Give the Free Market a Chance? Never Mind!
The headlines leap out — "Kurds' Bid for Stake in Oil Firms Rebuffed [by U.S.]," "U.S. Shuts Iraq Pipeline to Syria," "[U.S.] Plans to restart Kirkuk-Haifa oil pipeline," "Israel eyes Iraqi pipeline project." But we mustn't leap to conclusions. Bechtel and Halliburton, and subsidiaries like Kellogg, Brown and Root, and of course, Sharon's Likud Party, may have gotten sweetheart deals from the White House, but never doubt they are best qualified.
In this game of subsidizing energy and other productive enterprises for statist economies, political connections do help make some pigs, err … companies, "more equal" than others.
Political connections ensure that company-favorable political decisions and discussions occur. Political connections ensure that companies accurately gauge the next big cash-intensive political direction. We are not talking back room card games between friends in smoke-filled rooms, overfed bureaucrats sporting superiority complexes throwing taxpayer money down on the table with a flourish. Or maybe we are, but never mind.
I remember when I learned from the authoritative source, the Eddie Murphy movie Trading Places, that information about commodity futures gets more security than the President's nuclear football. In the movie, those who would violate that trust, steal in order to profit magnificently, and disrupt the "free market" of information, are vilified. The good guys win, and America liked it.
In the same vein, Americans reacted negatively to the Martha Stewart scandal. That evil Martha Stewart! Bad, bad woman using insider information to determine a business strategy, and profit from well-connected friends! The media and most Americans joined hands in clucking condemnation.
Attention K-Mart Shoppers! Oil-greased friendships of George W. Bush, Richard "go to war for Halliburton" Cheney, Richard "Trireme and Defense Policy Board" Perle, George "Bechtel and Defense Policy Board" Schultz, the list goes on and on. Insider trading, whether for straightforward oil, engineering and services profiteering, or the political leverage of energy and weapons sales (Syria and Jordan need to be blackmailed, Israel needs guaranteed cheap energy, newly rich Iraq needs new military training and arms!), is going on right under our noses. It's a Bluelight Special alright, just not for all of us. That this was a key reason for the invasion and occupation of Iraq is moot.
Today, Washington busies itself with how best to prevent Kurds and other Iraqis, as well as French and Russian companies, from pumping oil, how best to keep Iraqi oil a "state enterprise" under "legitimate occupation" of the U.S., and as an afterthought, the U.K. Old Shifty, in his part-time role as Secretary of State, recently discussed the "viciousness of that dictatorship" in North Korea and noted how a little free market dynamics would ensure prosperity for everyone. Excuse me? How about a little free market in Iraq? We own the place, how hard could it be?
The U.S. and Israel no longer need a national oil reservoir in the salt mines of Louisiana. That fine statist idea is old-fashioned and crude, passé. Better to occupy a flowing resource like the second (or first?) largest oil fields in the world, and manage it as if it were your own. Use force or intimidation when others question your moral high ground.
It's hard to say which is worse. What the Bushnev militaristic economy is accused of being — a quaint "crony capitalism" or what it believes itself to be — a good old-fashioned corporate capitalism, or what it actually is — a concept that starts with "F."
No, not failed foreign and economic policy. Not fantastic lies and political framing orchestrated by Karl Rove. Not even a frigging nightmare, although Dubya and the neocons have delivered all of these things.
The word is fascism. National socialism, American style. It is fascism promoted relentlessly in the words of any recent George W. Bush speech — filled with glory and morality and shining goodness. It is high budget fascism — fueled not by a booming economy of patriotic nationalistic Americans, but riding instead on empty promises, growing debts and a populace that increasingly tunes out everything but the federal dunning notices for a chunk of their paycheck and their 18-year-old sons for "selective service." It is fascism funded with our children's future, children as Vonnegut recently said, who will be born "poor as church mice."
The Washington Post reports that the U.S. taxpayer is buying a small telecom system for Iraq from MCI — you know, Worldcom before the financial scandals. Taxpayers are buying Worldcom a little bankruptcy transition bonus, err…a mobile phone network for the Iraqi people. It's OK, really, because MCI/Worldcom's biggest customer was already the U.S. government, and there is trust in the relationship, you see.
One congressional staffer "questioned the wisdom of awarding the contract at the expense of U.S. taxpayers" noting the "tremendous commercial interest in building a cell-phone system in Iraq and very little need for investment by the U.S. government." In fact, originally, telecom bidding of $900 million had been proposed by old Shifty, but USAID refused the DoD proposal, with a shout of "Give the free market a chance!"
OK, they whispered it. OK, OK, they didn't say it at all.
Because for most of the Congress, for the Straussian chosen ones, for the Washington political class, and for their long-time mega-business cronies, allowing a competitive and open free market to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan is the last thing on their mind. That would simply take all the fun out it. Even though the Founding Fathers aren't smiling, the American taxpayers aren't smiling, the Iraqis and Afghans aren't smiling, and our unborn children and grandchildren aren't smiling, somebody ought to be able to enjoy and profit from our march to fascism. Don't you think?
No, silly, not the Bin Ladens of the world!! Oh, never mind!
May 19, 2003
Karen Kwiatkowski [send her mail] is a recently retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley.
Copyright © 2003 LewRockwell.com