Cashing in on the “Re-Building” of Iraq

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While thousands of Iraqis were getting killed and maimed by the US invasion, a team of US officials were waiting in ritzy beachside resorts just south of Kuwait City. They were waiting for the smoke to clear to take power in Baghdad with a new “Interim Iraqi authority.”

The interim Iraqi authority is “almost exclusively Americans,” with “a handful of British and Australian diplomats and a small group of Iraqi exiles” (Washington Post, 2/4/03). The US chose retired right-wing US general Jay Garner to essentially be the new colonial dictator of Iraq, now that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is gone. Garner is in charge of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs set up by the Pentagon, and he answers directly to General Tommy Franks of the US Central Command.

The real plans the US has in store for Iraq can best be seen in the Pentagon’s choice of Ahmed Chalabi as the Iraqi financial advisor of the US-sponsored government. Mr. Chalabi, who has not set foot in Iraq in over 30 years, is a scion of the old Iraqi ruling class (before their overthrow by the revolution in 1958). He was convicted in Jordan for financial fraud to the tune of $300 million. There is no doubt that a future Iraqi regime headed by Mr. Chalabi or some other puppet with transatlantic strings will be a repressive, undemocratic regime.

The right-wing hawks in the Bush gang spent years planning pre-emptive strikes, but they apparently put little thought into a post-war administration of Iraq with its ethnic and religious oppressed groups. Iraqi anti-occupation protests have already indicated that the Iraqi people are not pleased with the US take-over of their country.

Bitter disputes about the occupation regime have erupted between the “coalition allies” and the French, German, and Russian governments that opposed the war. The European powers are hiding behind the cloak of the United Nations to make sure that they get their share of oil – the spoils of war.

But Colin Powell explained the US position: “We didn’t take on this huge burden with our coalition partners not to have a significant dominating control over how it unfolds in the future…. We would not support…essentially handing everything over to the United Nations.” (Washington Post, 3/30/03) He said that the United Nations should simply “have an endorsing role to play in the interim authority to give it legitimacy.” (Seattle Times, 4/8/03)

Bush claims that the proceeds from Iraq’s oil will be used for the reconstruction of Iraq’s devastated economy. However, the neo-conservative strategists in the Pentagon have plans to use Iraq’s oil as a way to break OPEC’s domination of the energy market, and as a first step towards the privatization of Iraq’s oil.

The US is using the proceeds from the sale of Iraq’s oil to pay for an orgy of lucrative contracts with US corporations to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, which was devastated by the war.

The Bechtel Corp. received a contract worth up to $680 million to help rebuild Iraq’s power, water, and sewage systems, airports, and a seaport. Huge agri-businesses hope to make billions from the export of US wheat to Iraq.

Dick Cheney was the CEO for Houston-based Halliburton until he resigned in order to be Bush’s Vice Presidential running mate in 2000. Coincidentally, on March 8, a Halliburton subsidiary just received a contract from the Pentagon worth up to $7 billion for oil-field services.

Modest estimates for the reconstruction of Iraq reach $100, but of the $75 billion Bush requested from Congress for the cost of the war, only $2.5 billion are earmarked for humanitarian aid and reconstruction in Iraq.

Neither the US occupation forces, their Iraqi flunkies like Chalabi, nor the European Powers hiding behind the UN have any interest in the welfare of the Iraqi population. The only way to ensure that the reconstruction of Iraq meets the needs of the population is if the long-suffering Iraqi workers and young people democratically control the process themselves, with the assistance of the international working class.

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