Thursday, 28 June 2007

Rebuilding Iraq

Iraq has been given out to massive US corporations to rebuild with no competitive tender. In stark contrast to the liberal free market (not to mention democratic) principles dictated for others, contracts are won on Bush family nepotism. Apologists for the process proclaim that the US based corporations are simply the best at what they do. I always thought that was for the wonderful market to decide? Or for some unknown reason, Arabs are simply unable to reconstruct for themselves; as Kenneth Pollack writes, in Foreign Affairs "the Iraqis have proven frustratingly unwilling to participate actively in reconstruction. To some extent, this passivity is a common feature across the Arab Middle East".

Racist assertions aside, which have no evidence adduced, let’s look at an example of ‘passive’ Arabs doing it themselves.


Hezbollah serve as a good example of what popular domestic based reconstruction can achieve, despite lack of billions of dollars in support. When Israeli aggression in South Lebanon 1982 (on the pretext of evicting the PLO 'terrorists' of course) forced thousands of Shiites to flee north, they settled in the southern suburbs of Beirut. The once middle-class district turned into a shanty town as the desperate population swelled into areas not designed for living. The city dump and sewer proved the only place Shiites could build. As Hala Jaber, the Arab journalist writes "The government felt threatened by the influx of refugees and did not lift a finger to improve the situation" [Jaber:146]. The Christian Druze in power took care of Christian areas but neglected the Shiites.

As a result Hezbollah tackled the Shiite situation themselves. With Iranian help, they embarked on what amounted to building social welfare infrastructure for the Shiite's. Of course, this wasn't all benign; Iran saw the dire conditions the Shiites faced as fertile ground for exporting its revolution. By 1988 The Interior Ministry officially registered the Islamic Health Committee and Jihad al-Bianna (the social welfare arms of Hezbollah). They covered charitable, humanitarian and social work, business ventures, health and educational programmes. They were licensed to construct schools, hospitals, clinics, centres for higher education, research institutes, orphanages, centres for the physically handicapped, even investing any capital it receives from Iran or through Islamic taxes, using the profits of which to pay for more community based projects.

Jihad al-Binaa is also well versed in repairing damage caused by Israeli shelling and bombing. One of their first large scale projects was to rebuild the village of Maydoun, which had been become a ghost town after a massive Israeli ground and air assault and in 1992 alone, they had rebuilt 957 homes [Jaber:157] destroyed by Israeli aggression. It's worth looking at the accounts of the organisations and contrasting them with the US. In 1992 the Relief Committe distributed:

1,988,670.87 USD$ to 6,885 families [Jaber:149]
and a further 916,149.45 USD$ given to families 'in dire financial difficulties' [Jaber:150]

The United States, on the other hand has spend billions and has no idea where the money goes as the Guardian revealed.

· Bremer maintained one slush fund of nearly $600m in cash for which there is no paperwork: $200m of it was kept in a room in one of Saddam's former palaces

· 19 billion new Iraqi dinars, worth about £6.5m, was found on a plane in Lebanon that had been sent there by the new Iraqi interior minister

· One ministry claimed to be paying 8,206 guards, but only 602 could be found

· One American agent was given $23m to spend on restructuring; only $6m is accounted for

It should also be noted that these welfare schemes work on Islamic principles which require taxes to be given by the well off (Khums), socialist in nature of course. Iran also funds a great deal of this, but all we hear in the press is how they channel money through to 'terrorist organisations' bent on "eliminating Israel off the face of the earth". Perhaps the truth that welfare works is an even worse for the administration and the corporate press, so that is why we do not hear about it.

Lessons for Iraq

If the CPA was serious about reconstructing, instead of lining the pockets of its masters friends and family, they should have engaged Iran. Iran would have setup welfare stations in Iraq, just like in Lebanon. Arabs are not stupider or less inventive than any other race, they can freakin reconstruct for themselves - as the record shows. But of course a Shiite majority 'bribing' minorities by welfare could perhaps lead to a united Iraq, who would use her billions in oil for herself and not restrict supply so ExxonMobil enjoys record profits.


Jaber, Hezbollah: Born with a Vengance

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