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Saddam out,
economic bondage in

Penny Jamieson


 We called for peace,  and we got peace.   We called for an end to Saddam Hussein's rule of terror,  and now he has disappeared from Iraqi leadership.   We called for the liberation of Iraq,  and the people are jumping for joy in the streets.

So what future is there for the peace movement?   It seems that now it is well and truly defeated by the most powerful weapon of all  -  war.

Yet we are still troubled.   And I want to explore why this might be.

This war has been astonishing for its openness,  both in the public justifications beforehand and in the reporting of it  -  the front-line shots,  the blood on the camera,  the targeted bombing,  the bundles of cash in the arms of the looters and the wreck of the Baghdad museum.   So it seems as if all is wide open,  unlike earlier times.

I have,  quite co-incidentally,  in the last week seen three films that deal with,  among other things,  the secret and destructive diplomacy of the 1950s,  1960s and 1970s United States administrations.   Two were films from the recent film festival,  Power and Terror  -  Noam Chomsky and The Trials of Henry Kissinger,  which is a film version of Christopher Hitchen's book.   The third was the Michael Moore film that won him an Oscar recently,  Bowling for Columbine .

The first two tell,  in different ways,  the stories of American secret and illegal engagement in the war in Cambodia,  and in the overthrow of President Allende in Chile.   In both events,  there were significant numbers of civilian deaths and in both there was a strong but covert CIA involvement.

Bowling for Columbine  relates the horrors of these and other incidences of America's violent engagements in regime change to the gun culture of the United States.   It traces the relation of the gun culture to the culture of mass fear promoted by both the media and government propaganda as a response to the war on terrorism.   Fear in turn leads to the desire to protect both property and people.   And in a society where there is an over-riding ethic of unrestrained growth and consumerism,  people reach for guns to protect them and their families from the envy of those who have less,  and the nation,  similarly,  feels that it needs an army to protect it.

Interestingly,  these movies are all representative of a strong tradition of dissent in American society,  in particular and most recently,  that tradition of intellectual and moral dissent to government policies that seems to have stemmed from opposition to the Vietnam war.

For all the mighty media propaganda that has persuaded so many,  particularly in the United States,  that the war in Iraq is both necessary and defensible,  there is a widespread and vociferous tradition of dissent in the United States.   Much of this dissent in the past has taken the form of uncovering nasty facts,  conspiracies,  murders,  orders for secret bombings and so forth.

By contrast,  what was so surprising in the weeks leading up to the American invasion of Iraq was that it seemed that the reasons for the war were being paraded so openly:  links with September 11,  protection of oil supplies,  suspected presence of weapons of mass destruction.   But now,  other motives are becoming apparent and these seem more credible.

Plans are well under way for the sale of Iraq.   By the time the Iraqi people have a say in choosing a government,  the key economic decisions about their country's future will have been made by their occupiers.   [US deputy defence secretary]  Paul Wolfowitz said:  "There has got to be an effective administration from day one.   People need water and food and medicine,  and the sewers have to work,  the electricity has to work.   And that's a coalition responsibility."

This task goes way beyond reconstruction.   A contract for the management of the port in Umm Qasr has already gone to a United States company,  Stevedoring Services of America.   The Defence Department has plans to build a CDMA cell-phone system in postwar Iraq in order to benefit American dealers and patent holders.   And the American Agency for International Development has invited American multinationals to bid on everything from rebuilding roads and bridges to printing textbooks.

Does not this all look very like privatisation  -  United States style?   And we have not even mentioned oil there,  yet.   Perhaps oil is the golden well that will pay for all these contracts.

Either way,  the Americans win.   They get the oil,  and they get the money they pay for the oil back in the form of contract payments.   The Iraqi people,  even in a perfect Iraqi democracy,  have no say at all.   They have been released from Saddam Hussein's cruelty.   They will soon be sold into an economic bondage as tight as that which surrounds many other countries.

And the army of economic occupation will be in Iraq much longer than the military will be.   Money makes money.   Armies only spend it.

Moreover,  Jay Garner,  the retired general appointed by the Americans to head the transitional government in Iraq,  is himself the president of SY Technology,  which provides technical support for missile systems recently in use in Iraq.

Is this why President George W. Bush can afford to ignore his economic woes on the home front?   At a time when many markets are diminishing,  the sale of Iraq presents wondrous opportunities for free market growth.   A new expansionist attention to Iraq would turn domestic attention away from the neglect in the slums of America.   No wonder I am suspicious.

Jesus,  whose resurrection from the dead we celebrated this last weekend,  came to bring release for the captives,  liberty for the oppressed.   This is not what the Americans are offering the people of Iraq.

The Right Rev Dr Penny Jamieson is the Anglican
Bishop of Dunedin.   This article was published in the
Otago Daily Times of April 22, 2003.



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