Bremer gives Baghdad to Business
Source Ken Hanly
Date 03/06/05/15:37

Bush's can-do man puts the business into Baghdad

Paul Bremer's 'de-Ba'athification' is just downsizing
in disguise

Naomi Klein

Thursday June 5, 2003
The Guardian (London)

The streets of Baghdad are a swamp of uncollected
garbage and crime. Battered local businesses are going
bankrupt, unable to compete with cheap imports.
Unemployment is soaring and thousands of laid-off
state workers are protesting in the streets.
In other words, Iraq looks like every other country
that has undergone rapid-fire "structural adjustments"
prescribed by Washington, from Russia's infamous
"shock therapy" in the early 90s to Argentina's
disastrous "surgery without anasthetic". Except that
Iraq's so-called reconstruction makes those wrenching
reforms look like spa treatments.

Paul Bremer, the US-appointed governor of Iraq, has
already proved something of a flop in the democracy
department in his three weeks there, nixing plans for
Iraqis to select their own interim government in
favour of his own handpicked team of advisers. But
Bremer has proved to have something of a gift when it
comes to rolling out the red carpet for US
multinationals. Expect broad smiles when George Bush
meets Bremer in Qatar today.

For two weeks, Bremer has been hacking away at Iraq's
public sector like former Sunbeam executive "Chainsaw"
Al Dunlap in a flak jacket. On May 12, Bremer banned
up to 30,000 senior Ba'ath party officials from jobs
in government. Less than a week later, he dissolved
the army and the information ministry, putting 400,000
Iraqis out of work without pensions or re-employment

Of course, if Saddam Hussein's henchmen and
propagandists held on to power in Iraq it would be a
human rights disaster. "De-Ba'athification", as the
purging of party officials has come to be called, may
be the only way to prevent a comeback by Saddam's crew
- and hold on to the one true benefit that could come
from George Bush's illegal war.

But Bremer has gone far beyond purging powerful Ba'ath
loyalists and moved into a full-scale assault on the
state itself. It seems doctors who joined the party as
children and have no love for Saddam face dismissal,
while low-level civil servants with no ties to the
party have been fired en masse. Nuha Najeeb, who ran a
Baghdad printing house, told Reuters: "I ... had
nothing to do with Saddam's media, so why am I

As the Bush administration becomes increasingly open
about its plans to privatise Iraq's state industries
and parts of government, Bremer's de-Ba'athification
takes on new meaning. Is he working only get rid of
Ba'ath party members, or is he also working to shrink
the public sector as a whole so that hospitals,
schools and even the army are primed for privatisation
by US firms? Just as reconstruction is the guise for
privatisation, de-Ba'athification looks a lot like
disguised downsizing.

Similar questions arise from Bremer's chainsaw job on
Iraqi companies, already pummelled by 12 years of
sanctions and a month and a half of looting. Bremer
did not even wait to get lights back on in Baghdad,
for the dinar to stabilise or for the spare parts to
arrive for Iraq's hobbled factories before he
declared, on May 26, that Iraq was "open for

Duty-free imported television sets and packaged food
flooded across the border, pushing many Iraqi
businesses into bankruptcy, unable to compete. This is
how Iraq joined the global "free market" economy: in
the dark.

Paul Bremer is, according to Bush, "a can-do type of
person". Indeed he is. In less than a month he has
readied large swathes of state activity for corporate
takeover, primed the Iraqi market for foreign
importers to make a killing by doing away with much of
the local competition, and made sure there won't be
any unpleasant Iraqi government interference - in
fact, he has made sure there will be no Iraqi
government at all during this crucial period when so
many key decisions will be made. Bremer is Iraq's
one-man International Monetary Fund.

Like so many of the men who populate the Bush foreign
policy landscape, Bremer sees war as a business
opportunity. On October 11 2001, just one month after
the terror attacks in New York and Washington, Bremer,
once Ronald Reagan's ambassador at large for
counterterrorism, launched a company designed to
capitalise on the new atmosphere of fear in US
corporate boardrooms. Crisis Consulting Practice, a
division of the insurance giant Marsh and McLennan,
specialises in helping multinationals to come up with
"integrated and comprehensive crisis solutions" for
everything from terror attacks to accounting fraud.
And, thanks to a strategic alliance with Versar, a
specialist in biological and chemical threats, clients
of the two companies are treated to "total
counter-terrorism services".

In order to sell this kind of high-priced protection
to US firms, Bremer had to make the sort of frank
links between terrorism and the failing global economy
that activists are consistently called lunatics for
articulating. In a November 2001 policy paper, titled
New Risks in International Business, he explains that
free trade policies "require laying off workers. And
opening markets to foreign trade puts enormous
pressure on traditional retailers and trade
monopolies". This leads to "growing income gaps and
social tensions", which in turn can lead to a range of
attacks on US firms, from terrorism to government
attempts to reverse privatisation and trade

He could be describing the backlash his own policies
are provoking in Iraq. But then guys like Bremer
always know how to play both sides. Like a hacker who
cripples corporate websites then sells himself as a
network security specialist, in a few months Bremer
may well be selling terrorism insurance to the very
companies he welcomed into Iraq.

And why not? As Bremer told his clients back at Marsh,
globalisation may have immediate negative consequences
for many but it also leads to "the creation of
unprecedented wealth".

It has for Bremer and his cronies. On May 12, the day
he arrived in Iraq, his former boss, Marsh chairman
Jeffrey W Greenberg, announced that 2002 "was a great
year for Marsh - operating income was up 31%, Marsh's
expertise analysing risk and helping clients develop
risk management programmes has been in great demand.
Our prospects have never been better".

Many point out that Paul Bremer is no expert on Iraqi
politics. But that was never the point. He seems to be
an expert at profiting from the war on terror, and at
helping US multinationals make money in far off places
where they are both unpopular and unwelcome. In other
words, he is perfect for the job.

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