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MEET UNCLE SAM [US for short]
THE WORLD’S GRANDEST EVER CORRUPT DEAD-BEAT SHYLOCK CON-MAN
Andre Gunder Frank
Uncle Sam [US] has just renigged and defaulted on up to forty percent of its trillions dollar [$] foreign debt, and nobody has said a word except for a line in the Economist.
How much of our dollar stake we lost depends on how much we originally paid for it. Uncle Sam, through deliberate political economic manipulation, drove the dollar down by 40 percent from one Euro at $ 80 cents at its highest to now 133 cents against the Euro, Yen, Yuan and other currencies.
And it is still declining, indeed apt to plummet altogether.
True, with the decline of the dollar, the real value of debt servicing paid by foreigners has also decreased. But that works only if they can themselves earn in currencies that have increased in value against the dollar. Otherwise, foreigners earn and pay in the same devalued dollar, although even then also with some loss from devaluation between the time they got it and can use it to repay US. China and other East Asians do earn in and have pegged their currencies to the dollar, so they have already lost a substantial portion of their world’s by far largest $ stake. And they, like all others, will also lose the rest. For US debt to the rest of the world already amounts to over a third of his annual production of NDP domestic production and is still growing. That alone already makes his debt economically and politically never repayable, even if he wanted to, which he does not. Domestic household, e.g. credit card, debt is almost 100 percent of GDP to sustain consumption, including that from China; total credit debt is 300% of GDP; and then there is still corporate and federal, state, local government debt that can be managed domestically, but with some dangerous limitations noted below.
The US is the world’s most privileged nation for having the monopoly privilege of printing the world’s reserve currency at will and at a cost of nothing but the paper and ink they are printed on.
Moreover by doing se, Uncle Sam can export abroad the inflation he generates by the extra dollars he prints, of which there are already at least three times as many floating around the world as are used at home. Additionally, the US is the only country which has ‘’foreign’’ debt, mostly denominated in its own world currency, the US$, that Uncle Sam can print at will; while most foreigners’ debt is also denominated in the same US dollar, but they have to buy it from US with their own currency and real goods.
So Uncle Sam simply pays the Chinese and others essentially with these dollars that from the outset have no real worth beyond the paper and ink used to print them. So especially poor China gives away, so to speak, hundreds of billions worth of real goods produced at home and consumed by US. Then China turns around and exchanges the US dollar cash proceeds for other US "paper dollar" called Treasury Certificate bonds, which are even more worthless, except that they carry a small interest rate. For as we already noted, they will never be able to be cashed in and redeemed in full or even in part, and anyway have just lost much of their value already.
Additionally we must realize that the numbers above and below are all literally relative, and so far the relations – in particular with China - also still favor the US and help maintain the deceptive economic image. Consider the following:
" ... a $2 toy leaving a US-owned factory in China is a $3 shipment arriving at San Diego. By the time a US consumer buys it for $10 at Wal-Mart, the US economy registers $10 in final sales, less $3 import cost, for a $7 addition to the US gross domestic product (GDP)"
Moreover, ever clever US has arranged matters so as to earn 9 percent from his economic and financial holdings abroad, while foreigners earn only 3 percent on theirs. and among them on their Treasury Certificates only 1 percent, real return in his also therefore God’s Country. Just note that this difference of 6 percent is already double what US pays out, and his total 9 percent take is triple the 3 percent he gives back. Therefore, although the reciprocal foreign holdings by each other with US and abroad are now about equal, US is still the BIG net interest/ed winner. But US also earns quite well thank you from other holdings abroad, e.g. from service payments by mostly poor foreign debtors. The sums involved are not peanuts or even small potatoes. For from his direct investments in foreign property alone, US profits now equal 50 percent, and including his receipts from other holdings abroad now are a full 100 percent, of US profits derived from all of his own domestic activities combined! These foreign receipts add more than 4 percent to US NDP. That helps nicely to compensate for the failure of domestic profits as yet to recover even their level in 1972, because US industry has failed to make more productivity boosting investments at home. The productivity hype of Clinton’s ‘’new economy" 1990s was limited to computers and IT, and even that proved to be a sham when the dot.com bubble burst. Also, not only the apparent increase in "profits" but also that of "productivity" was being boosted by shop-floor, office and sales floor worker speed-up and/or longer work-times at the bottom and by innovative accounting shams by Enron and the likes hype at the top. And it also compensates for and permits much of the US $ 600B and still rising trade deficit [last month at an annual $ 666B rate, it was announced today], from excess home consumption over what he himself produces. That is what has resulted in the trillions $, by far the world’s largest, net US debt to foreigners over theirs to US.
