Monday, May 22, 2006

The Free-Market Cure for Iraq

To justify its invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration has constantly trumpeted its plans to democratize a country long exploited by a dictator, to introduce the marvels of free-market capitalism to the long-suffering Iraqi people. "Iraq for the Iraqis" was the mantra used early and often, especially with regard to its oil. A recent report by Kathy Kelly ("The Illness of Victors," Counterpunch: 5/13/06) reminds us how deceptive this sugarcoating of aggression and gross exploitation has turned out to be.

Instead of democracy and freedom, the Iraqis have been met with staggering violence, total absence of infrastructure, a healthcare system in ruins, and shortages of what was once plentiful and dirt-cheap gasoline and fuel in a country with the second largest petroleum reserves in the world. And the reason? The rules and regulations imposed by the Bush administration, in direct violation of all laws governing occupying powers, to benefit itself and its corporate cronies. Here is what Kelly says:
"The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have now instituted programs that require Iraq to begin paying back debts incurred by the former dictator, Saddam Hussein. To pay those debts, the interim government in Iraq has agreed to cut back on subsidies that enabled every family to purchase cooking oil and petrol at low prices. The prices have already risen threefold and a tenfold increase is expected by the end of the year. Another austerity measure involves ‘monetizing the ration basket,’ which means that the meager distribution of lentils, rice, cooking oil and tea once available to Iraqi families is being cut back, causing the price of these goods in the market to soar beyond the means of many poor families."
This is called "structural adjustment," the debilitating policies poorer nations worldwide must submit to, in order to conform to the wonders of the "free" market. The result is everywhere the same: in order to pay off their debts, however they are incurred, poor nations must cut off all social programs designed to help their impoverished masses survive because such programs have the odor of that economic pariah, "socialism." No matter if starvation and penury are the result; no matter if Iraq, once the only first-world nation in the Middle East is now a third-world basket case.

A democratic Iraqi government, under the gentle guidance of Uncle Sam, has been elected, and is committed to administering the free-market "medicine" to cure all of Iraq's ills. Meantime, other countries in the Middle East--Syria, Afghanistan, Iran--must be rubbing their hands in eager anticipation wondering: can Uncle Sam's wondrous health injection for us be far off?

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