November 7, 2003
The Guardian (UK)

Iraq is Not America's to Sell

International law is unequivocal - Paul Bremer's economic reforms are illegal

by Naomi Klein

If every last soldier pulled out of the Gulf tomorrow and a sovereign government came to power, Iraq would still be occupied: by laws written in the interest of another country; by foreign corporations controlling its essential services; by 70% unemployment sparked by public sector layoffs.

Any movement serious about Iraqi self-determination must call not only for an end to Iraq's military occupation, but to its economic colonisation as well. That means reversing the shock therapy reforms that US occupation chief Paul Bremer has fraudulently passed off as "reconstruction", and cancelling all privatisation contracts that are flowing from these reforms.

How can such an ambitious goal be achieved? Easy: by showing that Bremer's reforms were illegal to begin with. They clearly violate the international convention governing the behaviour of occupying forces, the Hague regulations of 1907 (the companion to the 1949 Geneva conventions, both ratified by the United States), as well as the US army's own code of war.

The Hague regulations state that an occupying power must respect "unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country". The coalition provisional authority has shredded that simple rule with gleeful defiance. Iraq's constitution outlaws the privatisation of key state assets, and it bars foreigners from owning Iraqi firms.


Enver Masud, "An Open Letter to the People of Iraq," The Wisdom Fund, April 22, 2003

Ghazi Sabir-Ali, "Let Iraqis Rebuild Their Own Country," The Guardian, August 1, 2003

Enver Masud, "New Constitution a Pretext for Exploiting Iraq," The Wisdom Fund, September 16, 2003

["We will write into that constitution exactly the kinds of guarantees that were not in Saddam's constitution.," L. Paul Bremer told ABC's "This Week" from Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

"We'll have a bill of rights. We'll recognize equality for all citizens. We'll recognize an independent judiciary. We'll talk about a federal government.

"All of these things will be in the interim constitution which will also provide in a limited time, probably two years, for a permanent constitution to be written that also embodies those American values."--"U.S. Will Help Draft New Interim Constitution, Bremer Says," Associated Press, November 16, 2003]

[What kind of government will Iraq have? What will be the role of Islam? How much local rule will ethnic, tribal or religious groups have?

The deadline is Feb. 28 for agreement on these and other basic questions, due to be codified in the recently renamed Transitional Administration Law, the precursor to a constitution.

. . . One of the thorniest issues will be giving U.S. troops immunity from prosecution for any action they may take-- Robin Wright and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, "Power Transfer in Iraq Starts This Week," Washington Post, January 4, 2004]

"Iraq Co. to Run Oil Sector by July," Reuters, February 29, 2004

[Bremer passed yet another law further opening up Iraq's economy to foreign ownership, a law that Iraq's next government is prohibited from changing under the terms of the interim constitution. . . .

Bremer has issued an executive order stating that even after the interim Iraqi government has been established, the Iraqi army will answer to US commander Lt General Ricardo Sanchez.-- Naomi Klein, "Bremer has destroyed my country," Guardian, April 3, 2004]

"Hypocrisy: The US Government's Biggest Single Problem," CounterPunch, June 12, 2004

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