Why any and all this? - we may ask. The simple answer is that US, who is increasingly hooked on consumption not to mention harder drugs, saves no more than 0.2 percent of his own income. The Fed’s guru Dr. Alan Greenspan recently observed that this is so, because the richest 20 percent of households, who are the only ones who do save, have reduced their savings to 2 percent. Yet, even these measly savings [other and poorer countries save and even invest 20, 30, even 40 percent of their income] are more than counterbalanced by the 6 percent deficit spending of US government, which does so heavily on their behalf. That is what brings the average between the two together to those 0,2 percent. To maintain that $ 400+ budget deficit [3+ percent of NDP] that is really also $ 600+ B plus [$ 666B today] if we count as we should the
$ 200+ B ‘’borrowed’’ from the Federal Social Security fund, which he is also bankrupting. [But never mind, President Bush promises to privatize that also to let people buy their own old age ‘’security’’ in the ever insecure market]. So with this $ 600+B budget deficit and the already above mentioned related $600+B trade deficit rich US and primarily his highest off the hog earners and consumers, as well as of course the Big Uncle himself, live off the fat of the rest of the world’s land. US absorbs the savings of others who themselves are – often much - lower on the hog: Particularly their central banks place many of their reserves in world currency $ in the hands of US in Washington and some also in $ at home. Their private investors send $ to or buy $ assets in Wall Street, all with the confidence that they are putting their where-with-all in the world’s most safe US haven. From the central banks alone, we are looking at yearly sums of over $ 100B from Europe, over $ 100B from poor China, $ 140B from super-saver Japan, an amount of many $10sB by many others around the world. That also includes investors and banks from the poor Third World. But they in addition also must use their literally forced savings to service their predominantly $ debt by sending them to US as well.
His Treasury Secretary and his IMF hand-maiden blithely continue to strut around the world insisting that the Third – and ex-Second, now also Third – World must of course continue to service their foreign debts, especially to him. No matter that with interest rates multiplied several times over by US himself after the Fed’s Paul Volker’s coup in October 1979, most have already paid off their original borrowings three to five times over. For to pay at all at interest rates that Volker boosted to 20 percent, they had to borrow still more at still higher rates until thereby their outstanding foreign debt doubled and tripled, not to mention their domestic debt from which part of the foreign payments were raised as particularly in Brazil. Privatization is the name of the game there and elsewhere, except for the debt! Only the debt was socialized after it had been incurred mostly by private business, but only the state had enough power to squeeze the greatest bulk of back payments out of the hides of its poor and middle-class people and transfer them as ‘’invisible service payments’’ to US. When Mexicans were told to tighten their belt still further, they answered that we can’t because we already ate it yesterday. Only Argentina and for a while Russia declared an effective moratorium on debt ‘’service’’ and that only after US advisers and policies had destroyed their entire societies like in ‘’peace’’ time none ever before. All that, while US himself is blithely defaulting on the foreign debt of his own as he already had several times before in the 19th century.
Last but not least, oil producers also put their savings in US. With the ‘’shock" of oil that restored its real price after its dollar valuation had fallen in 1973, ever cleverer by half Henry Kissinger made a deal the world’s largest oil exporter in Saudi Arabia that it would continue to be price oil in $, and these earnings would be deposited in US and partly compensated by military hardware in return. That deal de facto extended to all OPEC and still stands, except that before the War against Iraq it suddenly opted out by switching to pricing its oil in Euros, and Iran threatened do so. North Korea has no oil but trades entirely in Euros. That constitutes the triple "rogue states axis of evil."
[Venezuela is a major oil supplier to US and also supplies some at preferential rates as non-dollar trade swaps to other poor countries like Cuba. So US uses military commandos from its Plan Columbia next door, promoted illegal coup, and when that failed a legal referendum in his attempt at yet another "regime change" there as well; and now along with Brazil all three are being baptized as yet another ‘’axis of evil"].
To return to the main issue and call a spade a HUGE spade, all of the above are part and parcel of the world’s biggest ever Ponzi scheme confidence racket. Like all other ones, its most essential characteristic is that it can only continue to pay off $ and be maintained at the top as long as it continues to receive new $ at the bottom, voluntarily through confidence if possible and by force if not. But what if and when confidence runs out and $ it no longer comes?
