Naomi Klein: Iraq is a laboratory for neoliberalism

Making a Killing: The Corporate Invasion of Iraq

Speaker: Naomi Klein

Event Sponsors: War on Want, Iraq Occupation Focus, Jubilee Iraq, Voices in the Wilderness

In her first public meeting in the UK for two years, Naomi Klein encouraged her listeners to consider “how to transform the anti-war movement into a pro-democracy movement”. And she urged campaigners to focus on issues of the present more than the horrors of the past.

In a carefully researched presentation, Naomi Klein argued that the war has little to do with the freedom of the Iraqi people. Instead, the country has become a “laboratory for the most radical form of free market economics”. In evidence she cited Paul Bremer’s de-Baathification exercise in the immediate aftermath of the war. He dismantled state institutions by sacking all the staff; and he wrote a constitution which envisages privatisation of 200 Iraqi state companies, free trade for western business, and other economic instruments of the free market. These are “antithetical to any idea of citizens’ participation”, said Ms Klein.

The most recent evidence is the decision by the Paris Club of rich nations to grant relief of 80% of debts owed by Iraq. The mainstream media has called this a “wonderful victory for debt relief”. But each tranche of relief is conditional on an IMF programme of economic measures which Naomi Klein says will take away the powers of the Iraqi government to make real decisions. Consequently, the people who elect the government themselves may begin to question a democracy in which “there is nothing left to vote for”. A sense of betrayal of the supposed aims of the war can create an environment in which the insurgency will flourish. Naomi Klein therefore urged that issues like full unconditional debt relief should be a target for campaigners.

The organisers had set Naomi Klein the objective of making the audience “feel  optimistic about the result of the US election”. “I can’t do that” she conceded, painting a gloomy picture of a “supercharged Bush acting with total impunity”. Ms Klein encouraged the anti-war movement to move beyond simplistic ideas of a war about oil, and pleas to withdraw troops. Connect with democracy and globalisation campaigns, she said; think of the war in terms of the familiar agenda of world financial institutions, albeit the “most brutal aspect of supercharged capitalism”.


this article was first published by OneWorld UK