Bush Clears the Way for Corporate
Joshua Holland interviews Antonia
Juhasz author of the book The Bush Agenda
www.alternet.org, May 5, 2006
When George W. Bush says that he wants
to spread freedom to every corner of the earth, he means it.
But of course the president that turned
Soviet-era gulags into secret CIA prisons in order to do God-knows-what
to God-knows-whom isn't talking about individual freedom. He means
corporate freedom -- freedom for the great multinationals to extract
everything they can from the world's resources and labor without
the hindrance of public interest laws, environmental regulations
or worker protections.
Bush's vision of a free world actually
looks just like the corporate globalization agenda pushed by a
succession of American presidents in institutions like the World
But this administration yearns for freedom
too much to leave it up to trade negotiators. Unlike his predecessors,
Bush isn't content to use carrots and sticks and a liberal dose
of arm twisting to advance that agenda. His administration has
made the neoliberal policies euphemistically referred to as "free-trade"
a centerpiece of its national security policy.
Bush is willing to use the awesome force
of the United States military to guarantee the freedom of the
world's largest multinationals.
In her new book, The Bush Agenda, Antonia
Juhasz peels the veils away from Bush's agenda -- imperialism,
militarism and corporate globalization -- and exposes who drives
it: a group of hawkish ideologues with an unprecedented relationship
to major defense and energy companies.
Juhasz shows that the invasion of Iraq
-- an invasion that was as much economic as military -- was the
centerpiece of a larger project: the creation a New American Century
in which the end-goal of American foreign policy is to enrich
the corporate elites, and dissent at home will not be tolerated.
Juhasz is a wonk -- she got her start as a staffer for Rep. John
Conyers -- but the book is as readable as it is deeply researched.
I caught up with Juhasz last week at Washington's
Union Station, just blocks away from the White House, to chat
about The Bush Agenda.
Joshua Holland: [19th century Prussian
military philosopher Carl von] Clausewitz said that war is an
extension of politics by other means. You suggest that for the
Bush administration, war is an extension of corporate globalization
by other means. Run down your basic premise.
Antonia Juhasz: The Bush administration
has implemented a particularly radical model of corporate globalization
by which it has teamed overt military might -- full-scale invasion
-- with the advancement of its corporate globalization agenda.
And this model is particularly imperial -- that's one of the things
that makes it different from, for example, the Reagan or Bush
Sr. regimes. As opposed to simply replacing the head of a regime
that is no longer serving the interests of the administration,
the Bush team has gone further -- using a military invasion to
fundamentally transform a country's political and economic structure.
It is also using an occupation to maintain
that altered structure, which is the definition of imperialism
in my mind: spreading the empire by changing the very laws of
foreign nations to service the empire's needs. And, as Bush is
repeatedly saying, "Iraq is only the beginning." I detail
the rest of the empire's pursuits across the Middle East in the
chapter on the U.S.-Middle East Free Trade Area.
The fundamental purpose of the book was
to determine how this model came to be, where its advocates hope
it will go and who its advocates are so that we can better dismantle
JH: But Bush isn't the first to use a
full-scale invasion -- unilaterally -- in furtherance of those
goals. I think of Reagan's invasion of Grenada to knock off Maurice
Bishop, a moderate socialist.
AJ: There was no occupation, and it wasn't
done the same way that the Bush administration -- using its own
tools, its own people, its own policies -- to explicitly restructure
the entire functioning of the country's economy to serve its own
ends. Reagan wanted a different leader, a leader that would meet
his needs and that was enough. Bush has locked in an entirely
new economic and political structure. I'm certainly not justifying
the invasion of Grenada, but for me that was quantitatively different.
JH: What is Pax Americana -- the "American
Peace" -- and what is it about the original Roman version,
Pax Romana, that makes it a poor model to emulate?
AJ: I talk about Pax Americana because
that's what members of the administration talk about -- Cheney,
Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Libby, Khalilzad, Perle, Zoellick, Bolton.
In fact, there are 16 members of the Bush administration that
were also participants in the Project for the New American Century,
which was very clear that the U.S. not only has a Pax Americana
but should seek to maintain it.
This is problematic because it seeks to
achieve the Roman model, with an all-powerful emperor who ran
his kingdom on 50 percent slave labor, who eliminated all guarantees
of civil liberties and eliminated all civic participation, but
maintained the fallacy of public institutions and participatory
government to keep the elites at bay -- to make elites feel like
they had the presence and prestige of serving in government.
So there were senators and there were
"representatives of the people," but of course the emperor
appointed those he wanted to sit in the senate, and he chose those
who would serve his interests. And then he appointed regional
overlords to oversee the rest of the empire. In addition, the
idea that Rome generated peace -- that it really was in fact a
Pax Romana that guaranteed peace for the rest of the world --
is false. To create the empire, there was an enormous amount of
war and bloodshed, and also to maintain the empire there was continued
fighting as nations and peoples were forced to acquiesce.
