over a sack filled with white plastic caps. With a thin metal blade lodged in a wedge of wax, he carefully whittled down the edges of each cap, leaving a pile of shavings at his feet. "We don't have the spare part for the proper mold, so we have to cut them by hand," his supervisor explained apologetically. "We haven't received any parts from Germany since the sanctions began." I noticed that even on the assembly lines that were nominally working there was almost no mechanization: bottles were held under spouts by hand because conveyor belts don't convey, lids once snapped on by machines were being hammered in place with wooden mallets. Even the water for the factory was drawn from an outdoor well, hoisted by hand, and carried inside.
The solution proposed by the U.S. occupiers was not to fix the plant but to sell it, and so when Bremer announced the privatization auction back in June 2003 this was among the first companies mentioned. Yet when I visited the factory in March, nobody wanted to talk about the privatization plan; the mere mention of the word inside the plant inspired awkward silences and meaningful glances. This seemed an unnatural amount of subtext for a soap factory, and I tried to get to the bottom of it when I interviewed the assistant manager. But the interview itself was equally odd: I had spent half a week setting it up, submitting written questions for approval, getting a signed letter of permission from the minister of industry, being questioned and searched several times. But when I finally began the interview, the assistant manager refused to tell me his name or let me record the conversation. "Any manager mentioned in the press is attacked afterwards," he said. And when I asked whether the company was being sold, he gave this oblique response. "If the decision was up to the workers, they are against privatization; but if it's up to the high ranking officials and government, then privatization is an order and orders must be followed."
I left the plant feeling that I knew less than when I'd arrived. But on the way out of the gates, a young security guard handed my translator a note. He wanted us to meet him after work at a nearby restaurant, "to find out what is really going on with privatization." His name was Mahmud, and he was a twenty-five-year-old with a neat beard and big black eyes. (For his safety, I have omitted his last name.) His story began in July, a few weeks after Bremer's privatization announcement. The company's manager, on his way to work, was shot to death. Press reports speculated that the manager was murdered because he was in favor of privatizing the plant, but Mahmud was convinced that he was killed because he opposed the plan. "He would never have sold the factories like the Americans want. That's why they killed him."
The dead man was replaced by a new manager, Mudhfar Ja'far. Shortly after taking over, Ja'far called a meeting with ministry officials to discuss selling off the soap factory, which would involve laying off two thirds of its employees. Guarding that meeting were several security officers from the plant. They listened closely to Ja'far's plans and promptly reported the alarming news to their coworkers. "We were shocked," Mahmud recalled. "If the private sector buys our company, the first thing they would do is reduced the staff to make more money. And we will be forced into a very hard destiny, because the factory is our only way of living."
Frightened by this prospect, a group of seventeen workers, including Mahmud, marched into Ja'far's office to confront him on what they had heard. "Unfortunately, he wasn't there, only the assistant manager, the one you met," Mahmud told me. A fight broke out: one worker struck the assistant manager, and a bodyguard fired three shots at the workers. The crowd then attacked the bodyguard, took his gun, and, Mahmud said, "stabbed him with a knife in the back three times. He spent a month in the hospital." In January there was even more violence. On their way to work, Ja'far, the manager, and his son were shot and badly injured. Mahmud told me he had no idea who was behind the attack, but I was starting to understand why factory managers in Iraq try to keep a low profile.
At the end of our meeting, I asked Mahmud what would happen if the plant was sold despite the workers' objections. "There are two choices," he said, looking me in the eye and smiling kindly. "Either we will set the factory on fire and let the flames devour it to the ground, or we will blow ourselves up inside of it. But it will not be privatized."
If there ever was a moment when Iraqis were too disoriented to resist shock therapy, that moment has definitely passed. Labor relations, like everything else in Iraq, has become a blood sport. The violence on the streets howls at the gates of the factories, threatening to engulf them. Workers fear job loss as a death sentence, and managers, in turn, fear their workers, a fact that makes privatization distinctly more complicated than the neocons foresaw.*
[* It is in Basra where the connections between economic reforms and the rise of the resistance was put in starkest terms. In December the union representing oil workers was negotiating with the Oil Ministry for a salary increase. Getting nowhere, the workers offered the ministry a simple choice: increase their paltry salaries or they would all join the armed resistance. They received a substantial raise.]
