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April 04, 2003

Water, Water Everywhere- for A Price

Well, we are already getting a taste of how the US plans the Occupation of Iraq. Not only do they plan to hand over its assets to US corporations with nice fat deals, for the average Iraqi they seem intent on promoting the worst crack-brained privatization ideas, including apparently forcing starving and thirsty Iraqis to pay for water.

The idea was to "jump start a free market economy" in Umm Qasr by giving scarce water supplies to middlemen with trucks, then let them charge a fee to any Iraqis needing water.

"This provides them with an incentive to hustle and to work," said Bassert, an assistant commander with the 354th Civil Affairs Brigade.

He said he could not suggest what constitutes a reasonable fee and did not know what the truckers were charging. He said the tradition here of haggling at markets would help the system work.

The British who run the port town (but not the port) protested the idea as inhumane and luckily the American General Jay Garner, gave in to British pressure and cancelled the plan.

But the rightwing American administrators on the ground expressed their unhappiness:

Bassert said seven Iraqi contractors had been hired to distribute water, and "they are not to charge for water."

But he made clear he has reservations about the new plan. He said selling water was meant to nudge the Iraqis into free-market practices "so that they don't get used to a welfare system."

That kind of sums it up. Iraq is not just going to be a playground for the military projection of power. It's to be a showcase for rightwing economics types to experiment and roll back any idea of a welfare state in "the new Middle East."

Posted by Nathan at April 4, 2003 08:34 AM

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Yeah. As Joshua Micah Marshall has been saying on his site, this isn't even going to be an American occupation of Iraq. It's going to be an AEI occupation of Iraq...

Posted by: jw mason at April 4, 2003 10:33 AM

Hey, it's the new Internet-speed world. Cut to the chase. The Argentinians took, what, almost two decades to go from being murdered by a US-backed thug to finish up by getting raped by Washington Consensus multinationals. The Iraqi people can have the whole experience in a couple of years.

Posted by: doesn't matter at April 4, 2003 03:19 PM

I read in one report that the going rate while the water was on sale was $68/gal.

Posted by: SqueakyRat at April 4, 2003 09:41 PM

Jesus wept - these guys are fucking nuts.

Bassett seemed to be pushing the implication that these damn towelheads just don't know what a good honest American day's work is, and need to be subjected to the bracing wind of a free market in basic necessities to get them off their lazy asses.

I hope that Garner learns a lesson from this, and that the UK government uses whatever leverage it has to stop this kind of crazily callous idiocy from being repeated. I've no confidence that either will happen, alas.

Posted by: Tom Runnacles at April 4, 2003 10:30 PM

See, this is one of the places where I part company most sharply from the "Democratize the Mideast" pro-war crowd. This economic model should not be exported anywhere, or accepted here, but the same people who are pushing one are pushing the other.

What the fuck does this have to do with democracy? Who voted for the "shock therapy" of a suddenly privatized water supply, in a desert, no less. How long do you think our troops would put up with this if this policy was opposed on them?

These people are insane.

Posted by: Steve Cohen at April 6, 2003 12:24 PM

Iraq is one of the smartest and richest nations in all of the middle east. I agree that this water mishap was a little bit pre-mature. We need to help them get back on there feet before we try and set up anything. By then I'm sure they'll be able to make there own decisions as far as democracy goes. We have just freed a people from the deadly hand of tyranny and given them freedom. Once the dust settles, Iraq had a chance of being the only stable Arab democracy other than Turkey. -Respectfully
-Robert S. Morgan

Posted by: Robert S. Morgan at April 9, 2003 11:12 PM

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