Friday, October 22, 2004

Bremer leaves the keys to Iraq to reliable, generous Corporation USA

I can't stay away.

Well even though it has been about 3 months since we’ve “handed over sovereignty” back to Iraq, it seems that no one has read the fine print of that agreement. Before Coalition Provisional Authority Leader Paul Bremer left the fledgling nation he was sure to permanently cripple the country so as to make them the single biggest US-owned gas station in the world. To refresh your memory, instead of a day of celebration, the CPA secretly held a five-minute meeting where a paper was signed and a hand was shaken. That paper was the new Iraqi Constitution, the document that would be the foundation of a new democratic Iraq free of the tyranny of Hussein. Instead, in true Bush Administration form, hours before the document was made official, Mr. Bremer added about 100 new orders into the constitution that cannot be repealed by and Iraqi governing body. The changes weren’t publicized nor even made public until after they were irrevocable and the new orders are shamelessly despicable.

Thanks to Bremer, all US citizens are immune to any Iraqi laws and those laws have no jurisdiction on any non-US contractor working with the United States. Thus, if a contractor decides he doesn’t like a certain Iraqi, he may kill at will without fear of consequence because not only is he immune from Iraqi law he is not under the jurisdiction of the military and cannot be tried in military courts. Fun. Bremer has ensured a sovereign Iraq by placing mandatory US advisors in every ministry and office in the government who each have the power to veto many decisions. But these aren’t the true meat of the corporate friendly main course of Bremer’s orders.

Let us sample two of the more delectable entrées:
Order 39 makes it possible for U.S. corporations operating in Iraq to own every business, do all of the work, and send all of their money home without reinvesting locally to service the Iraqi economy. Not a single Iraqi is required to be hired, not a single public service need be guaranteed, and last but not least any workers' rights can easily be ignored. Oh yeah, and corporations can take out their investments at any time.
Order 49 decreases the tax rate on corporations from 40 percent of the gross product to a flat rate of 15 percent. So even though corporations can take all of their money home and not contribute to the economy of Iraq, lowering the taxes on the corporations is the smart move to ensure a viable Iraqi economy.

These along with the other 98 changes to the Iraqi constitution are both immoral and illegal under international law ratified by the United States because they fundamentally change the laws of Iraq to suit the needs of private interests in the region. The other 98 basically allow any US or foreign private interest to carve out a piece of Iraq and own it for no shorter than 40 years without being required to contribute back to the country which they are pillaging. Awesome!

The other fun thing the US is doing is dangling an $18 billion sum taken from US tax payer money for the reconstruction of Iraq over the out-stretched hands of the government that needs it. We are basically black mailing the new sovereign nation by not releasing to them the funds they need to make Iraq a viable nation unless they do what we say. It’s a good thing the paper work that was signed said “Iraq is now Sovereign,” because the laws we’ve written, the aid we’re withholding, and the 133,000 troops that still occupy the nation say otherwise

But don’t you worry Iraq; the self-regulating, non-super-greedy corporations will totally protect you from being pillaged. Halliburton will be completely honest and transparent when they correctly estimate costs and services. Overcharge you? That’s completely not likely to always happen!


Monday, October 11, 2004

Scaremongering!

Via Brian Leiter, I note that Col. David Hackworth has written a column in which he anticipates a post-election draft. Talk of the draft has been dismissed as "scaremongering" and pushed to the margins of discourse, but it's quite plain the number of troops in Iraq is probably no more than half what is needed, and we do not have enough additional troops to make up the shortfall. Maintaining present levels is difficult as it is, and it seems like Gen. Eric Shinseki's assessment of the requirements of the occupation (300,000 troops) was quite correct. I promote internationalization that might come of a Kerry administration, but with the insurgency mounting, international cooperation certainly isn't guaranteed. Would that Bush have assembled a genuine coalition, but apparently the threat from Saddam was so pressing that the few months it would have taken to make the case would have meant a "smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud." Or not. Hackworth, I note, is highly decorated and apparently well regarded within the military rank-and-file.

"Accordingly, we need to bring our ground-fighting and support units to about the strength they were before the Soviet Union imploded, especially since the proper ratio of counterinsurgent-to-insurgent in places like the Middle East should be around 15 to 1. You don’t have to be a Ph.D. in military personnel to conclude we need more boots on the ground."

So if Kerry isn't withdrawing, but is "finishing the job" (as I support, at least for now) and Bush certainly is staying the (disastrous) course, where are we getting these troops? Bueller?

ADDENDUM: It's quite revealing what the hacks and political partisans actually choose to be sneeringly dismissive of; it shows what issues genuinely concern them as potentially losing. On that note I link to King Hack, the Post-Gazette's platitudinous Jack Kelly, who assures us that "the draft is not coming back." A few remarks:

"There are bills in the House and Senate calling for reinstitution of conscription. They have attracted a handful of sponsors and cosponsors, all of whom are Democrats." Oooooo, scandalous -- if you haven't been paying attention at all. Effective italicization, Jack! He reminds me of a magician whose act is transparent and predictable. Tell us something we don't know.

"In the Vietnam era, morale in the Army was poor. Morale in today's Army is high, and it is out of sight in the Marine Corps." I like how Kelly substantiates his claims -- that is, with nothing.

Anyway, I've despised Kelly ever since I read a column freshman (?) year where he asserted that Schroeder's razor-thin margin of victory was due to his opposition to the Iraq war. It was, but not for the reasons Kelly suggested. Apparently he was unaware that the war was unpopular in Germany. I should certainly hope he's aware now; otherwise, I think I'm also qualified to be the Post-Gazette's "national security specialist."

Friday, October 08, 2004

No, we're not actually dead

..and neither is this blog. Believe it or not, I have a few comments to make. Firstly, I would like to congratulate Pitt alumna Wangari Maathi on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. I haven't seen much reaction in the blogosphere, but I suspect there might follow some disappointment, concerns that the Nobel committee had made a choice that was all too "safe" or easy, charges of irrelevance, etc. While I was surprised by the selection, the more I reflect on it, the more I think the choice was appropriate. Environmentalism isn't a boutique issue for yuppies in the west, and to think otherwise shortchanges people in the developing world. Development and conservation aren't mutually exclusive -- in fact, they should go hand-in-hand, as name "sustainable development" would suggest. The prize selection is another step towards abandoning Soviet-style development (epitomized by the massive, disruptive dam, of course) in favor of the new model.

However, I have very little knowledge of environmental policy, and I certainly shouldn't have the last word on the issue. I have (just) a bit more knowledge of QCD, and congratulate Gross, Politzer, and Wilczek on receiving the physics award. Note that comments are chronologically ordered from the bottom on that blog, the proprietor of which is strongly skeptical of string theory. Incidentally, it was my pleasure to hear Prof. Newman's reservations concerning string theory at the General Relativity honors lecture today; the blog to which I linked has some interesting comments concerning its success (or lack thereof.)

However, I'm not sure science is within this blog's purview, but science policy certainly is. On that note I will cite the blurb concerning Canada's new Perimeter Institute in Bob Park's indispensible What's New. It's quite telling that Canada has a PM who will say such "Brain power rather than military might is fast becoming the way countries exercise their sovereignty," while the US throws money at projects such as missile defense and hafnium isomer bombs, which don't exactly show much promise. I differ from Park on the subject of whether the US hegemony in science is threatened. He sees NSF's (or NAS'?) alarm on the issue as just another federal fund-seeking tactic, while I note US leadership has already slipped in certain areas. Positive steps should be taken to preserve US leadership in the longue duree. More on this later.

I might have a write-up concerning Christopher Hitchens and his visit later, too.