Monday, December 22, 2003

Baker versus the Paris Club

The disgusting American press continues to report that the visit by Baker to Europe to give the Europeans a haircut on the Iraqi debt was a raging success. By reporting the visit as a success they avoid embarrassing the neocons who attempted to scupper the visit by cutting the Europeans off from Iraqi redevelopment contracts on the eve of Baker's visit. Actually, while everyone was polite, Baker managed to leave Europe without one concrete promise. Everybody deferred to the decision of the Paris Club. The President of the Paris Club, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, said that the Paris Club would not make a decision until Iraq had sovereign leadership, the leadership was internationally recognized (which presumably won't occur until there are elections, something the Bush Administration has been doing everything it can to avoid), and the IMF had assessed the needs of Iraq (setting a precedent for debt relief that would probably choke the American-dominated IMF). As well, the Paris Club would presumably want to consider Iraq's assets before deciding to make a large gift to Halliburton and Bechtel (as the David Letterman joke goes, referring to the $87 billion Bush got out of Congress, when making out the check, remember there are two l's in Halliburton; Americans may be that stupid, but the Europeans certainly aren't). If the Europeans decide to trade debt relief for access to Iraqi reconstruction, that would presumably spell the end of international agreements on fairness in government procurement contracts, agreements which have benefited American corporations more than the corporations of any other country. If they decide not to make that trade-off, American taxpayers get to pay the whole bill at grossly inflated Halliburton-Bechtel prices, with extremely little 'trickle down' back to the States, as most of the money will end up in the hands of international subcontractors or in untaxable offshore accounts. There is simply no good way to spin the stupidity of the Bush Administration.