So far beyond Osama bin Laden, Al Queda and all terrorists put together, the greatest real world threat to the US is that the dollar does not keep coming in (in the form of dollar denominated debts). For instance, foreign central banks and private investors [it is said that "overseas Chinese" have a tidy trillion $] could any day decide to place more of their money elsewhere than in the declining dollar and abandon poor ol’ US to his destiny.
China could double its per capita income very quickly if it made real investments at home instead of financial ones with US. Central banks, European and others, can now put their reserves – in rising! – Euros or even soon to be revalued Chinese Yuan. Not so far down the road, there may be an East Asian currency, e.g. a basket first of ASEAN + 3 [China, Japan, Korea] – and then + 4 India. [Not for nothing, in the 1997 East Asian currency and then full economic crisis, US strong-armed Japan not to start a proposed East Asian currency fund that would have prevented at least the worst of the economic crisis. But now, the indeed US friend in need China is already taking steps toward such an arrangement, only on a much grander financial and now also economic scale.
A day after writing the above, I read in the Economist [11-17 Dec. 2004:50] a report on the previous week’s summit meeting of Asean+3 in Malaysia. Its Prime Minister announced that this summit should lay the groundwork for an East Asian Community
EAC that "should build a free-trade area, co-operate on finance, and sign a security pact … that would transform East Asia into a cohesive economic block…. In fact, some of these schemes are already in motion….China, as the region’s pre-eminent economic and military power will doubtless dominate… and host the second East Asia Summit." The report goes on to recall that in 1990, US shot down a previous initiative
for fear of losing influence in the region. Now the report is entitled "Yankee stay home."
Or what if already long before that comes to pass, exporters of oil simply cease to price it in ever devaluing $, and instead make a mint by switching to the rising Euro and/or a basket of East Asian currencies. For that would at one stroke, in order still to be able to buy oil, vastly diminish the world demand for and price of $ by obliging anyone who wants to buy oil to purchase and increase the demand price of the Euro or Yen/Yuan instead of $. That would crash $ and tumble US in one fell swoop, as foreign – and even domestic – owners of $ would also sell off as many of them as fast as they can and other countries’ central banks would switch their reserves out of $ in the no longer save haven US. That would drive the $ down even more, and of course halt any more US$ inflow by the foreigners who have been financing US consumption spree. Since selling oil for falling $ instead of rising Euro is evidently bad business, its world’s largest exporters in Russia and OPEC have been considering actually doing just that. In the meantime, they have only raised the $ price of oil so that in Euro terms it has remained about stable since 2000. So far, many oil exporters and others still place their increased amount of $ with US, even though he now offers an ever less attractive and less safe haven, but Russia is now buying more Euros with some of its $
So also many countries’ central banks have begun to put ever more of their reserves into the Euro and currencies other than US $. Now even the best friend indeed, the Central Bank of China, the greatest friend of US in need, has begun to buy some Euros. China itself has also begun to use some of its $ - as long as they are still accepted by them - to buy real goods from other Asians and thousands of tons of iron ore and steel from Brazil, etc. [its President recently took a huge business delegation to China, and the Chinese one just went to Argentina. They are going after South African minerals too]. So what will happen to the rich on top of the US Ponzi scheme, when the confidence of poorer central banks and oil exporters in the middle runs out, and the more destitute poorest around the world, confident or not, can no longer make their in - payments at the bottom? The US Ponzi Scheme Confidence Racket would – or will? – come crashing down, like all other such schemes before, only this time with a world-wide bang. It would cut the world’s present US consumer demand of last resort down to real/istic world size and hurt some exporters [for China it would be a blessing in disguise that would oblige it to change political economic course in the inward and East Asian direction that it already should]. Of course, crashing the $ would finally also in one fell swoop wipe out, that is default, the US debt altogether. Thereby, it would simultaneously also make all foreigners and rich Americans lose the whole of their $ asset shirt, of which they are still desperately trying to save as much as possible by not so doing. Thus, the US Ponzi Scheme poses the world’s biggest and craziest Catch – 22 since MAD.
