Monday, December 22, 2003

OPIC EXIM in Iraq

The United States has failed in its obligations under international law to provide any kind of security to the Iraqi people, and the violence and anarchy make it increasingly difficult to do business of any kind. At the same time, the American ideologues are attempting to privatize the entire country, and make Iraq into a laboratory to prove the Dickensian effects of pure unbridled neocon ideology let loose upon the world. The problem is that the insecurity makes American businesses in Iraq uninsurable, and thus they cannot go to Iraq do the raping and pillaging that is current American official foreign and domestic policy. The solution to this conundrum is to throw more American taxpayer money at it. An American government agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), is going to step into the breech and provide the insurance that private insurance firms are too smart to handle (the Export-Import Bank of the United States provides a similar service). OPIC was delayed in getting into Iraq because it could not operate in a state regarded by the American government as a sponsor of terrorism. Once it starts to insure business ventures in Iraq, the inevitable losses will be cheerfully picked up by the American taxpayers. From an article by Naomi Klein:

"For the non-US firms in the room, OPIC's announcement is anything but reassuring: Since only US companies are eligible for its insurance, and the private insurers are sitting it out, how can they compete? The answer is that they likely cannot. Some countries may decide to match OPIC's Iraq program. But in the short term, not only has the US government barred companies from non-'coalition partners' from competing for contracts against US firms, it has made sure that the foreign firms that are allowed to compete will do so at a serious disadvantage.

The reconstruction of Iraq has emerged as a vast protectionist racket, a neocon New Deal that transfers limitless public funds - in contracts, loans and insurance - to private firms, and even gets rid of the foreign competition to boot, under the guise of 'national security.' Ironically, these firms are being handed this corporate welfare so they can take full advantage of CPA-imposed laws that systematically strip Iraqi industry of all its protections, from import tariffs to limits on foreign ownership. Michael Fleisher, head of private-sector development for the CPA, recently explained to a group of Iraqi businesspeople why these protections had to be removed. 'Protected businesses never, never become competitive,' he said. Quick, somebody tell OPIC and Paul Wolfowitz."


Again we see the odd corporate socialism of neoconservatism. Wealth is taken from the poor and middle classes, and redistributed to large corporations, all in the name of virtuous competition. All the old protections to ordinary people like taxes and labor laws and regulations are removed, but the whole bill for the reconstruction, including now the costs of providing insurance to the uninsurable, is borne by the American taxpayers. So it's pure capitalism for the Iraqis, and pure socialism for the American corporations. In order to understand neoconservatism, you have to take any of the old classic socialist texts - by Marx or Lenin or Trotsky - and replace the term 'proletariat' by 'large corporations'. It will then all make perfect sense.

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