Naomi Klein and the Shock Doctrine: L Paul Bremer III, Francis Fukuyama and No Vision In Sight.

We must save the executioner from being the executioner as well as the victim from being the victim.
—Cesar Chavez

This is from the bookflap of neo-conservative Francis Fukuyama’s America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy:

Francis Fukuyama’s criticism of the Iraq war put him at odds with neoconservative friends both within and outside the Bush administration. Here he explains how, in its decision to invade Iraq, the Bush administration failed in its stewardship of American foreign policy.

First, the administration wrongly made preventive war the central tenet of its foreign policy.

In addition, it badly misjudged the global reaction to its exercise of “benevolent hegemony.”

And finally, it failed to appreciate the difficulties involved in large-scale social engineering, grossly underestimating the difficulties involved in establishing a successful democratic government in Iraq.

This gives the impression that the US Administration’s actual goal was both morally high and intended to help establish an Iraqi democracy under Iraqi terms.

Saying this isn’t true is nothing new. So I’ll just mention a few of the same details that have been repeated from different angles, and caught my attention, over the last few weeks.

L PAUL “JERRY” BREMER III

It seems to me that the arrival of Ambassador L Paul Bremer III on the Iraqi scene in May of 2003 offers damning evidence of the opposite truth—in case the lies, brutality, and historical hypocrisy in dealing and working with dictators and/or non-“Western” democracies hadn’t already shown that.

The main agenda was written in many of the laws and decrees imposed under Bremer, as Naomi Klein and Charles Ferguson and others point out: a huge push of the US Administration was to create an Iraq open for business and exploitation at remarkably shameful, colonial, punitive rates.

It should also be noted that whether L Paul Bremer III is a great guy or an awful guy is immaterial—although the ostentatious leadling “L” and the Thurston Howel the “III” addendum hints at a possible inbred classism (or maybe that’s me). I’m kidding. What is sociological fascinating is he could be the salt of the earth.

The fact is, Bremer probably could have been any of thousands of well-paid people hired, slapped on the back, and sent off believing they’re version of imposed democracy through “Shock and Awe,” and then more shocks, is Heaven sent. Indeed, Bremer did.

As George Orwell wrote in Why I Write (1946), pg 109:

In the case of [the word] democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides…Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different.

THE QUOTABLE KISSINGER

Bremer’s arrival, and the immobilization of work already undertaken to bring about elections in Iraq at the time, are deeply revealing as to the truth about “bringing democracy to Iraq.”

They recall Henry Kissinger’s classic Cold War/Open-For-Business quip, in wanting to get rid of the democratically-elected President in Chile, Salvador Allende—a coup the CIA was involved in—allowing the West-friendly dictator Augusto Pinochet to ascend to leadership, turning a Parliamentary seat into a Throne:

I don’t see why we have to let a country go [democratically] Marxist just because its people are irresponsible.

Indeed, like with historically terroristic Hamas being democratically elected in Palestine, and then punishing the people for voting that way, imposing one’s own choice for democracy on another country is no democracy at all (see Khaled Abu Toameh’s comments).

THE ARROGANCE OF INEXPERIENCE

But back to the arrival of L Paul Bremer III, who was, for the record, “a protege and business partner” of Henry Kissinger.

First of all, immorality, brutality and death and lack of vision behind the invasion of Iraq notwithstanding, it would be unfair to say there weren’t decent people with good intentions there after the invasion trying to do right. Of course there were. But doing right by an Iraqi citizenry in desperate need was deeply shown to be not the main part of the plan of the Bush administration.

The replacement of Army General Jay Garner with a remarkably inexperienced and under-prepared L Paul Bremer seems to make the American’s administration real intent undeniable.

By his own admission, Bremer had “about a week to get ready” to impose a post-war plan in a Middle Eastern country with pronounced internal factions that had been oppressed by a heinous dictator for decades.

Resulting laws and decrees laid down by Bremer on property, prisons, banking and the press add devastating and detailed evidence to a situation already founded in immorality, illegality, greed and violence, in a profoundly oil-rich country long bled raw.

And for the record, it is also true that in a situation of such cancerous greed, hate and violence, nothing makes clear sense, and Garner was criticized before Bremer arrived for giving too many posts to former members of the Ba’ath party—who were often the intelligentsia and trained in terms of infrastructure.

NO END IN SIGHT

Interviews from the film No End In Sight profoundly reveal what happened early on in the occupation when Bremer was named Director of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance—terms that would make Orwell blush—by George Bush on May 6, 2003.

General Jay Garner is interviewed extensively in the film. Bremer declined to be interviewed. Bremer, incidently, had no Mid-East experience and no military experience—just like Cheney, Bush, Wolfowitz and Rice had no military experience. Rumsfeld was in the military but never saw combat.

GOD

But in case anybody was or is worried about the effects of Bremer’s implementation of policy and orders, fear not. There is this statement from Bremer in Wikipedia that assures success, peace and prosperity:

“There is no doubt in my mind that I cannot succeed in this mission without the help of God”, said Bremer [a Roman Catholic, converted 1994]. “The job is simply too big and complex for any one person, or any group of people to carry out successfully.”…”We need God’s help and seek it constantly.”

The three main orders Bremer implemented, all thought by certain observers to be disastrous both at the time and in hindsight, were:

1) Stopped the formation of an interim Iraqi Government, “even though Jay Garner had been working to establish one.”

2) The De-Ba’athification of Iraq—purging all members of Hussein’s Ba’ath party—something like 50,000 members of the Ba’ath government, putting most of them into “…permanent unemployment. The policy also crippled Iraq’s government, educational system and economy, because it purged senior government officials who had joined the party simply to survive under Saddam’s regime.”