But then there are others in the world who do not feel all that caught up in this trap, for it suddenly to spring shut anyway. Calculatedly just before the US election, one of them said so out loud in a video broadcast to the world. It seems to have been least publicly noted by its principal addressee US, who should have been the most interested party: For it was none other than bin Laden himself who announced that he is ‘’going to bankrupt the US! ’’ In view of the deliberate US blindness to the shakiness of his real world foundation abroad, so massive a collapse may not be more difficult to arrange than as it was only to topple its Twin Tower symbol at home.
Yet even without Osama’s help, things are already getting shakier. The declining $ reduces the necessary $ inflows, so US Dr. Greenspan needs to raise interest rates to maintain some US attraction for the foreign $ he needs to fill the trade gap. [As a quid pro quo for being reappointed by President Bush, he promised to do that only after the election]. That time has now arrived, but doing so threatens to collapse the housing bubble that was built on low interest and mortgage – and re-mortgage- rates. But it is in their house values that most of US people have their savings if any. They and this imaginary wealth effect supported over-consumption and the nearly as high as GDP household debt, and a collapse of the housing price bubble with increased interest and mortgage rates would not only drastically undercut house prices. It would thereby have falling domino effects on their owners’ enormous second and third re-mortgages and consumer credit card and other debt, their consumption, corporate debt and profit and investment. In fact, these factors would be enough to also plummet US into deep recession, if not depression, and another Big Bear deflation on stock and de facto on other prices, rendering debt service even more onerous. [If $ declines, even domestic $ price inflation is de facto deflationary against other currencies, that Russians and Latin Americans discovered to their peril as we observe below]. Still lower real US investment would reduce its industrial productivity and competitiveness even more – probably to a degree lower than can compensated by further devaluing $ and making its exports cheaper as is the confident hope of many, probably including the good Dr. Until now, the apparent inflation of prices abroad in rubles and pesos and their consequent devaluations have been a de facto deflation in terms of the $ world currency. US then used printed $ to buy up at bargain basement fire sale $ prices their natural resources in Russia [whose economy was then run on $ 100 bills], and companies and even banks, as in South Korea. True, now Dr. Greenspan and US are trying again to get other central banks also to raise their own interest rates and otherwise plunge their own people into even deeper depression. But even if he can, thereby also canceling out the relative attractiveness of his own interest rate hike, how could that save US himself? What remains the great unknown and perhaps still unknowable is how a more, let alone seriously, wounded Ponzi-less US would react with more "Patriot"ic acts at home and abroad with the weapons – including the now almost ready new ‘’small’’ nukes – he would still have, even if his foreign victims no longer pay for new ones. So, to compensate for less bread and civil rights at home, even more US patriotic nay chauvinist circus at the cost of others abroad is the real world danger of the current policies to ‘’defend Freedom and Civilization."
Meantime back on the farm as the saying goes in Texas, what does US himself blithely do with the world’s hard earned savings and money? His consumers still over-consume it without 99. 9 percent of them knowing what they are doing, since hardly anyone tells them so. And his government uses much and all of its increase of hundreds of B$ for the Pentagon. That does not spend it to pay its poor professional soldiers who come mostly from small town rural America and took the only job they could get, and even less to its hapless reservists. No, better increasingly to privatize war also in Iraq as at home. The Military-Industrial Complex against which General Eisenhower warned in his 1958 parting Presidential address is alive and kicking, more than ever under the stewardship of "Vice" President Cheney and his De[a]fSec Rumsfeld [with their jobs disasterously well done, both are being kept on for a second term]. Between 1994 and mid – 2003, US’s Pentagon made over 3,000 contracts valued at more than $300 billion with 12 US private military companies [PMCs] out of the 35 estimated by the NYT, others of which are small and offer mercenary services. But more than 2,700 of those contracts were given to only two companies: to Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), a subsidiary of Cheney's Halliburton, and to Booz Allen Hamilton. [Center for Public Integrity's International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, cited in Mafruza Khan e-mail, 16 Aug 2003]. In Iraq these PMCs now have as many mercenaries as US and UK troops combined. But of course that is still ‘’small’’ potatoes, since the bulk of Pentagon money is used to buy expensive weapons systems from the only four major US ‘’Defense" contractors and the likes of Vice President Cheney’s Halliburton.
