Subject: ON AMERICA IN IRAQ, THE REAL, THE IMAGINARY, AND THE SYMBOLIC:
FROM THE CENTER FOR THE ADVANCED STUDY OF AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS AND
1 September 2003
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Welcome back to another year of dialogue and debate about American
It has been a turbulent summer in many parts of the world, what with
embarassing California recall, the frightening New England blackout, the
excessive heat waves, droughts, and storms in Western Europe, etc., etc....
But the epicenter of violence is Baghdad, where the killings and
Shortly after September 11, Secretary of State Collin Powell asked a
of American diplomats who had gathered in Washington, D.C. : "Why does the
world hate Americans?" This question was relayed to me by an official from
the American Embassy in Minsk, Belorussia, where I had been invited by
Minsk State University to speak to a group of teachers about the history of
the post-modern movement in America. My talk ended with an impromptu debate
with the American Embassy official who had been invited to attend. Not
surprisingly, he did not agree with my analysis of the origins of the Cold
War, nor did he particularly like what I said about the economic goals of
American foreign policy since 1945 and the role of the media in promoting
U.S. corporate interests. (According to historian Michael Schaller, the
so-called "Cold" War cost some 20 million lives in the Third World before
the Soviet debacle, and the U.S. military industries that profited in this
period are familiar names today.)
The audience of teachers at Minsk State University politely concluded
we had read different books.
During the many years that I have taught at universities abroad, it
been my experience that most educated people naturally differentiate
between the American people and official policies of the American
government. Granted the rate of media disinformation in America is at an
all-time high, and that without good information people make bad decisions
(such as supporting unjust wars). Nevertheless, "hope springs eternal in
the human breast," and the critical questions related to important social
needs do pop up, sometimes unexpectedly. Such disturbances routinely go
unreported in the American media, and as a result the perception of America
from afar is a bit like looking at Mars through bifocals instead of a
telescope; what cannot be seen is left only for the imagination....
Disinformation is a conscious attempt to manipulate the imagination
effort to affect the real, usually by promoting general confusion and
apathy, but sometimes by generating fear and hatred.
Below, are two items that pertain to this summer of discomfort : the
item (A.) is an editorial from The Moscow Times (August 2003) in which the
Bush administration is criticized for trying to do to Iraqi citizens what
it has done to many American citizens, i.e. dominate them through fear and
violence. The second item (B.), an article by Michael Dobbs taken from The
Washington Post and also published in The Moscow Times (August 2003),
offers an economic analysis of American interests in Iraq, which some
scholars have argued is simply the continuation of American corporate
interests abroad since the end of the Second World War.
We invite readers to communicate with our Research Center, which is
beginning its third year of existence at the University of Grenoble, and
to contribute to our "sifting and winnowing" for the truth about American
institutions and social movements.
As usual, if you would like to be removed from our mailing list, please
notify us by return mail.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
from "The Last Word"
Editorial in THE MOSCOW TIMES
29 AUGUST - 4 SEPTEMBER 2003
Here's a headline you don't see every day : War Criminals Hire War
Criminals to Hunt Down War Criminals.
Perhaps that's not the precise wording used by the Washington Post
week, but it is the absolute essence of its story about the Bush Regime's
new campaign to put Saddam's murderous security forces on America's payroll.
Yes, the sahibs in Bush's Iraqi Raj are now doling out U.S. tax dollars
hire the murderers of the infamous Mukhabarat and other agents of the
Baathist Gestapo - perhaps hundreds of them. The logic, if that's the word,
seems to be that these bloodstained "insiders" will lead their new imperial
masters to other bloodstained 'Insiders" responsible for bombing the UN
headquarters in Baghdad -and killing another dozen American soldiers while
Little George was playing his putts during his month-long Texas siesta.
Naturally, the Iraqi people -even the Bush-appointed leaders of the
Potemkin "Governing Council"- aren't exactly overjoyed at seeing Saddam's
goons return, flush with American money and firepower. And they're
certainly not reassured by the fact that the Bushists have also reopened
Saddam's most notorious prison, the dread Abu Ghraib, and are now,
Mukhabarat-like, filling it with Iraqis -men, women and children as young
as 11- seized from their homes or plucked off the street to be held
incommunicado, indefinitely, without due process, just like the old days.
As The Times of London reports, weeping relatives who dare approach the
gleaning American razor-wire in search of their "disappeared " loved ones
are referred to a crude, hand-written sign pinned to a spike: "No visits
are allowed, no information will he given and you must leave." Perhaps an
Iraqi Anna Akhmatova will do justice to these scenes one day.
However, the sahibs' unabashed embrace of their soulmates in the Saddamite
security forces did provide some sinister comedy in the [Washington] Post
story. The wary reporters and Raj officials displayed the usual hilarious
delicacy in coming up with reality-fogging prose to protect the tender
sensibilities of the American people, who must never be told what their
betters are really getting up to.
For example, the U.S. alliance with Saddam's killers -yes, the very
who inflicted all those human rights abuses which, we're now told, was the
onliest reason the Dear Leader attacked and destroyed a sovereign nation in
an unprovoked war of aggression- was described demurely as "an unusual
compromise." (As opposed to, say, "a moral outrage," or "a putrid stain on
America's honor," or "a monstrous copulation of rapacious conquerors with
bloodthirsty scum.") However, the Post hastens to assure us that the wise
sahibs do recognize the "potential pitfalls" of hooking up with "an
instrument renowned across the Arab world for its casual use of torture,
fear, intimidation, rape and imprisonment."
