Guest Writings

Premier Attraction By STEPHEN GOWANS

The Washington Post ran a fawning profile of Adil Abdel-Mahdi, the prospective Iraqi premier, on February 14th – a kind of Valentine’s Day love letter to corporate America’s new sweetheart in Baghdad.

Mahdi, according to the Moscow Times, had visited Washington a few weeks earlier as Finance Minister and “announced that Iraq’s government wants to open the nation’s oil fields to foreign investment” (Moscow Times, February 11, 2005).

Since foreign leaders who throw open their country’s doors to US investment are considered valuable assets on Wall Street, where capitalism’s expansionary logic necessitates an unceasing supply of investment opportunities, it’s no surprise that the Post should take such a shine to a willing servant of US imperialism.

Mahdi declared the great sales event to come (everything must go!) will be “very promising to the American investors and to American enterprise, certainly the oil companies” (Interpress cited in Moscow Times, February 11, 2005.)

Indeed it will.

And since the prospect of this very promising sell-off was made possible by an unprovoked invasion, justified by a series of transparent lies, the only conclusion can be that war – and the loss of 100,000 Iraqi lives as a direct and indirect consequence of that invasion – has been very promising to the American investors and to American enterprise, certainly the oil companies.

But then, it’s difficult to think of a time when war hasn’t proved to be very promising to the American business class. Indeed, it could be said to have been its making

The US emerged from WWI a major creditor. WWII pulled it out of the depths of the great crisis of capitalism, and weakened its rivals. Preeminent in the world, gorged with war-time profits, having suffered precious little war damage, the country transitioned from hot war to Cold War, what historian Jacques Pauwels called corporate America’s perfect war, for it was fought against the right enemy, Communism, unlike the war in Europe, which had been fought against an enemy many investors and corporate titans in the US were not altogether uncomfortable with.

Importantly, the Cold War absorbed surplus capital, while working toward the day vast territories lost to US exports and investment would be reclaimed.

Peaceniks or the Out-Maneuvered?

While promising for US investors and enterprises, the latest war, in Iraq, has not been so promising to the Chinese, French and Russian investors and enterprises whose pre-war oil-field development contracts with Saddam Hussein will be shredded.

Neither country, it will be recalled, evinced much enthusiasm for the sanctions regime Washington and London insisted Iraq suffer. And nor were they prepared to go along with US plans for an invasion and regime change.

Not that anybody in charge had any moral reservations about Iraq, a once modern, secular society, being bombed and sanctioned into a state of primitiveness.

But with US firms frozen out of the action in Iraq by sanctions, Iraqi oil was an alluring prize. And if the sanctions regime collapsed, and Saddam Hussein was still around to honor the contracts they had signed with his government, the prize would be theirs – not the American’s.

Of course, the US rivals didn’t get their way.

From Washington’s perspective, a place for US oil companies in Iraq meant evicting Saddam Hussein, and hence, the deals he had done with France, Russia and China.

And so in 1998, the US officially adopted a policy of regime change in Iraq, and did so under a Democratic president, Bill Clinton. (Notwithstanding a popular misconception, outraging the sovereignty of foreign countries in pursuit of business interests is not uniquely connected to the Bush administration.)

Since the Ba’athist government had signed the contracts, a new government could invalidate the old ones, and deliver Iraq’s oil into the hands of US companies, plus provide a number of other benefits, including opportunities for US banks and enterprises to invest in infrastructure projects, like water, telecommunications, and electricity.

With regime change the key to getting US companies in, and French, Russian and Chinese companies out, no matter what test Saddam Hussein met, Washington ensured the bar was always notched up a little higher. That is why today Saddam Hussein languishes in prison for possessing weapons of mass destruction he didn’t have, for ties to al-Qaeda he never forged, for defying an international community he never defied, for…well, for something.

The real reason is because he signed deals with the wrong people.

Had he opened Iraq’s doors to American investors and corporations, he wouldn’t have been thrust forward by the gangster theory of foreign policy as the greatest evil since Hitler; instead, he – not Adil Abdel-Mahdi – would be lavished with Valentine’s Day love letters from the Washington Post.

Does Communist Evil Have Any Limits?

Commented the New York Times on south Koreans working with north Koreans at a south Korean owned industrial park at Kaesong: “Some south Koreans say they may have…trouble working with the North Koreans…because South Korea’s fiercely anti-Communist education taught them for decades that North Koreans were dangerous and evil. In North Korea, by contrast, government education programs taught that while South Korea’s government was an American puppet, its people were brothers and sisters.” (New York Times, February 8, 2005.)

Brothers and sisters? That does sound dangerous and evil.

South Korea’s government an American puppet? Who would have thought it?

Doesn’t it seem that the government education programs of the north have been a whole lot more estranged from the kind of comic book-style deception that is practiced in the south, and has been elevated to a science in the US?

“The first time I went to Kaesong last year, people were friendly and waved at our bus,” recalled one south Korean. “We saw children playing in the lake and having fun, but because of my education I thought this was staged. After my second and third visits, my opinions of North Korea started changing.”

You can be assured that the reactions of most Americans, no less subject to fiercely anti-Communist indoctrination, would hardly differ, except that 10 to 12 visits would be necessary before they believed that all smiles weren’t extorted by Kim Jong Il at gunpoint, and that the objective understanding expressed by many north Koreans that their hardships are in large measure due to US economic suffocation policies was not painstakingly drawn forth in government brainwashing factories.

And yet it’s perhaps evidence that the true gold standard of mass brainwashing can be found in the US that unambiguous facts (that the US is champing at the bit to do to north Korea what it did to Iraq, and that the north is deeply impoverished, not because of the alleged “evils and inefficiencies” of Communism, but because the US has spent the last 60 trying to destroy any force on the Korean peninsula that does not serve the profit-interests of US banks and industry) should be regarded as lies, disgorged by the propaganda mills of a dangerous and evil regime.

Washington’s latest threat is evident to anyone who opens a newspaper. The US is escalating its economic war against north Korea.

According to the New York Times (February 12, 2005), south Korea is being pressed to abandon trade deals with the north.

And Japan has obligingly planned to bar most north Korean shipping from Japanese ports beginning March 1, undermining the Communist country’s fishing industry, and ratcheting up the economic war against the country.

Meanwhile, a US-led international effort to interdict shipping carrying illegal arms and drugs – a sham aimed at disrupting north Korean trade – carries on. As do US overflights of north Korean territory, the patrols of US war ships just beyond north Korean maritime limits, and the occupation of the south by tens of thousands of US troops.

The object is to force the collapse of the government in Pyongyang, so that the Americans can replace it with a more pliant government, one willing to strike commercial deals favorable to US investors and enterprises.

Finding a premier to sign the deals won’t be difficult. There are Adil Abdel-Mahdis everywhere.

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