Pentagon advisor Richard Perle recently called
for Iraq's debt to be cancelled as a way of
teaching banks about the "moral hazard of
... lend[ing] to a vicious dictatorship."
enough. Other countries with "odious debt"
incurred under nasty regimes may be granted
debt forgiveness. Why not Iraq?
not indeed. A war profiteer like Perle lecturing
on morality is doubtful enough, but who in
today's occupied Iraq will really profit from
debt forgiveness, the Iraqi people or companies
stake is more than $184 billion of pending
contracts and debts against Iraq, many of
which transpired before the 1991 invasion
of Kuwait. In other words, even deals inked
when Saddam Hussein was considered a US ally
could now be considered odious debt.
small coincidence that the countries slated
to lose most from an Iraqi write-off include
Russia, France and Germany: Bush's axis-of-just-as-evil
for opposing the recent invasion of Iraq.
taking Perle's moral high ground for argument's
sake, consider that Chile's Pinochet, Indonesia's
Suharto, South Korea's Park Chung Hee, and
yes, Iraq's Hussein were all former recipients
of White House largesse. So much for the US
government steering clear of vicious dictators.
of course, today's "war on terror" has become
a gold mine for brutal regimes of strategic
Uzbekistan. Despite an abysmal human rights
record and corrupt government, the country
received $500 million in US funding last year
- $79 million specifically earmarked for police
and intelligence services which use "torture
as a routine investigative technique." Its
proximity to Afghanistan and expanding US
military presence guarantee ever more funding
to back the savage Uzbek government, step
up repression and no doubt create the kind
of Islamic fundamentalism the US should be
fighting in the first place.
then there's Pakistan. General Pervez Musharraf
seized power in a 1999 coup, stifling opposition
and rewriting the constitution to shore up
his dubious power base - not exactly a model
of democratic leadership. Regardless, Pentagon
ally Musharraf just left Camp David with $3
billion in fresh US grants, for things like
upping the nuclear war ante with India.
ironic that dictatorships like Uzbekistan
and Pakistan can cash in on the "war on terror,"
while fledgling democracies defying Washington's
unilateral excesses are punished. The Bush
administration's recent rampage against the
International Criminal Court
is a case in point: 64 countries receiving
US military aid were forced to sign bilateral
agreements exempting US troops from prosecution,
or else risk losing the aid. The Bahamas,
for instance, was warned funds would be withheld
for paving and lighting an airport runway,
and Caribbean states were told they could
lose hurricane relief and rural dentistry
benefits if they didn't support Washington's
attack on the ICC.
other words, the US government provides funding
for "torture as a routine investigative technique"
but not necessarily for hurricane relief.
No wonder they hate us.
White House is quick to point out that some
countries have demonstrated loyalty to the
Bush administration by sending peacekeeping
troops to Iraq: Poland, Ukraine, Nicaragua,
and El Salvador among others. Rarely mentioned,
however, is the fact that US taxpayers will
be funding this "coalition of the billing"
to the tune of $250 million this year alone.
who really benefits from massive cash infusions
to Iraq, estimated to be costing US taxpayers
$3.9 billion every month? And who would benefit
from a hasty write-off of Iraq's past debt?
no doubt the country's in chaos and needs
help. Twelve years of debilitating sanctions
have left the population and infrastructure
ravaged, while the recent invasion and aftermath
have left thousands dead and millions unemployed.
Meanwhile, attacks against US service members
grow more frequent and bloody every week.
not everybody's hurting. Halliburton, the
Texan oil company tied to US vice president
Dick Cheney, is making a killing on subsidiary
contracts to Iraq, doing everything from repairing
oil wells to providing housing for US troops.
Corporate cronies will also benefit from Bush
administration plans to privatize Iraq's 100
state-owned firms, probably at fire sale prices.
doubt the lack of financial transparency in
today's Iraq creates unprecedented opportunities.
Some US firms have already been charged with
bilking millions of dollars in bogus rebuilding
contracts, while the integrity of the US-UK
controlled fund slated to recover foreign
Iraqi assets has been called into question.
throwing more cash into this mess makes no
sense. How long can US taxpayers shoulder
the unilateral burden? What new dictators
will be propped up? What assets and national
resources will be privatized away from the
Iraqi people without their consent? How long
before they negate today's agreements as odious?
line, until a stable government is in place,
truly representative of the Iraqi people,
there should be no debt cancellations - reschedulings
or delayed payment allowances perhaps, but
no write-offs. Same goes for privatizations.
The Bush administration's secretive, unilateral
and unaccountable approach to finances is
among our biggest moral hazards in Iraq.
Wokusch is a free-lance writer. She can be
reached via www.heatherwokusch.com
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