Bob's Links and Rants

Welcome to my rants page! You can contact me by e-mail: Blog roll. Site feed.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Think it's bad? No! It's much, much worse than that!
Canadian journalist Naomi Klein recently attended "ReBuilding Iraq 2, a gathering of 400 businesspeople itching to get a piece of the Iraqi reconstruction action." She wasn't reassured by what she heard, as she reports in the Nation:

Bremer's Iraq is, by all accounts, uninsurable.
Just when the mood at ReBuilding Iraq 2 couldn't sink any lower, up to the podium strides Michael Lempres, vice president of insurance at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). With a cool confidence absent from the shellshocked proceedings so far, he announces that investors can relax: Uncle Sam will protect them.

A US government agency, OPIC provides loans and insurance to US companies investing abroad. And while Lempres agrees with earlier speakers that the risks in Iraq are "extraordinary and unusual," he also says that "OPIC is different. We do not exist primarily to generate profit." Instead, OPIC exists to "support US foreign policy." And since turning Iraq into a free-trade zone is a top Bush policy goal, OPIC will be there to help out. Earlier that same day, President Bush signed legislation providing "the agency with enhancements to its political risk insurance program," according to an OPIC press release.
At the Microsoft-sponsored cocktail reception in the Galaxy Ballroom that evening, Robert Dees urges us "to network on behalf of the people of Iraq." I follow orders and ask Lempres what happens if "the people of Iraq" decide to seize back their economy from the US firms he has so generously insured. Who bails out OPIC? "In theory," he says, "the US Treasury stands behind us." That means the US taxpayer. Yes, them again: The same people who have already paid Halliburton, Bechtel et al. to make a killing on Iraq's reconstruction would have to pay these companies again, this time in compensation for their losses. While the enormous profits being made in Iraq are strictly private, it turns out that the entire risk is being shouldered by the public.

So Bechtel or Halliburton can spend a billion dollars of our money building a port or pipeline or highway in Iraq, something a French firm would probably gladly have done for half as much, or an Iraqi firm for one tenth as much or less. Then, when the inevitable feces hits the inevitable air circulator and said facility gets blown to smithereens and/or nationalized, Bechtel or Halliburton will bill us for another billion dollars to compensate for their loss. Rush Limbaugh and his pals call Kucinich a socialist for suggesting that profit be removed from health care, but the Bushies have removed profit from providing carpetbagger care in Iraq, since insurance companies recognize there's no profit in insuring glass at a rock-throwing festival. By doing so, profits are guaranteed for the crooks at Halliburton, Bechtel, and so on, and losses are guaranteed for you and me and Iraq.

Thanks to Allan in Ottawa for the link!