As I left the meeting with Mahmud, I got word that there was a major demonstration outside the CPA headquarters. Supporters of the radical young cleric Moqtada al Sadr were protesting the closing of their newspaper, al Hawza, by military police. The CPA accused al Hawza of publishing "false articles" that could "pose the real threat of violence." As an example, it cited an article that claimed Bremer "is pursuing a policy of starving the Iraqi people to make them preoccupied with procuring their daily bread so they do not have the chance to demand their political and individual freedoms." To me it sounded less like hate literature than a concise summary of Milton Friedman's recipe for shock therapy.
A few days before the newspaper was shut down, I had gone to Kufa during Friday prayers to listen to al Sadr at his mosque. He had launched into a tirade against Bremer's newly signed interim constitution, calling it "an unjust, terrorist document." The message of the sermon was clear: Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani may have backed down on the constitution, but al Sadr and his supporters were still determined to fight it - and if they succeeded they would sabotage the neocons' careful plan to saddle Iraq's next government with their "wish list" of laws. With the closing of the newspaper, Bremer was giving al Sadr his response: he wasn't negotiating with this young upstart; he'd rather take him out with force.
When I arrived at the demonstration, the streets were filled with men dressed in black, the soon-to-be legendary Mahdi Army. It struck me that if Mahmud lost his security guard job at the soap factory, he could be one of them. That's who al Sadr's foot soldiers are: the young men who have been shut out of the neocons' grand plans for Iraq, who see no possibilities for work, and whose neighborhoods have seen none of the promised reconstruction. Bremer has failed these young men, and everywhere that he has failed, Moqtada al Sadr has cannily set out to succeed. In Shia slums from Baghdad to Basra, a network of Sadr Centers coordinate a kind of shadow reconstruction. Funded through donations, the centers dispatch electricians to fix power and phone lines, organize local garbage collection, set up emergency generators, run blood drives, direct traffic where the streetlights don't work. And yes, they organize militias too. Al Sadr took Bremer's economic casualties, dressed them in black, and gave them rusty Kalashnikovs. His militiamen protected the mosques and the state factories when the occupation authorities did not, but in some areas they also went further, zealously enforcing Islamic law by torching liquor stores and terrorizing women without the veil. Indeed, the astronomical rise of the brand of religious fundamentalism that al Sadr represents is another kind of blowback from Bremer's shock therapy: if the reconstruction had provided jobs, security, and services to Iraqis, al Sadr would have been deprived of both his mission and many of his newfound followers.
At the same time as al Sadr's followers were shouting "Down with America" outside the Green Zone, something was happening in another part of the country that would change everything. Four American mercenary soldiers were killed in Fallujah, their charred and dismembered bodies hung like trophies over the Euphrates. The attacks would prove a devastating blow for the neocons, one from which they would never recover. With these images, investing in Iraq suddenly didn't look anything like a capitalist dream; it looked like a macabre nightmare made real.
The day I left Baghdad was the worst yet. Fallujah was under siege and Brig. Gen. Kimmitt was threatening to "destroy the al-Mahdi army." By the end, roughly 2,000 Iraqis were killed in those twin campaigns. I was dropped off at a security checkpoint several miles from the airport, then loaded onto a bus jammed with contractors lugging hastily packed bags. Although no one was calling it one, this was an evacuation: over the next week 1,500 contractors left Iraq, and some governments began airlifting their citizens out of the country. On the bus no one spoke; we all just listened to the mortar fire, craning our necks to see the red glow. A guy carrying a KPMG briefcase decided to lighten things up. "So is there business class on this flight?" he asked the silent bus. >From the back, somebody called out, "Not yet."