However, there was a period of about 200
years where there was relatively less struggle within Rome over
who would rule. But one key reason Rome was able to maintain that
internal peace was all the money that the empire poured into public
services -- building aqueducts, providing services, supporting
intellectual thought and -- as I say in the book -- creating the
The Bush administration has chosen all
the worst elements of the Roman Empire: the lack of civil liberties
and the movement towards a nonrepresentative government run by
a dictator. Even the most conservative Republican columnist will
admit that Bush has consolidated more and more power in the executive
branch than any president in modern history. And he's increased
the proportion of people in the United States in the lower income
sphere, people who have to work day in and day out in order to
meet basic needs like health care, and who often aren't able to
meet those needs. I argue that that is a modern form of slavery.
And while the administration is explicitly
imperial -- it is trying to annex other nations through its military
and its economic policy -- its not putting any of that attention
to public education, public resources and public services. So
we are getting the worst of the worst. And just as it was a myth
that the Pax Romana created world peace, the Pax Americana clearly
generates more global insecurity. Acts of deadly terror have increased
every year of the Bush administration; they increased more than
three-fold between 2003 and 2004.
JH: So he's not just the worst president
ever, he's also the worst
AJ: Yes, he's also the worst emperor
JH: You're blunt about calling Iraq an
economic invasion. Most analyses are geopolitical, but you put
it together with the long-standing wish list of the corporate
globalists. Can you tell me about Bremer's100 rules and what Bearing
AJ: If you look at the corporations that
have profited most from the invasion -- Bechtel, Halliburton,
Lockheed Martin and Chevron -- these are all corporations that
have decades of operations and activities trying to increase their
economic engagement in Iraq -- lobbying the U.S. government to
increase their access to Iraq. And they've done so successfully
-- first with Saddam Hussein and later with the coalition authorities
and now with the new government of Iraq. They have participated
with or guided -- you can choose the word you want -- the Bush
administration in its invasion. Through their executives, they
played key roles in advocating for war. George Shultz is the perfect
example and one I focus on in the book.
I emphasize that it's an absolute fallacy
that there was no post-war plan. The plan was written two months
before the invasion of Iraq by a company, Bearing Point Inc.,
which is based in Virginia -- it was KPMG Consulting until it
changed its name in the wake of the Arthur Anderson-Enron corruption
scandals. The company is not well-known. It works behind the scenes
for every branch of government, and it provides all kinds of consulting
Bearing point received a $250 million
contract from USAID to write a remodeled structure for the Iraqi
economy. It was to transition Iraq from a state-controlled economy
to a market economy, but I argue that the new model was more a
state-controlled economy that is controlled on behalf of multinational
corporations, and heavily regulated in fact on behalf of multinational
corporations. It just no longer serves the public interest.
Bearing point's plan was implemented to
a T by L. Paul Bremer, the administrator of Iraq's coalition government.
The U.N.'s special envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, called him
the "Dictator of Iraq," and he was. He ruled Iraq for
14 months, and he implemented Bearing Point's plan; he rewrote
Iraq's entire economic and political structure by implementing
his 100 orders. The orders had the force of law, and any Iraqi
laws that contradicted the orders were overridden.
The 100 orders put into place a standard
set of corporate globalization policies. Instead of having to
wait for Iraq to become a member of the World Trade Organization,
for example, or to fulfill requirements of the International Monetary
Fund or World Bank, or worrying about whether the policies they
most wanted would be accepted, the administration was able to
simply invade, occupy and impose those provisions itself. And
many of those provisions have been long opposed at institutions
like the WTO -- for example the investments provisions -- but
they were implemented overnight in Iraq with a stroke of the pen
by Paul Bremer.
Probably the most important order in terms
of what happened with the occupation was the very first order.
Bremer fired 120,000 key bureaucrats in every government ministry
in Iraq. That meant that ministries that had been functioning
very well for decades lost their bureaucracies almost overnight.
The excuse that was given was that they were Ba'ath Party members,
but nobody could hold those positions unless they belonged to
the Ba'ath Party, so it wasn't an indication that they were a
party to Saddam Hussein's crimes. They were fired because they
could have stood in the way of the economic transformation.
Then there was the firing of the entire
Iraqi military, and I think that problem is well-known. Less well-known
is how that played out in relation to the rest of the orders.
Order number 39 was the foreign investment order. There were several
provisions which I detail in the book, but the most important
may be national treatment, which meant that Iraqis could not preference
Iraqi companies and Iraqi workers in the reconstruction.