Then US then uses these arms unilaterally to twist others arms by blackmail, lord it over and invade the world that provided the money in the first place. After all, US
has to do what it must to keep it coming. US unilateralism is not so much , as often mistakenly supposed, just going it alone. Yes, it is to proclaim fighting for ‘’Freedom" [whose?- we may ask] and "saving Civilization," as US President Bush and his even more eloquent UK mouth piece Tony Blair proclaim every day. The simplest way to ‘’save’’ civilization was by simply abolishing in a day its most precious gift of the whole body of international law to keep the peace, which the West had taken centuries to develop, admittedly also in its own imperial interests. Still, it was the best and only international law we had, and at the very least better than nothing at all. Now the only "Law of the West" that remains is indeed ‘The law of the West’: The spaghetti western vigilante law of posses that , with or without a conniving judge, take the ‘law’ into their own hands to form a lynch party and go after whom and where and when they please, alas now on a much grander scale than any spaghetti western ever imagined, and to boot also ‘’out of area." That also means disemboweling and paralyzing the UN institution that was established to guard the peace, except when US after its own wars always re-cycles the UN to pick up the pieces he shattered in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and now Iraq. But in so doing, it also means, to dupe, threaten, cajole and blackmail all others – friends and foes alike – to do his bidding on every issue, big and small. He has trained a whole civilian army of officials to do that. That way, US can ‘’unilaterally’’ always throws around his still apparent weight also in all other international institutions that deal with endeavors from agriculture and aviation to zoology. But US extorts real unilateral favors for himself even more through his bi-lateral relations. That is why WTO was dead on arrival. Indeed US now prefers to use bi-lateral relations unilaterally, as he increasingly isolates himself internationally. So, he can exercise even more military, political and economic bargaining power over one than he any longer can over all or even many in international institutions.
And when that bargaining is not enough or even if it could be, US simply attacks when he feels like it and invades little Grenada [population, all of 300,000], Nicaragua [with the help of arch-enemy Iran] , Panama [7,000 civilians killed in one night to capture one man only, Daddy Bush’s one-time friend and ally Noriega – there is an all smiles photo of them shaking hands], Iraq [that was even a money making venture as US extorted more $ from his allies to pay for the war than it actually cost him!] , Somalia [oy wehh!] , Yugoslavia [which gave up only when Russia withdrew support after US blackmailed it economically in Berlin], Afghanistan [again with the help of Iran and Russia and, after US created and sponsored Taliban government had eradicated it, now with more opium than ever, which accounts for one third of Afghanistan’s GDP as US installed President just announced upon taking office, and a new US military offensive against Taliban as I write but no more mention of bin Laden], and now again Iraq. Whos’e next, Iran?, Syria? – not Libya, it is now obediently making oil deals with US; and not North Korea that made nukes to protect itself against precisely that.
[Not?] incidentally, simple inspection of the facts on the ground reveals that, except for little Grenada, not a single one of these or any other US wars was ever won by his military force, unless it be the Pacific one against Japan [World War II was won in Europe at Stalingrad in 1943 by Russian troops who would have reached Berlin even if US had not arrived later]. Nonetheless, US has now already built 800 military bases around the world and especially China ["[iso-8859-1,Dec 12,2004 e-mail] P. Jakob Förg"[email protected] Subject: FW: Pentagon to redeploy 60 percent of U.S. Submarine fleet to Western Pacific], for future reference and already present political influence, especially in the oil rich ‘’heartland’’ of Zbigniew Brzezinski [Ziggy’s] global ‘’Chessboard." Apart from that US President Bush has a new "Plan for the Middle East," which now stretches from Morocco beyond Pakistan – to Muslim Indonesia? Just what this plan involves is not yet clear, other than clearly Israel is to remain the
US political and military stalking horse the region that it has always been, only that its assigned and own reach may also expand further [two of the high Pentagon neo-cons even went there to make a plan for the racist chauvinist Likud party now in power].
He himself went to Africa, especially West Africa to look at its oil. In the Americas, his Plan "Colombia" [it has oil too] has been extended to the whole Andean region [Ecuador also exports oil], he has yet another plan for the Amazon [maybe some is to be found there and in the meantime he built a huge base there, allegedly for NASA which is not unknown to also to engage in military ventures], a plan to ‘’take care of " with World Bank help the world’s largest underground deposit of sweet water under Iguazu Falls, where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet, and is already again training 40,000 Latin American military personnel at a time on US bases at home, of which he also has another half dozen of his own beyond his shores as well. It is a giant global military political economic foundation on which to maintain US’s financial Ponzi Scheme Confidence Racket, and cheap at twice the price for those that end up with the $ and as long as he can pay for it all with the self-made paper $ that so far also maintains the global Ponzi business. Well to be honest, it’s not only for the $. After all that is only useful if you can actually buy something with it, especially the oil that keeps the foundation running.
