By Greg Palast
27 October, 2004
February 2003, a month before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a 101-page
document came my way from somewhere within the U.S. State Department.
Titled pleasantly, "Moving the Iraqi Economy from Recovery to Growth,"
it was part of a larger under-wraps program called "The Iraq Strategy."
The Economy Plan
goes boldly where no invasion plan has gone before: the complete rewrite,
it says, of a conquered state's "policies, laws and regulations."
Here's what you'll find in the Plan: A highly detailed program, begun
years before the tanks rolled, for imposing a new regime of low taxes
on big business, and quick sales of Iraq's banks and bridgesin
fact, "ALL state enterprises"to foreign operators. There's
more in the Plan, part of which became public when the State Department
hired consulting firm to track the progress of the Iraq makeover. Example:
This is likely history's first military assault plan appended to a program
for toughening the target nation's copyright laws.
And when it comes
to oil, the Plan leaves nothing to chanceor to the Iraqis. Beginning
on page 73, the secret drafters emphasized that Iraq would have to "privatize"
(i.e., sell off) its "oil and supporting industries." The
Plan makes it clear thateven if we didn't go in for the oilwe
certainly won't leave without it.
If the Economy Plan
reads like a Christmas wishlist drafted by U.S. corporate lobbyists,
that's because it was.
From slashing taxes
to wiping away Iraq's tariffs (taxes on imports of U.S. and other foreign
goods), the package carries the unmistakable fingerprints of the small,
soft hands of Grover Norquist.
Norquist is the
capo di capi of the lobbyist army of the right. In Washington every
Wednesday, he hosts a pow-wow of big business political operatives and
right-wing muscle groupsincluding the Christian Coalition and
National Rifle Associationwhere Norquist quarterbacks their media
and legislative offensive for the week.
as a lobbyist for Microsoft and American Express, Norquist today directs
Americans for Tax Reform, a kind of trade union for billionaires unnamed,
pushing a regressive "flat tax" scheme.
Acting on a tip,
I dropped by the super-lobbyist's L-Street office. Below a huge framed
poster of his idol ("NIXON NOW MORE THAN EVER"), Norquist
could not wait to boast of moving freely at the Treasury, Defense and
State Departments, and, in the White House, shaping the post-conquest
economic plansfrom taxes to tariffs to the "intellectual
property rights" that I pointed to in the Plan.
the only corporate front man getting a piece of the Iraq cash cow. Norquist
suggested the change in copyright laws after seeking the guidance of
the Recording Industry Association of America.
And then there's
the oil. Iraq-born Falah Aljibury was in on the drafting of administration
blueprints for the post-Saddam Iraq. According to Aljibury, the administration
began coveting its Mideast neighbor's oil within weeks of the Bush-Cheney
inauguration, when the White House convened a closed committee under
the direction of the State Department's Pam Wainwright. The group included
banking and chemical industry men, and the range of topics over what
to do with a post-conquest Iraq was wide. In short order, said Aljibury,
"It became an oil group."
This was not surprising
as the membership list had a strong smell of petroleum. Besides Aljibury,
an oil industry consultant, the secret team included executives from
Royal-Dutch Shell and ChevronTexaco. These and other oil industry bigs
would, in 2003, direct the drafting of a 300-page addendum to the Economy
Plan solely about Iraq's oil assets. The oil section of the Plan, obtained
after a year of wrestling with the administration over the Freedom of
Information Act, calls for Iraqis to sell off to "IOCs" (international
oil companies) the nation's "downstream" assetsthat
is, the refineries, pipelines and ports that, unless under armed occupation,
a Mideast nation would be loathe to give up.
The General Versus
One thing stood
in the way of rewriting Iraq's laws and selling off Iraq's assets: the
Iraqis. An insider working on the plans put it coldly: "They have
[Deputy Defense Secretary Paul] Wolfowitz coming out saying it's going
to be a democratic country
but we're going to do something that
99 percent of the people of Iraq wouldn't vote for."
In this looming
battle between what Iraqis wanted and what the Bush administration planned
for them, the Iraqis had an unexpected ally, Gen. Jay Garner, the man
appointed by our president just before the invasion as a kind of temporary
Pasha to run the soon-to-be conquered nation.