So 150 United States corporations have
received $50 billion for work in Iraq, $33 billion of which was
exclusively for standard reconstruction -- building bridges, repairing
electricity and repairing water. But originally the plan was to
use the soldiers -- the Iraqi military -- for the reconstruction.
Instead of taking a half a million men and canceling their salaries
and sending them home with guns, they were going to go to work
and get money, and provide for their families and be part of the
Even worse is that those American companies
failed. Miserably. And it's not just because of the insurgency
-- the insurgency didn't begin immediately. They failed because
they went in to maximize their profit, to build the most expensive
state-of-the-art systems they could and to get their feet firmly
in Iraq so they would be able to profit long term. But what Iraq
needed was just to get the systems up and running. It was summer
in the desert.
JH: How long did it take for Iraq to get
those systems up after the first invasion?
AJ: Three months. The Iraqi workers and
companies rebuilt their systems in three months.
JH: OK, so Bremer imposed these rules
under the Coalition Provisional Authority. Explain how rules set
up by a provisional government ended up codified in Iraq's new
AJ: Bremer appointed an interim government
for Iraq when the occupation formally ended. The interim government,
together with Bremer, threw out the existing Iraqi Constitution.
And I think at the time there was this idea that it was a nation
being molded out of the dirt -- that it didn't have a government,
didn't have a structure -- and here was the United States helping
them form a constitutional convention. But they had a government,
they had a constitution -- they've had a constitution since 1922.
We didn't have to create a constitutional government for them.
The first constitution that was written
had all of Bremer's orders, and it could only be changed by a
very complicated process -- it essentially locked the orders in.
Then the new constitution for Iraq was supposed to be "of
the people." It was drafted by the interim government and
put to a popular vote. But it was crafted so that it locked into
place the occupation, the economic transformation, the constitutionality
of the new oil law -- which the United States had drafted -- and
all of the Bremer orders.
The only public discussion of the constitution
was the few things people were gleaning from the press and what
their religious leaders -- who were themselves gleaning it from
the press -- told them. Five days before the constitution was
to be voted on, the paper copies were released. They made 5 million
copies for 15 million voters. And on that same day, the U.S. ambassador
to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, was meeting with influential Iraqi
leaders to rewrite fundamental aspects of that very constitution.
There was absolutely no way that the vast majority of the Iraqi
people had any idea what was in the constitution. They were voting
for hope, and they risked their lives to do so. But there's no
way they knew that they were voting to maintain the Bremer orders.
JH: What's the Hague Convention of 1907?
AJ: Under international law an occupying
government has one set of responsibilities, and they're very clear.
An occupying government must provide security and basic services.
An occupying government explicitly cannot fundamentally rewrite
the laws of the country they're occupying. The United States did
exactly the opposite; we rewrote the laws, and we didn't provide
basic services or security for the people.
JH: Did we ratify the Hague Conventions?
AJ: We certainly did.
JH: You focus on four firms that pushed
the policy and have profited handsomely from the invasion: Bechtel,
Chevron, Lockheed Martin and Halliburton. But there are many other
multinational corporations that have both made a killing in Iraq
and have close ties to both the administration and to the conservative
movement more generally. Why those four and, playing devil's advocate,
is there a danger focusing on a small number of firms when the
issues are militarism and corporate globalization more broadly?
AJ: These four companies have the longest
relationship to Iraq. Through their executives, they lobbied on
behalf of an invasion of Iraq, and they have profited more than
almost all other companies from that invasion. And they have intimate
interlocking relationships with this administration. They demonstrate
very clearly how, in the Bush administration, there essentially
is no distinction between corporate characters and government
characters. They also are companies that because of their corporate
behavior around the world have preexisting and longstanding movements
-- social movements -- that are organized against their harmful
actions, which readers of the book support and become a part of.
JH: That's a great segue. In your final
chapter, you discuss ways that people can oppose the Bush agenda,
and you suggest that another agenda is possible. I think that's
very important because so many books bash Bush and then leave
readers feeling dispirited. Name just one thing that needs to
be done to reverse this agenda?
AJ: There are so many alternatives, and
I give concrete examples of solutions -- for how to end the economic
invasion of Iraq. What I hoped to do in the last chapter was to
present the movements and many of the ideas generating fundamental
change already. I wanted to empower people -- to show that the
information in the book can be used as a tool for these movements
and a tool for change.
So I give examples of not only different
policies, but I also give examples of organizations and communities
that have been successfully mobilizing against the full Bush agenda
-- that means corporate globalization, war and imperialism. To
me that's more important than any one of the alternatives that
I present. The whole point of the chapter is that there are, thankfully,
millions of alternatives to choose from. And we're already seeing
successful transformation -- there are real movements that we
can join and in which we can have an impact.
Joshua Holland is an AlterNet staff writer.
The Bush page