Corporate Pre-Occupation

The Corporate Occupation Of Iraq
Antonia Juhasz
December 11, 2006

Antonia Juhasz is a visiting scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time (Regan, HarperCollins Publishers, 2006). She lives in San Francisco.

The Iraq Study Group Report offers a few important recommendations that will help address problems with the U.S. reconstruction debacle in Iraq. However, the Report thoroughly misses the mark on identifying the sources of failure—U.S. corporations and the Bush administration, and therefore the best way to solve the situation, which is to end the U.S. corporate invasion of Iraq.

The Report correctly notes that basic services in Iraq are still provided below or just hovering around prewar levels and that in Baghdad and other particularly war-ravaged areas, the situation is far worse.

The Report also correctly cites the Bush administration’s decision—executed by L. Paul Bremer, head of the former Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq—to fire 120,000 of Iraq’s highest-ranking government bureaucrats from every ministry as one obvious reason for this failure. However, the Report attributes the bulk of the blame to Iraqi government corruption and sectarian bias in the distribution of services and a failed Iraqi judiciary. While each of these critiques may be accurate, they are beyond the purview of the United States to correct. Well within our purview, however, are the past and future actions of our corporations and our government.

After firing Iraq’s senior bureaucrats, Bremer’s next law in Iraq allowed for, among other things, the privatization of Iraq’s state-owned enterprises—excluding oil—and for American companies to receive preferential treatment over Iraqis in the awarding of reconstruction contracts. These laws were part of a series of economic policies implemented by Bremer, virtually all of which remain in place today, to “transition [Iraq] from a … centrally planned economy to a market economy” virtually overnight and by U.S. fiat. The laws reduced taxes on all corporations by 25 percent, opened every sector of the Iraqi economy (except oil) to private foreign investment, allowed foreign firms to own 100 percent of Iraqi businesses (as opposed to partnering with Iraqi firms), and to send their profits home without having to invest a cent in the struggling Iraqi economy. Thus, Iraqi laws governing banking, foreign investment, patents, copyrights, business ownership, taxes, the media, and trade were all changed according to U.S. goals, with little participation from the Iraqi people.

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