Not only does US have to buy ever more oil, today with self-printed $, but perhaps tomorrow with Euros or Yuan. He also has to try to make sure to have his hand on every spigot; so he can control who else can, and especially who can not buy it. So that is why we now find him attempting political and financial $ control of the oil spigots, wherever he still can, and going in also for military presence as in Central Asia, or using military power to go in as to Iraq both to use it as a lever of control and/or to warn its neighbors what may happen to them if they fail to continue to play along with US. Fortunately for him, most of East Asia and especially China also seem to be obliged to buy foreign oil, even if tomorrow perhaps no longer with $ but with Yuan/Yen. On the other hand sad but true, the world’s biggest seller of oil is Russia, whose spigots remain beyond US control. But how could US continue to pay for and maintain all these bold US ventures in Defense of Freedom of and with that self made paper $ -- if nobody accepts it any more? And why should anybody else?
The December 10 FT offers some additional tip of the iceberg examples of US Defense of Freedom in Iraq. Though poor Iraq sits on top of the world’s largest still unexploited pool of ever more precious oil, it remains in the background or only at the bottom of this story that barely mentions it and, like the present essay, focuses instead on related $ and US. In two different reports, it relates how three helicopters flew 14 tons of $ 100 dollar bills in to the Kurds. The money, much of the $ 1.8B US pay-off to the Kurds, was part of Iraq’s earnings in the UN ‘’oil-for-food" earnings fund. Initially, of course, the bills simply were the product of the self-same US printing press, for which Iraq had exported real oil. It did not come from the $ 18B that US’s Congress appropriated for ’reconstruction’ of Iraq. As an FT graph graphically shows, no more than $ 388 million – or 2.15 percent - of that US money had yet been spent, and only $ 5B of it have even been budgeted by US in Iraq by the time US pro-consul Brenner went home with a job well done. No, instead in his wisdom the Good Uncle had thought it best to have spent $13B of the $ 20B of Iraqi funds. That was 65 percent of the Iraqi money compared to the still only 2 percent of the nearly equivalent amount of original US money. By the time the new Iraqi government took over some tasks from US who put them there, they discovered that a full $ 20B of their funds had been spent, $ 11B from sales of oil [IHT]. How come? – we may ask. Simple is the answer of the ‘’responsible’’ finance officer, US Admiral Oliver, "I know we spent some money from [the Iraqi] fund. It was purely the matter that we’d run out of US money" – of which there was only another $ 17.5+B unspent.
The Iraqi representative on the funding disbursement and oversight committee attended all of one out of its 43 meetings; but then why bather with more, when most expenditures were authorized without any meeting at all. So although US funds were budgeted for all sorts of projects, they were nonetheless paid out of Iraqi funds. Of these, many disbursements were even made without any contract whatsoever, in one case a mere $ 1.4B. Most others occurred without any multiple competitive, nor even any previously vetted or subsequently evaluated, bids. The US funds, on the other hand, remained virtually unspent in Iraq. Maybe Admiral Oliver had ‘’run out of US money" in Iraq, because it remained at the US home in Washington; and if disbursed at all, it simply changed hands and bank accounts right there. After all, that is much more efficient than it would be to send it back and forth, and a bit of it might not even get back. After all also. it has long since been SOP for the bulk of the $ that US lends or even "gives" "to" and ‘’for" all Third World countries, just to leave the $ at home where it belongs and would return to anyway. No matter; US Congress has already appropriated another $ 30B to ‘’prepare for transition to elections" in Iraq in January 2005.
All that being the case, it would of course be altogether undesirable for Iraqi, let alone US’s, funds to be squandered on any Iraqi service of old foreign debt to others. So it was only logical to strong-arm ‘’allies’’ who can’t help already losing US debt to them, also to forgive the Iraqi debt. That is, as we may recall from above, while US still insists that the rest of the Third World must continue servicing their debts to him! For God forbid that any re-payment of Iraqi debt should go instead to those un-Godly Russians, traitorous Frenchmen or even to the Chinese best friend indeed, who most invested in Iraq, a dastardly thing to do in the first place, when US has much more worthy causes for the Iraqi money.