3) Disbanding the Iraqi military and Intelligence services. “Overnight Bremer rendered unemployed, and thereby infuriated, half a million armed men—the equivalent of firing over five million people in the United States. And so these men, rather than helping to prevent an insurgency, instead created one.”

BLACK OP-EDS

Little did I know while watching the film, but L Paul Bremer wrote a New York Times Op-Ed piece defending what happened (the disbanding of the Iraq miltary), and actually sort of denied even doing it. And that whatever happened, he wrote, it wasn’t “controversial” amongst his peers.

Charles Ferguson, director of No End In Sight, wrote a film comment/rebuttal to what Bremer said, that the NY Times posted. The comments of those interviewed utterly contradict Bremer’s statements (and God-given ego), and echo the entire procession of lies and/or delusions manifested in the political/corporate forum, time and time again.

Either that or it’s just good editing.

It’s here, about ten minutes long, and is worth watching.

IGNORANCE IS HELL

Some in the Iraqi military, of course, also knew that “Iraq contained 70 large weapons storage depots and many more unguarded ammunition dumps. There were not enough American troops to secure them.”

And thus, the insurgency was further armed and dangerously armed.

SHOCKINGLY IN-KLEINED

But the metaphorical and literal nail-in-the-coffin burying anything resembling justice or compassion—or anything remotely resembling democracy—is hammered down in Naomi Klein’s detailed The Shock Doctrine, an alternative take on “free-market” economics.

Here is an excerpt from a 45 minute interview Naomi did with Mark Molaro, describing what the Shock Doctrine is, and how L Paul Bremer III’s arrival ushered in the second of three shocks in the model she describes:

In the book I talk about three distinct forms of shock which reinforce each other—in a sort of cycle, a circle of shock, if you will.

SHOCK I

The first shock is the shock to countries. It’s the crises. In Iraq it was called “Shock and Awe.” It was the military invasion. It was an invasion strategy based on a theory that you needed to put the entire population of Iraq into the state of shock and awe to convince them of the futility of resistance. If you read the Shock and Awe manual, it spells it out. That was the first shock.

SHOCK II

The Second Shock is Paul Bremer arriving in Baghdad in May of 2003 and his trademark Brooks Brothers suits and his Timberlane boots and declaring Iraq open for business.

So much has happened in Iraq, spiraling in chaos today, that one can forget that first summer of frantic law-making under Paul Bremer. This was a period of relative stability in Iraq.

This is where you can see very clearly what the Bush post-war plan was.

You know, we often hear, they didn’t have a plan. Well they had a plan, but it didn’t work. It backfired badly but there certainly was a plan and Paul Bremer implemented that plan with great enthusiasm. The plan was to turn Iraq into a model, free-market economy.

And when they were finished, then they were going to have elections—and it’s very important to get the order right because the Iraqis had this crazy idea that they should have elections first and then they should have a democratic government decide what the economic policies should be.

You know, very backwards people.

But of course, Bremer, and Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld and Cheney knew better and there plan was to push through—Bremer wrote a hundred laws, edicts, they were very radical.

You know they often talk about them is if they were technocratic little housekeeping measures. But in fact economists described it as the wish list for foreign investors. Foreign companies were allowed 100% ownership over Iraqi assets. They were allowed to take a hundred percent of their profits out.

These are laws that are unheard of in the region, which is actually very protected economically—but these were radical laws anywhere in the world. These were laws Bremer pushed through that the Republican party has been trying to impose in the United States and never been able to, like a flat tax. Iraq got a fifteen percent flat tax in this period.

So that was the economic shock therapy program, and it was based on this theory that Iraqis would be so disoriented, and reeling from the Shock and Awe invasion—focused on daily concerns like the fact that they didn’t have electricity or water—that they wouldn’t be able to resist these economic shocks.

Richard Armitage, who I quote in the book, former Under Secretary of State under Powell, said that ‘The theory was that Iraqis would be easily marshaled from point A to point B.’

Now of course that didn’t happen and Iraqis did organize in that first summer, and they demanded elections, in fact there were a series of local elections. There were protests almost daily outside the Green Zone. People wanted their jobs back. And they were very against, particularly, the foreign investment law. Iraqi business people organized, opposed this law.

SHOCK III

As that mostly non-violent resistance turned into the armed resistance, then there was the emergence of the Third Shock that I talk about in the book. And that is the non-metaphorical shocks to the body—the shock of torture. And torture is always an enforcement tool.

We talk about torture in a very narrow way in this country. Does it work? Does it get reliable information? But the real meaning of torture is that it’s a tool of state terror. It’s a way to gain control of a country that you can’t govern with consent. If you can’t govern a country with the consent of the people, then you have to govern it by fear. And a classic way of governing through fear is the use of torture because it says to a people—and Saddam used it to great effect—‘You cross me, and this is what happens to you’…

The full interview is here.

What to do? I don’t know, because we are all individuals responding from our natures—not to mention a deep and meaningful amount of not being able to do very much.

And, as is hardly ever expressed, studied, or written about with enough insight or detail, what’s going on is a result of human natures ensemble—these are human problems, created by the human ability to massively manifest through consciousness and unconsciousness.

For me, I gather as much information and knowledge as I can, as honestly as I can, learn what I can, and shorten it—believe it or not—and put it out to hopefully raise awareness, solidarity, compassion and, most importantly, love.

Sometimes I should just stick to poetry…

Pete xo

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