Indeed, it may be quite a while before business class truly arrives in Iraq. When we landed in Amman, we learned that we had gotten out just in time. That morning three Japanese civilians were kidnapped and their captors were threatening to burn them alive. Two days later Nicholas Berg went missing and was not seen again until the snuff film surfaced of his beheading, an even more terrifying message for U.S. contractors than the charred bodies in Fallujah. These were the start of a wave of kidnappings and killings of foreigners, most of them businesspeople, from a rainbow of nations: South Korea, Italy, China, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Turkey. By the end of June more than ninety contractors were reported dead in Iraq. When seven Turkish contractors were kidnapped in June, their captors asked the "company to cancel all contracts and pull out employees from Iraq." Many insurance companies stopped selling life insurance to contractors, and others began to charge premiums as high as $10,000 a week for a single Western executive - the same price some insurgents reportedly pay for a dead American.
For their part, the organizers of DBX, the historic Baghdad trade fair, decided to relocate to the lovely tourist city of Diyarbakir in Turkey, "just 250 km from the Iraqi border." An Iraqi landscape, only without those frightening Iraqis. Three weeks later just fifteen people showed up for a Commerce Department conference in Lansing, Michigan, on investing in Iraq. Its host, Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, tried to reassure his skeptical audience by saying that Iraq is "like a rough neighborhood anywhere in America." The foreign investors, the ones who were offered every imaginable free-market enticement, are clearly not convinced; there is still no sign of them. Keith Crane, a senior economist at the Rand Corporation who has worked for the CPA, put it bluntly: "I don't believe the board of a multinational company could approve a major investment in this environment. If people are shooting at each other, it's just difficult to do business." Hamid Jassim Khamis, the manager of the largest soft-drink bottling plant in the region, told me he can't find any investors, even though he landed the exclusive rights to produce Pepsi in central Iraq. "A lot of people have approached us to invest in the factory, but people are really hesitating now." Khamis said he couldn't blame the; in five months he has survived an attempted assassination, a carjacking, two bombs planted at the entrance of his factory, and the kidnapping of his son.
Despite having been granted the first license for a foreign bank to operate in Iraq in forty years, HSBC still hasn't opened any branches, a decision that may mean losing the coveted license altogether. Procter & Gamble has put its joint venture on hold, and so has General Motors. The U.S. financial backers of the Starwood luxury hotel and multiplex have gotten cold feet, and Siemens AG has pulled most staff from Iraq. The bell hasn't rung yet at the Baghdad Stock Exchange - in fact you can't even use credit cards in Iraq's cash-only economy. New Bridge Strategies, the company that had gushed back in October about how "a Wal-Mart could take over the country," is sounding distinctly humbled. "McDonald's is not opening anytime soon," company partner Ed Rogers told the Washington Post. Neither is Wal-Mart. The Financial Times has declared Iraq "the most dangerous place in the world in which to do business." It's quite an accomplishment: in trying to design the best place in the world to do business, the neocons have managed to create the worst, the most eloquent indictment yet of the guiding logic behind deregulated free markets.
The violence has not just kept investors out; it also forced Bremer, before he left, to abandon many of his central economic policies. Privatization of the state companies is off the table; instead, several of the state companies have been offered up for lease, but only if the investor agrees not to lay off a single employee. Thousands of the state workers that Bremer fired have been rehired, and significant raises have been handed out in the public sector as a whole. Plans to do away with the food-ration program have also been scrapped - it just doesn't seem like a good time to deny millions of Iraqis the only nutrition on which they can depend.
The final blow to the neocon dream came in the weeks before the handover. The White House and the CPA were rushing to get the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution endorsing their handover plan. They had twisted arms to give the top job to former CIA agent Iyad Allawi, a move that will ensure that Iraq becomes, at the very least, the coaling station for U.S. troops that Jay Garner originally envisioned. But if major corporate investors were going to come to Iraq in the future, they would need a stronger guarantee that Bremer's economic laws would stick. There was only one way of doing that: the Security Council resolution had to ratify the interim constitution, which locked in Bremer's laws for the duration of the interim government. But al Sistani once again objected, this time unequivocally, saying that the constitution has been "rejected by the majority of the Iraqi people." On June 8 the Security Council unanimously passed a resolution that endorsed the handover plan but made absolutely no reference to the constitution. In the face of this far-reaching defeat, George W. Bush celebrated the resolution as a historic victory, one that came just in time for an election trail photo op at the G-8 Summit in Georgia.
