On the third anniversary of the Iraq occupation

By 2006 the real US agenda for invading Iraq had become crystal clear. When George W. Bush spoke of “freedom” in Iraq, he really meant freedom for the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, oil companies and other private multinational corporations to control Iraqi markets and natural resources. To put maximum pressure on the administration to withdraw US troops, I felt it was imperative that the worldwide demonstrations planned for March 18, 2006 be massive and widespread.



George reaches for his wife Laura, then remembers he’s in bed alone, spending the weekend with the vice president in an underground bunker.

“Why are you screaming, Mr. President?”

“Dick? Are you here?”

“I’m on the baby monitor, sir.”

“Oh…I had that Iraq nightmare again. I kept running and running through this quagmire, and the faster I ran the more it pulled me down…”

“Don’t worry, sir. The growing insurgency, renegade militias, disrupted oil production—it’s all part of our secret strategy.”

“It is?”

“No, that’s how we’ll spin it.”

“Oh…OK…heh. Do I finally get to say mission accomplished?”

“You can say anything you want Mr. President. Get approval from Rove first, of course.”

“Of course…heh.”

Mission Accomplished?

March 19 will mark the third anniversary of the project to conquer Iraq. The whole thing started out well enough, with the macho boys in the Pentagon delivering shock and awe in the form of cruise missiles and 2000 pound bombs.

Our military was doing what it does best—blow things up and kill people. To be successful in this first stage did not require an understanding of diplomatic, political or cultural niceties—just the application of blunt force.

The invasion went smoothly enough for Bush to declare “mission accomplished” just a couple months later.

But the mission wasn’t accomplished, and many people are still not aware of what the mission really is. The original master plan for Iraq was clear from the start, as long as you focused on what the administration did, rather than what it said. A few months after the invasion, Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, declared plans to privatize dozens of Iraqi state-owned enterprises. Then, through a series of orders that had the status of permanent Iraqi law, the US opened the country to virtually unrestricted investment and exploitation by multinational corporations.

IMF and World Bank

The familiar international financial institutions were there from the beginning, at first “advising,” and then using debt leverage to impose their guidelines, effectively limiting any future Iraqi government’s ability to develop its own economic policies.

At the end of December 2005, an agreement with the International Monetary Fund forced the government to raise fuel prices by 200 percent, leading to riots in some parts of the country, and the resignation of the oil minister. The cost of fuel is expected to increase tenfold in 2006, as price supports are removed to satisfy the IMF. The World Bank too, is working hard to impose its brand of “market fundamentalism” on Iraqi society. The Bank is now headed by Paul Wolfowitz who, as Deputy Secretary of Defense, was a leading advocate of the invasion.


Of course, the big prize in Iraq is oil. Well in advance of the war, future Iraqi leaders and oil ministers were meeting with State Department officials to discuss oil policy.

Executives from Shell and ExxonMobil were stationed in Kuwait even before the invasion stated, ready to move in and act as advisors to the new governing authority.

Iraq has vast undeveloped oil reserves that the international petroleum industry is waiting to get its hands on. While there are several different types of contracts Iraq could sign with oil companies, the most likely type to be adopted for new oilfields is the production sharing agreement, or PSA. Although they technically leave ownership of oil resources in the hands of the local government, PSA’s give the companies almost total control over the country’s oil development. This is the model championed by the US government, the IMF and, not surprisingly, the oil companies themselves, because it can guarantee access to massive reserves and monstrous profits.

PLATFORM, an oil industry watchdog group in Britain, has done a study of the possible effects of PSA’s on Iraq. They claim that, because of the easy accessibility of Iraq’s oil, this type of agreement would be a windfall for oil companies. While a 12 percent Internal Rate of Return (IRR) is considered a good profit for an oilfield, PLATFORM estimates that PSA’s in Iraq could give companies an IRR ranging from 48 to 178 percent, depending on the terms of the contract and the size of the oilfield (and assuming oil is selling for fifty dollars a barrel). These extreme profits would mean the diversion of billions of dollars from the Iraq economy into the pockets of foreign corporations (and, no doubt, the Iraqi leaders who cut the deals).

PSA contracts are typically locked in for twenty-five to forty years, so Iraq could lose control over the most profitable sector of its economy for decades. And because the agreement terms are often kept secret, the PSA’s will likely be implemented without any input from the Iraqi people, and possibly even without their knowledge. Welcome to democracy, Iraq.

Globalization at Gunpoint

When thinking about the US vision for the future of Iraq, it’s important to distinguish between the rhetoric and the hidden agenda. When Bush talks about “freedom” for Iraq, it’s clear he means freedom for the IMF, World Bank, oil companies and other private corporations to dominate the economy through free trade and a free market.

Iraq was to become a neoliberal’s dream—a perfect paradise of pure capitalism.

But something has gone terribly wrong. With their emphasis on military domination, the architects of the Iraq disaster left out one important factor in their war planning—the Iraqi people. Inexplicably, no one seemed to take seriously the potential for sectarian violence or the nearly unanimous opposition to US occupation.

The traditional colonial tactic—buying off a country’s politicians and letting them control the population—is not working. The leaders are divided, seeing themselves as political rivals, and the population is distrustful of any policies that smack of US influence. Without collaborating leaders and a compliant citizenry, no multinational corporations, not even the oil companies, will be willing to take the risk of large-scale investment.

The US foreign policy agenda of using military force to impose “democracy” (corporate capitalism) and “freedom” (free markets/free trade) around the world is under attack in Iraq. The long-term success of “globalization at gunpoint” depends on the eventual pacification and control of Iraq. The administration cannot afford to fail in this mission. And yet, at three years and counting, that goal seems more distant than ever.

A Decisive Moment

For those of us who want to challenge the militarist tendency of the globalization movement, the Iraq tragedy represents a golden opportunity. Bush is politically vulnerable right now, and his reckless military adventurism is bogged down. We can borrow a dictum from classic military strategy that affirms the best time to attack is when the opponent is weak.

Now is the time to act, to demonstrate our resistance to this criminal war, to fill the streets and fill the jails.

Iraqi family

We must demand all coalition troops withdraw.
We must demand all military bases be removed.
We must demand all CIA stations be closed down.
We must demand that Iraq be left to the Iraqis.

This is a difficult position to take. Removing troops might trigger a civil war or a bloodbath, as those who collaborated with the US during the occupation are suspected of being CIA operatives. The Iraqis might suffer greatly. But they are suffering now. And if our expansionist policies aren’t stopped, many more will suffer elsewhere.

The sad fact is, as long as Bush is president, and probably long afterward, we will have some kind of presence in Iraq.

We won’t be able to stop this war. But massive, widespread resistance will help discredit the diabolical policies that led to it.

We must do whatever we can to ensure the real mission in Iraq—gaining a foothold in the Middle East to spread corporate values at the expense of human values—is never accomplished.

In the introduction to “An Apology to the People of Iraq,” an essay I wrote just before the start of the invasion, I said the popular opposition to this war could be a decisive moment in history, a turning point in America’s quest for empire. With Iraq in chaos and the administration’s strategy in shambles, I feel that way more than ever.


George drifts back sleep and dreams of a perfect world. He is in Baghdad for the grand opening of the first McDonald’s. A happy crowd of Iraqis, wearing Nike shoes from Vietnam and sweatshop T-shirts from El Salvador, applauds enthusiastically.

“Gosh,” thinks George, grinning as he snips the yellow ribbon with a gigantic pair of scissors, “Now it’s for sure: mission accomplished!”

March 12, 2006

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Text on this page by James L. VanHise licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Attribution: James L. VanHise – fragmentsweb.org.

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