And what were and still are these grander worthy causes? – we may ask. The largest single payment of $ 1.4B was to whom else but the self-same Vice President Cheney’s Halliburton. Yet we now know that at the same time it was also cheating even his generous US benefactor out of hundreds of millions more $ on the side, buying petrol for x $ in Kuwait and selling it in Iraq for 5 -10x $ and other shenanigans. Altogether, Halliburton got Iraq contracts for a cool $ 10B – plus change. [IHT]. [Cheney also has an interest in UNILOCAL that has long wanted to build an oil pipe line from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean through Afghanistan, first with the help of Taliban whom US had put in charge there for precisely that purpose and then invited to Texas. Now US and UNILOCAL will use instead the good offices of the new Afghani President and US Ambassador there, both of whom just ‘’happen’’ to be former [?] UNILOCAL people].
Without the shadow of a doubt, most of the other Iraqi and US $ went to other US crony, and some crumbs off the table for UK, corporations and even to private and military individuals who have their fingers in the till. But alas we will never know who they all are, since as per US’s Inspector-General "I was, candidly, not interested in having army auditors because I thought we had to slide into the Iraqi system as quickly as possible."
All of the above was written before the UN International Advisory and Monitoring Board for Development in Iraq IAMBDI just issued a report on its findings about US stewardship. Before we get to the Report, we should keep that in mind that the FT observes diplomatically "the UN has been reluctant to take the US to task publicly over its spending of Iraqi funds" when we read the FT direct quote from the report: "There were control weaknesses … inadequate accounting systems, uneven application of agreed-upon contracting procedures and inadequate record keeping." The IHT also makes its own summary of the same report: "There had been widespread irregularities, including financial mismanagement, a failure to cut smuggling [outward of oil and other Iraqi physical property; nobody knows at what price and to whose benefit] and over dependence on no-bid contracts" [IHT]. The FT, for its part, offers a bit more specifics from the Report: "Of particular concern … were contracts with sometimes billions of dollars that were awarded to US companies such as Halliburton from Iraqi funds without competitive tender." Yesterday, US President Bush gave US’s highest civilian award, The Medal of Freedom, to L. Paul Bremer III, the US civilian pro-consul who oversaw it all, and to General Tommy Franks, who led the invasion that made it all possible in the first place. George Tenet, the Director of the CIA that provided all the bogus information to ‘’legitimate’’ the whole enterprise to begin with and has since been discredited and forced to resign was not forgotten either and received the third award. The IHT published a ceremonial photograph of the three all smiles with George W. who was smiling too. After all it’s all for their job well done, of course, thank you.
We may rest pretty well assured that of the US recipients of their beneficence and service to "Freedom" [for whom and what? - we may ask], 99.99 percent were among the ones at whom the Fed’s Dr. Greenspan had already pointed his finger as the most privileged over-consumers who are totally [ir]responsible for US under-saving and whom he labeled simply as the upper 20 percent of US income earners. It is also they, he said, who are the most [ir]responsible also for the growing trade deficit about which the Dr. recently complained in Berlin. If we examine US income distribution, we may well learn also that among these 20 percent, the lion’s share of this $, like most of that from the Pentagon, ended up in the pockets or accounts of the upper 2 percent most super-privileged, so they can over-consume yet still more of the fat of the whole earth. Who would deny them that this is surely a worthy cause for the protection of Freedom at any price, including President Bush’s [in]famous ‘’let them [Iraqis] come on" against us. [Hu? They come? - against us to invade US?]. But as he himself told the world, it is only right that ‘’we’’ exclude other countries from the trough and till in Iraq. After all he explained when the Iraqis accepted his invitation, it was ‘’our boys who put their lives on the line." Alas, the personification of Uncle Sam neglected also to explain for what and whom.
The few numbers that are not generally available, or from the cited FT of December 10 and 15, 2004 and other sources like the International Herald Tribune [IHT] also of December 15, are from "The Economics of US Imperialism at the turn of the 21st Century" by Gerard Dumenil & Dominique Levy in Review of International Political Economy 11/4/Oct. 2004:657-676. The author is thankful to them in Paris, to Jeffrey Sommers in Riga, William Engendahl in Frankfurt and Mark Weisbrot in Washington for their useful and much used comments, tough of course none of them have any responsibility for the use I have made of them.
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