With Bremer's laws in limbo, Iraqi ministers are already talking openly about breaking contracts signed by the CPA. Citigroup's loan scheme has been rejected as a misuse of Iraq's oil revenues. Iraq's communication minister is threatening to renegotiate contracts with the three communications firms providing the country with its disastrously poor cell phone service. And the Lebanese and U.S. companies hired to run the state television network have been informed that they could lose their licenses because they are not Iraqi. "We will see if we can change the contract," Hamid al-Kifaey, spokesperson for the Governing Council, said in May. "They have no idea about Iraq." For most investors, this complete lack of legal certainty simply makes Iraq too great a risk.
But while the Iraqi resistance has managed to scare off the first wave of corporate raiders, there's little doubt that they will return. Whatever form the next Iraqi government takes - nationalist, Islamist, or free market - it will inherit a crushing $120 billion debt. Then, as in all poor countries around the world, men in dark blue suits from the IMF will appear at the door, bearing loans and promises of economic boom, provided that certain structural adjustments are made, which will, of course, be rather painful at first but well worth the sacrifice in the end. In fact, the process has already begun: the IMF is poised to approve loans worth $2.5-$4.25 billion, pending agreement on the conditions. After an endless succession of courageous last stands and far too many lost lives, Iraq will become a poor nation like any other, with politicians determined to introduce policies rejected by the vast majority of the population, and all the imperfect compromises that will entail. The free market will no doubt come to Iraq, but the neoconservative dream of transforming the country into a free-market utopia has already died, a casualty of a greater dream - a second term for George W. Bush.
The great historical irony of the catastrophe unfolding in Iraq is that the shock-therapy reforms that were supposed to create an economic boom that would rebuild the country have instead fueled a resistance that ultimately made reconstruction impossible. Bremer's reforms unleashed forces that the neocons neither predicted nor could hope to control, from armed insurrections inside factories to tens of thousands of unemployed young men arming themselves. These forces have transformed Year Zero in Iraq into the mirror opposite of what the neocons envisioned: not a corporate utopia but a ghoulish dystopia, where going to a simple business meeting can get you lynched, burned alive, or beheaded. These dangers are so great that in Iraq global capitalism has retreated, at least for now. For the neocons, this must be a shocking development: their ideological belief in greed turns out to be stronger than greed itself.
Iraq was to the neocons what Afghanistan was to the Taliban: the one place on Earth where they could force everyone to live by the most literal, unyielding interpretation of their sacred texts. One would think that the bloody results of this experiment would inspire a crisis of faith: in the country where they had absolute free reign, where there was no local government to blame, where economic reforms were introduced at their most shocking and most perfect, they created, instead of a model free market, a failed state no right-thinking investor would touch. And yet the Green Zone neocons and their masters in Washington are no more likely to reexamine their core beliefs than the Taliban mullahs were inclined to search their souls when their Islamic state slid into a debauched Hades of opium and sex slavery. When facts threaten true believers, they simply close their eyes and pray harder.
Which is precisely what Thomas Foley has been doing. The former head of "private sector development" has left Iraq, a country he had described as "the mother of all turnarounds," and has accepted another turnaround job, as co-chair of George Bush's re-election committee in Connecticut. On April 30 in Washington he addressed a crowd of entrepreneurs about business prospects in Baghdad. It was a tough day to be giving an upbeat speech: that morning the first photographs had appeared out of Abu Ghraib, including one of a hooded prisoner with electrical wires attached to his hands. This was another kind of shock therapy, far more literal than the one Foley had helped to administer, but not entirely unconnected. "Whatever you're seeing, it's not as bad as it appears," Foley told the crowd. "You just need to accept that on faith."