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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Friday, April 15, 2005

The lure

"Few ideologues can resist the allure of a blank slate - that was colonialism's seductive promise: "discovering" wide-open new lands where utopia seemed possible. But colonialism is dead, or so we are told; there are no new places to discover, no terra nullius (there never was), no more blank pages on which, as Mao once said, "the newest and most beautiful words can be written." There is, however, plenty of destruction - countries smashed to rubble, whether by so-called Acts of God or by Acts of Bush (on orders from God). And where there is destruction there is reconstruction, a chance to grab hold of "the terrible barrenness," as a UN official recently described the devastation in Aceh, and fill it with the most perfect, beautiful plans.

"We used to have vulgar colonialism," says Shalmali Guttal, a Bangalore-based researcher with Focus on the Global South. "Now we have sophisticated colonialism, and they call it 'reconstruction.'"

So writes Naomi Klein in the May 2 edition of The Nation. She highlights the increasing use of private contractors for the rebuilding of countries and economies. Iraq is a perfect example. Baghdad was still burning and the "American occupation officials rewrote the investment laws and announced that the country's state-owned companies would be privatised."

When Western leaders talk about "reconstruction" or "assistance", they're speaking in code. I remember reading some months ago of the recent election victory of President Yushchenko in Ukraine. An International Monetary Fund spokesperson was quoted in the International Herald Tribune as saying that the country would need to "reassure" foreign investment and "engage in a policy of rapid privatisation" before serious overseas capital could arrive. The Bush administration even wanted to privatise Iraqi oil before the invasion.

What exactly does democracy mean to the powerbrokers in Canberra, Washington and London? Take Indonesia. Before the Boxing Day tsunami, the country owned over $100 billion to the World Bank. It was an unpayable amount. The result is that millions of citizens are living in poverty because the government is forever paying back this debt.

Before the first Gulf War, many Arab countries, such as Syria and Egypt, joined the "Coalition" because America provided either massive "debt relief" or arms. Coalition of the Willing, indeed.

The "outbreak" of democracy in many countries is simply language for a new kind of colonialism. The Wall Street Journal reported in August 2004 that Halliburton could not justify why it billed the Pentagon for $1.8 billion of work in Iraq and Kuwait. Just who gets rich when invasion and occupation strikes?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So dictatorship is superior to democracy, because the latter might be supported by Chimpy McHitlerburton?

And what's wrong with making a buck, anyway? That's how the rest of us in the real world who don't suck on the government-academia teat survive...

Friday, April 15, 2005 4:40:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

What's wrong with making a buck? Nothing, sometimes. (I'm not on govt welfare of any sort, by the way, person without balls who refuses to reveal himself/herself.) It doesn't bother you that in the case of Iraq many companies very close to the US government are given beneficial status? Or that Iraq oil may be privatised? Or that the IMF will "loan" the country heaps of money, on the condition that much is privatised, to Western companies, such as natural resources.
This is true face of "democracy", thanks to the Western "allies."

Friday, April 15, 2005 4:56:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who would you suggest do the rebuilding? French companies? They made plenty off Saddam when he was in power, thanks.

Your preference for corrupt and brutal states to control people and resources is bizarre and illogical. People live in poverty in these countries because corrupt regimes steal all the resources, and by privatizing you suddenly have accountability to shareholders and the like.

Why you have this fetish for dictators instead of democracies is bizarre, but as has been pointed out by a lot of people, the Left always loves a good strongman (Stalin, Mao, Castro, Saddam, etc..)

Friday, April 15, 2005 5:55:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

No preference for dictators, certainly not from my corner. Accountability is the issue here. No more, no less. Many of the bidding processes are hardly open and fair. Besides, many US companies benefitted from oil for food, as well. Not just the Euros. Indeed, good old Halliburton has been involved in working inside Iran over the years, against US law. Surely this should bother people?

Friday, April 15, 2005 5:59:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You say you don't prefer dictators, but you seem awfully sad about the overthrow of Saddam/installation of Iraqi democracy...indeed, you seem to be very much a glass-half-empty kinda guy on all sorts of developments which I thought would cheer the heart of a progressive leftist.

Your barracking of the Howard government for not signing ASEAN below seems to confirm this -- it would have protected the Indonesian dictatorship from our help in freeing East Timor, another cause I believe that was cherished by the Left.

If I'm anonymous, it's only because i'm not as pretty as you :)

Friday, April 15, 2005 6:19:00 pm  
Anonymous Ivan said...

You said “Before the Boxing Day tsunami, the country owned over $100 billion”…
So what are you worried about, you illiterate leftie prick. Lets hope the World Bank will return the money to Indonesia.

Friday, July 15, 2005 11:42:00 am  

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