Jobs Program for Iraq
By Brian Youngblood
Despite new allegations of overpricing by Halliburton involving
Iraq's reconstruction, Vice President Cheney would argue that
Halliburton is simply getting a bum rap. According to Cheney,
"They get unfairly maligned simply because of their past association
with me." Of course. The charges of overpricing are simply
the result of negative politics, not, say, actual corporate
Other than the bad political news for Bush, no mention is
made of the impact of the scandals on the success of Iraq's
reconstruction. But such perceptions of cronyism can only
make the job of "winning hearts and minds" more
difficult in Iraq. Building a democratic government in Iraq
will mean nothing unless we also put Iraq's economic future
back into Iraqi hands.
Simply bringing in other foreign corporations to participate
in Iraq's reconstruction will do little to change the increasingly
negative view Iraqis have of the occupation. The Bush Administration
likes to compare Iraq to postwar Germany, but in Germany the
U.S., under the direction of General Lucius Clay, decreed
that no foreign companies would be allowed to participate
in the reconstruction of the country. Only Germans would be
hired for the job. The U.S. did not suffer a single postwar
casualty in Germany.
If the Bush Administration were to take a similar course
in Iraq, not only would the U.S save money, it would also
help convince the Iraqi people that the U.S is on their side.
Directly hiring Iraqis to rebuild their country could also
stem the dramatic loss of jobs in Iraq, where estimates put
unemployment anywhere from 50 to 70 percent. Such a decision
would also allow direct participation by the Iraqi people
in the rebuilding of their country, helping to lay the groundwork
for eventual democracy.
The awarding of no-bid contracts to U.S. corporations, along
with rules issued by Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition
Provisional Authority, that allow foreign investors to buy
control of Iraqi-owned enterprises, reinforce the perception
among some Iraqis that the war was really about the economic
plundering of their country.
Far more goodwill and jobs could be created if the U.S.
were to use only Iraqi firms, many of whom tried to bid on
the huge contracts given to companies like Halliburton and
Bechtel. Supporters of the no-bid contracts will argue that
these were awarded to companies according to their qualifications,
not due to their political influence.
But what is reconstruction, exactly? It is constructing
new roads, rebuilding schools…in other words, basic construction
work. Clearly the Iraqi people, many of whom are well educated,
could handle such work, and do at least as good of a job as
the current contractors, at a fraction of the cost. Maybe
by now the entire country would have working electricity again,
and we would not be hearing more stories of corruption involving
Dick Cheney's former employer.
Considering that we have already spent billions on reconstruction
in Iraq, should we not ask what we are getting for our money?
Obviously the ongoing attacks have hampered the U.S. effort,
but the lack of jobs is a key factor in the increasing unrest.
Bringing in more troops will help stabilize the country in
the short-term, but long-term it is imperative that the Iraqi
people are allowed to directly participate in the reconstruction
of their country.
In short, we should tear up those massive no-bid contracts,
and instead directly hire Iraqi firms. If more Iraqis were
fully employed, the ongoing attacks might be less likely to
occur, and a stable Iraq could emerge from the rubble.
The plans for Iraqi self-government will mean little if
we do not also give the Iraqi people their economic freedom.
But that would require the U.S. giving up the spoils of war,
and putting the interests of the Iraqi people ahead of the
interests of multinational corporations. The Bush Administration
must decide if it will continue to let companies such as Halliburton
reap profits in Iraq, or treat the Iraqi people as partners
in the rebuilding of their country.