Garner's an old
Iraq hand who performed the benevolent autocratic function in the Kurdish
zone after the first Gulf War. But in March 2003, the general made his
big career mistake. In Kuwait City, fresh off the plane from the United
States, he promised Iraqis they would have free and fair elections as
soon as Saddam was toppled, preferably within 90 days.
pledge ran into a hard object: The Economy Plan's 'Annex D.' Disposing
of a nation's oil industrylet alone redrafting trade and tax lawscan't
be done in a weekend, nor in 90 days. Annex D lays out a strict 360-day
schedule for the free-market makeover of Iraq. And there's the rub:
It was simply inconceivable that any popularly elected government would
let America write its laws and auction off the nation's crown jewel,
its petroleum industry.
have to wait. As lobbyist Norquist explained when I asked him about
the Annex D timetable, "The right to trade, property rights, these
things are not to be determined by some democratic election." Our
troops would simply have to stay in Mesopotamia a bit longer.
New World Orders
12, 37, 81 and 83
Gen. Garner resistedwhich
was one of the reasons for his swift sacking by Secretary of State Donald
Rumsfeld on the very night he arrived in Baghdad last April. Rummy had
a perfect replacement ready to wing it in Iraq to replace the recalcitrant
general. Paul Bremer may not have had Garner's experience on the ground
in Iraq, but no one would question the qualifications of a man who served
as managing director of Kissinger Associates.
Pausing only to
install himself in Saddam's old palaceand adding an extra ring
of barbed wire"Jerry" Bremer cancelled Garner's scheduled
meeting of Iraq's tribal leaders called to plan national elections.
Instead, Bremer appointed the entire government himself. National elections,
Bremer pronounced, would have to wait until 2005. The extended occupation
would require our forces to linger.
The delay would,
incidentally, provide time needed to lock in the laws, regulations and
irreversible sales of assets in accordance with the Economy Plan.
On that, Bremer
wasted no time. Altogether, the leader of the Coalition Provisional
Authority issued exactly 100 orders that remade Iraq in the image of
the Economy Plan. In May, for example, Bremeronly a month from
escaping out Baghdad's back doortook time from fighting the burgeoning
insurrection to sign orders 81"Patents,"and 83, "Copyrights."
Here, Grover Norquist's hard work paid off. Fifty years of royalties
would now be conferred on music recording. And 20 years on Windows code.
Order number 37,
"Tax Strategy for 2003," was Norquist's dream come true: taxes
capped at 15 percent on corporate and individual income (as suggested
in the Economy Plan, page 8). The U.S. Congress had rejected a similar
flat-tax plan for America, but in Iraq, with an electorate of oneJerry
Bremerthe public's will was not an issue.
Not everyone felt
the pain of this reckless rush to a free market. Order 12, "Trade
Liberalization," permitted the tax- and tariff-free import of foreign
products. One big winner was Cargill, the world's largest grain merchant,
which flooded Iraq with hundreds of thousands of tons of wheat. For
Iraqi farmers, already wounded by sanctions and war, this was devastating.
They could not compete with the U.S. and Australian surplusses dumped
on them. But the import plan carried out the letter of the Economy Plan.
This trade windfall
for the West was enforced by the occupation's agriculture chief, Dan
Amstutz, himself an import from the United States. Prior to George Bush
taking office, Amstutz chaired a company funded by Cargill.
There's no sense
cutting taxes on big business, ordering 20 years of copyright payments
for Bill Gates' operating system or killing off protections for Iraqi
farmers if some out-of-control Iraqi government is going to take it
away after an election. The shadow governors of Iraq back in Washington
thought of that, too. Bremer fled, but he's left behind him nearly 200
American "experts," assigned to baby-sit each new Iraqi ministerfunctionaries
also approved by the U.S. State Department.
The free market
paradise in Iraq is not free.
After General Garner
was deposed, I met with him in Washington. He had little regard for
the Economy Plan handed to him three months before the tanks rolled.
He especially feared its designs on Iraq's oil assets and the delay
in handing Iraq back to Iraqis. "That's one fight you don't want
to take on," he told me.
But we have. After
a month in Saddam's palace, Bremer cancelled municipal elections, including
the crucial vote about to take place in Najaf. Denied the ballot, Najaf's
Shi'ites voted with bullets. This April, insurgent leader Moqtada Al
Sadr's militia killed 21 U.S. soldiers and, for a month, seized the
have to follow our plan," the general said. "It's their country,
their oil." Maybe, but not according to the Plan. And until it
does become their country, the 82nd Airborne will have to remain to
keep it from them.
Greg Palast is an
investigative reporter and author of The New York Times best seller
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. His new film, "Bush Family Fortunes:
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy," was released this month in DVD.
For a trailer, see http://www.gregpalast.com/bff-dvd.htm