Testamony of The Tortured
Date: Friday, September 14 2007
by Jeremy Scahill
When President Bush dispatched the neoconservative “terror expert” Paul Bremer to Baghdad in the summer of 2003, it took the former staffer to Henry Kissinger just two weeks to boldly declare that Iraq was “open for business.” Naomi Klein, who traveled to Iraq during Bremer’s one year stint in the country, writes in The Shock Doctrine: “Overnight, Iraq went from being one of the most isolated countries in the world, sealed off from the most basic trade by strict UN sanctions, to becoming the widest-open market anywhere.”
Bremer swiftly set about wiping Iraq clean and applying Milton Friedman’s radical economic formula in the Arab world, a region Klein calls “the last holdout for this neoliberal crusade.” This, Klein writes, would come in the form of “mass privatization, complete free trade, a 15% flat tax and a dramatically downsized government.” As Klein says, it was an anti-Marshall Plan. And while it appeared early on in Bremer’s tenure that the neoconservatives were winning, it didn’t take long for the temporary euphoria of life without Saddam to be overcome by a collective Iraqi rage at the US agenda.
Even US allies like the interim trade minister, Ali Abdul-Amir Allawi, declared Iraqis were “sick and tired of being the subjects of experiments. There have been enough shocks to the system, so we don’t need this shock therapy in the economy.” This radical economic agenda, combined with the disastrous de-Baathification policy, which not only resulted in tens of thousands of state workers losing their jobs overnight, but also some 250,000 Iraqi soldiers, meant that the “Bremer agenda” would just as radically give rise to a widespread Iraqi resistance to the occupation, the likes of which the “cake walk” theory promoters could never have envisioned.
As the situation on the ground rapidly deteriorated, the job of keeping alive Bremer, the most hated man in Iraq, was not given to the US military, but rather was “awarded” - through a no-bid $27m contract - to the politically-connected mercenary firm, Blackwater USA, whose owner, Erik Prince, is a major donor to the political campaigns of President Bush and his allies, as well as to the core groups that make up the radical religious right in America. As Bremer opened Iraq up for business, his own life would be placed in the all-powerful hands of the free market. “If Blackwater loses a principal [like Bremer], they’re out of business, aren’t they?” asked Colonel Thomas Hammes, the US military official in charge of building a “new” Iraqi military after Bremer disbanded the old one. “Can you imagine being Blackwater, trying to sell your next contract, saying, ‘Well, we did pretty well in Iraq for about four months, and then he got killed.’” Hammes, who said he himself was run off the road by Blackwater mercenaries, said Blackwater “made enemies everywhere,” but added, “they were doing their job, exactly what they were paid to do in the way they were paid to do it.”