Thursday, September 25, 2003

So, Iraq is for sale. It makes it so much easier to spread the loot, to make sure only the best connected to those who are divvying it up will benefit the most. It does not mean the Iraqi people themselves will receive any more benefits, of course, not the general population, that is. The best possible picture would be public ownership in the hands of an honest administration, but this never happens.

When I was a little kid, I spent a number of school vacations on a farm. Each evening, I went into the stables, where large cows were milked by hand by the women of the farm, sometimes helped out by the men, but it was mainly woman's work. There was an open, permanent fire in the center on the floor, over which was set up a tripod with a large cauldron into which the fresh milk was poured, where it cooked up to make cheese for days until the cauldron was filled to the top. A good milk cow gives some 13 liters, twice a day, and I'm talking of the old days before any kind of hormones, etc. This milk, straight from the cow, if let stand in a jar, will within a very short time separate, the heavy cream coming to the top and the thinner milk falling to the bottom. This is a marvel of nature to someone who knows nothing of chemistry, you would expect the opposite to happen. It never does. This is a totally dependable process, the cream always rises.

In society, the cream that rises to leadership is rarely the better part of the population. In this case, it is more like the scum on top of turpid waters. You can see it again and again and again, where leaders instead of beneficent become autocratic tyrants, who rape and ravage the countries under their rule.

Throughout history, the process is dependable, and still we continue to do things in the same way. You notice such-and-such a country is like a jet plane flying amok in the wrong direction, threatening everybody else's safety and wellbeing? Go right ahead, shoot the pilot and replace him. Never mind that the nature of the plane is exactly what makes the pilot get the idea he can do what he wants with it in the first place, once in the pilot's seat, and once he has mastered the commands. Ryszard Kapuscinski described the process very well:

"...a feeling of impunity takes root among the elite: We are allowed anything, we can do anything. This is a delusion, but it rests on a certain rational foundation. For a while it does indeed look as if they can do whatever they want. Scandal after scandal and illegality after illegality go unpunished. The people remain silent, patient, wary. They are afraid and do not yet feel their own strength. At the same time, they keep a detailed account of the wrongs, which at one particular moment are to be added up."

So, Iraq now has a new leadership, selected by us. There is a rotating provisional leadership, but this is just smoke and mirrors: within days of coming into the pilot's seat, Chalabi has kicked off the fire sale. The official headlines say "except the oil", and everybody nods knowingly: "It doesn't have to mention the oil because it is already out of Iraqi hands, in terms of control."

On the side, the BBC reports on November 22, in an article "Iraq oil assets up for sale":

"Ali Allawi, the trade minister in the US backed administration in Iraq, has said that foreign ownership of assets in the country's oil industry has not been ruled out."

Mr. Allawi gave the BBC an interview in Dubai on that same date, in which he said in effect the oil industry had not been included in the Iraqi sale because it was undergoing "reforms".

"There is no final decision on the shape of the oil industry after reform. He said it would be a matter for the oil ministry and the Governing Council to decide. But he certainly anticipates some private sector role. It might be through equity--owning a share of some oil businesses. He said that foreign ownership of some Iraqi oil assets is a possibility. ..."

Hehehe! Wanna bet where this one ends up? Wanna make honest penny?

In the meanwhile this month's pilot is pressing Washington for more independence, more autonomy. He has also reportedly sent representatives to France and Germany to solicit their backing. The New York Times on the front page on September 23 said:

"He demanded that the Iraqi Governing Council be given at least partial control of the powerful finance and security ministries..."

Given this particular pilot's record, the fact that there is a judgment against him outstanding in Jordan for his despoiling of the Petra bank, albeit he protests this is all a pack of lies to discredit him, will it surprise anyone, whenever he gets hold of his independence, that he shall promptly take advantage of his position? After all, we are not talking of an inexperienced beginner here. Moreover, what are the bets that it will be so easy to set him aside, when his time is up and the "provisional" aspect of the interim government will have served its purpose?

Whatever the future may hold in store as far as things financial are concerned in Iraq, for the moment Brother Bremer has delegated full authority to administer the affairs of the Iraqi Ministry of Finance (since July 4, 2003) to Dave Oliver, senior advisor for the Iraqi Minister of Finance.

I notice the proposed Bremer budget for the period ending December 2003, provides under the most miscellaneous of items: "Other Budget Expenditures", an item entitled "Various Expenditures" for a total of US $925 million. This contrasts with a later entry, where Bechtel is listed for a US $400 million contract. Now pray tell, what might "Various Expenditures" cover? It seems to me that a modest item to the tune of US $925 million would deserve a more specific identification.

It reminds me of the grandmother who kept household accounts on a daily basis, and each day recorded a variable under the heading "GAWP". Her husband asked her one day what this might be. "God alone will provide", she answered deadpan. It was an entry to balance her books, she didn't know where the money had gone, it just couldn't be accounted for, it had gone missing.

There are many stories coming from the street that the pilot's hands are already not clean in Iraq: his militia, the raiding operations of his thugs, are already well known throughout the land.

Rule by terror and intimidation will ever fail because there is always a point when fearful and powerless humanity stands tall and cries out: "Stop! Enough! No more!"

I remember a series of articles a few years ago in the New Yorker about torture in Uruguay. It appeared 50% of the population had been tortured. The remaining 50% had to include the torturers. The 100% of the population contained women and children, but I don't remember whether it was ever mentioned to the extent of their participation in either statistic. There was one telling detail, a question asked: when one had been one of the torturers, what was it convinced you to stop? Nothing really, torture had become the daily grind of routine, that is what one did to earn one's living, it was just a job. What happened was that one day your Uncle Joe was brought in, or your Cousin Joey was brought in, and No, you could not continue to torture. So, you stopped.

Today, I see a headline saying 27 Israeli pilots have refused to execute bombing raids targeting Palestinian civilians. This is just the beginning: these young human beings have taken personal responsibility to face the reality of what they were doing, which they were only doing because their leaders said so. They have now declared that they have different values, the purest of which is the recognition that every life has value, even when the beneficiary of such life professes a different lifestyle.

The borders and boundaries drawn by the West with straight edged rulers at the time the Ottoman Empire was dissolved and divvied up took no stock of the varied peoples who lived on those lands, who had endured and survived conquests and occupations by various invaders, for thousands of generations, and who still perdured and thrived. The West despoiled them from the land they had lived on, with the rationalization that they had not appreciated it properly. They handed ownership to those who would appreciate it better. Never mind that no one owns the land, anywhere: it is there for our enjoyment, and only for our lifetime.

It is only in America that you cannot walk along the beach because access is denied. It is only here that someone can fence off his ownership all the way into the water, ownership based on greed and selfishness and self-agrandisement, ownership by someone who builds his palatial house along the shore, barring access to everyone else, even at low tide.

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