Those kidders! Surely they know this "potential pitfall" is actually
the main goals of the entire bloody enterprise: to intimidate the "Arab
world" until they straighten up and fly right -i.e., turn their countries
over to Halliburton, Bechtel and The Carlyle Group. That's why you buy an
"instrument" like the Mukhabarat in the first place. You certainly don't
employ professional murderers and rapists if you are genuinely interested
in building a "decent, open, democratic society," as the Bushists claim in
their imperial PR.
But like vaudeville troupers of old, the media-sashib double act saves
best gag for last. First the Postmen present the seamy Bush-Mukhabarat
humpa-humpa as some great spiritual agon -"an ongoing struggle between
principle and the practical needs of the occupation"- instead of what it
is: business as usual for the American security apparatus, which happily
incorporated scores of its Nazi brethren into the fold after World War II,
and over the years has climbed into bed with many a casually raping and
murdering thug -such as, erů Saddam Hussein, who spent a bit of quality
time on the CIA payroll.
In fact, the entire Baathist organization -including the Mukhabarat-
midwifed into power by not one but two CIA-backed coups, as historian Roger
Morris reports in The New York Times. And shall we mention the intimate
relations between Saddam's regime and U.S. intelligence services back when
Saddam was merrily gassing his won people-and the Iranians- with the eager
connivance of Ronald Reagan, George Bush I and their "special envoy" to
Baghdad, Donald Rumsfeld? Yes, let's.
So the new alliance is no "struggle." It's a veritable Bush family reunion,
a happy homecoming for Rummy and his old Mukhers. But "this eternal blazon
must not be to ears of flesh and blood -or to [Washington] Post readers,
anyway. Our vaudevillians, eager to keep the fleecy Homeland flock nestled
comfortably in it cozy amnesia, skip the history and go straight to the
punchline: Raj officials say that it's OK to hire the most hardcore
killers, rapists and torturers -as long as you "make sure they are indeed
aware of the error of their ways."
__You guys! What yocks! "So, Mr. Mukhabarat Man, are you indeed aware
the error of your ways?"
__ "Oh, yes, boss, I got my mind right!"
__"Not going to rape or torture anybody anymore?"
__"Oh no, boss, no -not unless you tell me to!"
__"Okey-dokey then! You're hired! Get on over to Abu Ghraib -you've
some interrogating to do!"
What? It's not funny? What do you mean? Look at those Iraqi kids over
there, those American soldiers -they're grinning from ear to ear!
No, wait -that's just their skulls. The new Bushabarat are using them
from The Moscow News
August 29, 2003
in The Washington Post
Halliburton's Contracts Bigger Than Thought
by Michael Dobbs
WASHINGTON-Halliburton, the company formerly headed by U.S. Vice President
Dick Cheney, has won contracts worth more than $1.7 billion under Operation
Iraqi Freedom and stands to make hundreds of millions more dollars under a
contract awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to newly
The size and scope of the government contracts awarded to Halliburton
connection with the war in Iraq are significantly greater than was
previously disclosed. Independent experts estimate that as much as
one-third of the monthly $3.9 billion cost of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq
is going to independent contractors.
Services performed by Halliburton through its Brown and Root subsidiary
include building and managing military bases, logistical support for the
1,200 intelligence officers hunting Iraqi weapons of mass destruction,
delivering mail and producing millions of hot meals.
Spreadsheets from the Army Joint Munitions Command show that about $1
billion was allocated to Brown and Root Services through mid-August for
contracts associated with Operation Iraqi Freedom. The company also earned
about $705 million for an initial round of oil field rehabilitation work
for the Army Corps of Engineers, a spokesman said.
According to U.S. Representative Henry Waxman and other critics, the
war and occupation have provided a handful of companies with good political
connections, particularly Halliburton, with unprecedented money-making
opportunities. "The amount of money (earned by Halliburton] is quite
staggering, far more than we were originally led to believe," Waxman said.
"This is clearly a trend under this administration, and it concerns me
because often the privatization of government services ends up costing the
taxpayers more money rather than less."
Waxman's interest in Halliburton was ignited by a routine Army Corps
Engineers announcement in March reporting that the company had been awarded
a no-bid contract, with a $7 billion limit, for putting out fires at Iraqi
Waxman aides said they have been told by the General Accounting Office
Brown and Root is likely to earn "several hundred million more dollars"
from the no-bid contract. After unfavorable publicity, the corps said the
sole award to Brown and Root would be replaced by a competitively bid
contract. But the deadline for announcing the results of the competition
has slipped from August to October; causing rival companies to complain
that little work will be left for anybody else.
The practice of delegating a vast array of logistics operations to a
contractor dates to the aftermath of the 1991 Persian Gulf War and a study
commissioned by Cheney; then defense secretary, on military out-sourcing.
The Pentagon chose Brown and Root to carry out the study and selected it to
implement its own plan. Cheney served as chief executive of Brown and
Root's parent company, Halliburton, from 1995 to 2000.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research at CEIMSA
Center for the Advanced Study of American
Institutions and Social Movements
University of Grenoble-3