Tuesday :: Feb 12, 2008

The Shock Doctrine In Iraq

by Turkana

In January, Sam Stein reported that Bush would battle Congressional Democrats over his plan to establish permanent bases in Iraq. A few days later, Bush issued a signing statement waving the Congressional ban on permanent bases. A day after that, the Associated Press reported on hints that troop withdrawals would slow. Last week, The Hill reported that Bush would ask for another paltry $170,000,000,000, for another year in Iraq. Now, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, fresh off his tour antagonizing our European allies over Bush's failed Afghan "policy," has added his always sane voice to the cause.

From the New York Times:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said for the first time Monday that he supported a pause in American troop reductions in Iraq. It was the most authoritative indication to date that the United States will maintain a large force here through 2008 and into the next presidential term.

His assertion, which was something of a surprise, immediately became an issue for Democrats in the presidential campaign, who have made American withdrawal from Iraq a major priority. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Barack Obama criticized Mr. Gates and reiterated their intention to bring all the troops home at a rapid pace if one of them wins the White House in November.

Meeting with top commanders here, Mr. Gates said that after the departure this summer of the five extra combat brigades sent last year in “the surge” to pacify the Baghdad area, the American command should assess whether further troop reductions would hurt security.

In practical terms, his assertion makes it likely that American troop levels in Iraq will not drop much below 130,000 this year — and certainly not to the 100,000 level advocated by some military officials and analysts worried about the protracted strain on the Army from long deployments in the nearly five-year-old Iraq war.

“I think that the notion of a brief period of consolidation and evaluation probably does make sense,” Mr. Gates told reporters in Baghdad.

Now, it's easy to simplify the story: Bush- perpetual adolescent- always having someone else clean up his messes; death and destruction in his wake; no matter; a Democratic president gets to solve it; a Democratic president gets the blame for whatever subsequent carnage ensues; Bush just trying to make the occupation as permanent as possible. But that's not the real story.

In November, TPM Muckraker had this:

So it begins. After years of obfuscation and denial on the length of the U.S.'s stay in Iraq, the White House and the Maliki government have released a joint declaration of "principles" for "friendship and cooperation." Apparently President Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed the declaration during a morning teleconference.

As TPMM pointed out, the agreement doesn't explicitly discuss a military presence, and when it does refer to our protecting a "democratic Iraq":

A "democratic Iraq" here means the Shiite-led Iraqi government. The current political arrangement will receive U.S. military protection against coups or any other internal subversion. That's something the Iraqi government wants desperately: not only is it massively unpopular, even among Iraqi Shiites, but the increasing U.S.-Sunni security cooperation strikes the Shiite government -- with some justification -- as a recipe for a future coup.

In other words, Iraq's "government" will remain our puppet. Should the Iraqis have the temerity to attempt to do anything with which we disapprove, we can simply threaten to withdraw our protection. Needless to say, this will not be popular with most Iraqis, but when have their opinions- or lives- mattered, anyway?

But here's the real key, as reported by the Associated Press:

The two senior Iraqi officials said Iraqi authorities had discussed the broad outlines of the proposal with U.S. military and diplomatic representatives. The Americans appeared generally favorable subject to negotiations on the details, which include preferential treatment for American investments, according to the Iraqi officials involved in the discussions.

Let's be clear: this is Naomi Klein's disaster capitalism. Let's be doubly clear: we, the taxpayers, will be paying for an exclusive security force whose sole mission will be the protection of the private corporations who will own and operate Iraq. This is the Shock Doctrine.

Starting with the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, in the 1970s, and moving right up through Iraq and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Klein sees a pattern of:

...using moments of collective trauma to engage in radical social and economic engineering.

It is not something that has been invented on the fly, rather:

I discovered that the idea of exploiting crisis and disaster has been the modus operandi of Milton Friedman's movement from the very beginning--this fundamentalist form of capitalism has always needed disasters to advance. It was certainly the case that the facilitating disasters were getting bigger and more shocking, but what was happening in Iraq and New Orleans was not a new, post-September 11 invention. Rather, these bold experiments in crisis exploitation were the culmination of three decades of strict adherence to the shock doctrine.

More to the point:

The bottom line is that while Friedman's economic model is capable of being partially imposed under democracy, authoritarian conditions are required for the implementation of its true vision.

For the bottom line is this:

A more accurate term for a system that erases the boundaries between Big Government and Big Business is not liberal, conservative, or capitalist but corporatist. Its main characteristics are huge transfers of public wealth to private hands, often accompanied by exploding debt, an ever-widening chasm between the dazzling rich and the disposable poor and an aggressive nationalism that justifies bottomless spending on security. For those inside the bubble of extreme wealth created by such an arrangement, there can be no more profitable way to organize a society. But because of the obvious drawbacks for the vast majority of the population left outside the bubble, other features of the corporatist state tend to include aggressive surveillance (once again, with government and large corporations trading favors and contracts), mass incarceration, shrinking civil liberties and often, though not always, torture.

Sound familiar? The disaster Bush has wrought in Iraq is perfect; and as TPM Muckraker also points out, Iraq "war czar" General Douglas Lute claims the establishment of permanent bases in Iraq does not even require Senate approval. That, of course, would involve democratic processes, and we know that democratic processes are a hindrance to the effective exploitation by corporatists. Meanwhile, the military is getting ever more inventive in its construction of military bases: a recent Wall Street Journal article even revealed that we're now building them literally on top of Iraq oil platforms!

So, wake up tomorrow, go to work, and work hard. As earlier stated, a good chunk of the tax dollars you're paying to our "government" will really be spent for our own military to provide personal protection to the corporatists to whom Iraq is now becoming a wholly owned subsidiary. And more Iraqis, and more American troops, will suffer and die.

Turkana :: 11:30 AM :: Comments (12) :: Digg It!