The issue of the kind of people Bush and Blair back as supposed ‘democrats’ in Iraq is covered in a separate article
Iraq currently has over 60% unemployment. Can you imagine what Britain, Europe or America would be like if there was unemployment of over 60% and many unemployed people got little unemployment benefit with many others getting none ? In Britain we had riots in Bradford and Burnley not so long ago and the neo-fascist BNP getting 27% of the vote when unemployment in those areas was officially around 5% (of course it was actually much higher and new jobs were lower paid than those lost in closed textile factories). In France youth unemployment of 40% in inner cities led to massive riots across the country in 2005 and the neo-fascist Le Pen came second in the first round of the 2002 French Presidential election. So is it any surprise that in Iraq where over 60% of Iraqis are unemployed without sufficient benefits to survive on while foreign governments and their militaries hand their former jobs to foreigners there is massive violence, the development of organised criminal gangs and an increase in support for extreme nationalists and religious extremist groups ?
Religious and political extremists and criminal organisations are often the same people. For instance some militia leaders of the Shia Madhi army who kidnap and murder Sunnis demand ransom money – then kill their hostages anyway even if paid. The Bosnian and Kosovan war ‘nationalist’ militias were also organised crime syndicates who saw an opportunity to murder and steal yet be seen as ‘patriots’ .
If you doubt this is a major cause of the current violence in Iraq then read Naomi Klein’s investigation ‘Baghdad Year Zero’. She actually travelled to Iraq – including outside the Green Zone – and interviewed people on all sides – Iraqi managers and politicans, American contract workers and mercenaries and officials in the US Coalition Provisional Authority.
One of the main causes of the violence and extremism in Burnley, England , Paris(France) and Baghdad in Iraq is the same. Governments and big companies are enforcing “free trade” against their will and interests (actually monopolies or oligopolies of big companies) leaving them unemployed or in poverty – with their jobs going to foreigners – lower paid foreigners in India in the case of the people of Burnley – higher paid Americans, British and South Americans in the case of Iraqis. Naomi Klein points out that the party that got most votes in the Iraqi elections had a manifesto calling for “Adopting a social security system under which the state guarantees a job for every fit Iraqi”. Instead the coalition governments has demanded continued deregulation and privatisation leaving most Iraqis unemployed.
The people replacing these Iraqi soldiers and workers who are now unemployed are mostly foreign (mainly American and British) soldiers and contractors. The foreign contractors – some unarmed civilians , others armed security guards or even mercenary ex-soldiers inaccurately termed ‘civilians’ by the coalition – are paid dozens of times the wages of Iraqis for doing the jobs Iraqis used to do. Even the money going to our troops (a fraction per soldier of that going to the private contractors) could be better spent employing Iraqis to do the same job if we spent the cost of keeping our troops in Iraq on aid to Iraq through the government or through vetted charities instead. The combination of constant coalition offensives or ‘security operations’ , mass unemployment and jobs being given to foreigners creates the perfect recruiting conditions for sectarian militias, organised crime and extreme nationalist and religious groups.
So you can see exactly what was meant by the statement by the IFTU in November 2006 which said : “As all of us know, the occupation has destroyed everything in Iraqi society, unleashed the sectarian and nationalist gangs to slaughter and jeopardize peoples’ safety.”.
After spending over $300 billion on the Iraq war and reconstruction contracts and at least $8bn of Iraqi money disappeared under the CPA President Bush announced there will be a $1 billion programme to provide Iraqis with jobs sweeping streets and painting houses. Are they meant to be grateful?
Now it is true that unemployment was over 50% before the March 2003 invasion - but this was largely due not to Saddam's dictatorship (which, while brutal, had not had unemployment problems before 1991). It was due to blanket UN sanctions on Iraq demanded by the US and British governments which led to mass starvation and hundreds of thousands children dying of malnutrition, undernutrition and lack of medicines. Around 5,000 Iraqi children a month died due to sanctions for 12 years. This led two the resignation of first Dennis Halliday then Hans Von Sponeck as heads of the UN sanctions scheme condemning it in an article written in 2001.
The British government has since recognised that blanket sanctions cause a country's people to suffer without getting rid of their leaders - and cited this as a reason to instead use targeted sanctions that only apply to members of the Mugabe government and human rights abusers Zimbabwe. It remains in denial about its role in imposing them on the people of Iraq for a decade though. Since sanctions ended on the over-throw of Saddam there should have been little problem reducing unemployment among Iraqis - if the priority had not been to employ foreign contractors and mercenaries instead of Iraqis.
NATO operations in Afghanistan create similar problems. As in Iraq the same areas, towns and villages are repeatedly “cleared” of Taliban by NATO offensives - but (though both sides end up killing civilians) the civilians killed during NATO forces turn Afghans against them and result in new Taliban recruits. The destruction of poppy and marijuana crops (Afghan farmers’ main source of income) is also a questionable strategy. The same firms operating in Iraq get most of the reconstruction and security money going to Afghanistan – with the Taliban offering higher wages to starving Afghans to fight for them than NATO or the Karzai government offer to fight against them.
The companies employing these foreign contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan are almost exclusively American or British. The American firms get most of the big US government federal contracts.
copyright©Duncan McFarlane 2007
Next Link - Prophets of war and how they profit from self-fulfilling prophecies; How the Bush administration and firms linked to it have profit from starting wars - and from keeping them going
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