Baghdad Year Zero

With news of beheadings, bomb blasts and the ongoing violence in Iraq filling our papers and TV screens, readers might find it helpful to check out this month’s Harper’s Magazine **. In it is an interesting article by Naomi Klein (author of No Logo) that helps to explain why things are going so badly (read here). Even taking into account Klein’s particular ideological predisposition, “Baghdad Year Zero” is a pretty damning account of the neocon’s postwar plans for Iraq. Klein argues that, far from not having a postwar plan, the neocons had a clear vision for the reconstruction of Iraq: they would transform Iraq–literally overnight–from one of the most closed economies in the world to what the The Economist called “a capitalist dream”, and let the free market do the rest.

Klein examines the way in which Bush’s man in Baghdad Paul Bremer set out to make even the most hardcore IMF structural adjustment package look like fiddling at the margins. It’s a story that’s at once both fascinating and frightening. I worked in East Timor in 2001 and sometimes shook my head at some of the decisions that were made by the UN mission there. The CPA however was in a league all of its own! The hubris is staggering, and would be hilarious if it wasn’t so real and the consequences so grave.

Klein helps explain the links between the CPA’s economic plans and the growth of the resistance movement in Iraq. She describes Moqtada al Sadr’s foot soldiers as “the young men who have been shut out of the neocon’s grand plans for Iraq, who see no possibilities for work, and whose neighborhoods have seen none of the promised reconstruction”. Klein notes that:

the great historical irony of the catastrophe unfolding in Iraq is that the shock therapy reforms that were supposed to create an economic boom that would rebuild the country have instead fueled a resistance that ultimately made reconstruction impossible. Bremer’s reforms unleashed forces that the neocons neither predicted nor could hope to control, from armed insurrections inside factories to tens of thousands of unemployed young men arming themselves. These forces have transformed Year Zero in Iraq into the mirror opposite of what the neocons envisioned: not a corporate utopia, but a ghoulish dystopia, where going to a simple business meeting can get you lynched, burned alive, or beheaded.

Lest we forget, Australia was also one of the official occupying powers in Iraq so we’ve got a lot to answer for too. Not that anyone’s asking the questions…

**PS. It’s not all grim in this month’s Harper’s. When you’re done with Klein’s piece, take a deep breath and check out the great short story by Tim Winton.

[Posted by David Madden]

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