You know the drill: A formerly useful dictator outlives his usefulness to the U.S. government, becoming a public embarrassment, or maybe even a loose cannon who can no longer be relied on to follow orders. So — they suddenly discover he’s a dictator!
The folks in Washington develop a sudden enthusiasm for “People Power,” and start replaying inspiring footage of the Berlin Wall coming down. Then the people marching in the streets, despite all their sincere sacrifice and hopes for building a new kind of society, find — when the smoke has cleared — their revolution stolen out from under them and trademarked as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Soros Foundation, NED or IRI. And the face of Vlaclav Havel or Nelson Mandela is slapped on the side of the box as a brand-name icon.
If they’re lucky their prize is a “spectator democracy,” with formally democratic procedures and a heapin’ helpin’ of what the neocons call “rule of law” (by which they mean mostly Weberian bureaucratic rationality and predictable rules for foreign investors). The people get to choose periodically between slightly differing factions of the same neoliberal power elite, after which they sit down and shut up while the newly elected “democratic” government gets to work implementing the IMF’s structural adjustment program and ratifying the latest “Free Trade Agreement” (complete, of course, with “strong intellectual property protections”).
Which brings us to Egypt. Guess who Obama’s sent as Imperial Plenipotentiary to that country? Frank G. Wisner, former director at Enron and AIG, and namesake son of a founding spook at the OSS and CIA (who helped overthrow Arbenz and Mossadeq).
At Counterpunch, Vijay Prashad describes Wisner as “bagman of Empire, and … bucket-boy for Capital” (“The Empire’s Bagman,” Feb. 2). He’s cast in the same role in Cairo as Dick Holbrooke played for Clinton in the Balkans: A sort of Democratic James Baker.
Wisner, in short, is a gray eminence in the “real government” that runs America and much of the world: Pentagon and CIA black budget operators, narcotraffickers, banks to launder drug money, death squads and paramilitaries that the CIA spooks fund with that drug money, and camp following crony capitalists like Halliburton and Blackwater.
Perhaps the most interesting item on his resume is his role as co-chair of the working group (co-sponsored by the CFR and James Baker Institute) that drafted the 2002 report “Guiding Principles for U.S. Post-Conflict Policy in Iraq.” It called on the U.S. to “promote” a post-Saddam government based on “democratic principles … and free market economics.”
To see what “democratic principles” and “free market economics” translated into in Iraq, you need only look at the “100 Orders” issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority under Paul Bremer. Order 81 on “Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety” had the practical effect of updating Iraq’s IP law to “meet current internationally-recognized standards of protection” (including the licensing of GM seeds and criminalization of seed-saving, per Monsanto’s orders). Bright Young Things from the Heritage Foundation, inside the Green Zone, engineered the “privatization” of some 200 state-owned firms (at fire sale prices) to American crony capitalists.
There were some notable Saddam-era regulations that Bremer neglected to liberalize, like the prohibition on collective bargaining in the (about to be “privatized”) public sector enterprises, and the freezing of the trade union federation’s assets. Bremer’s occupation regime actually stormed the federation’s headquarters and arrested several of its leaders. The Iraqi Freedom Congress, perhaps the most genuinely progressive and democratic force in Iraq, was likewise suppressed.
Once the U.S. military authorities had transformed Iraq into the same kind of banana republic that Jack Abramoff and Tom Delay engineered in the Marianas Islands, it could be safely handed over to the new “sovereign, democratic” government.
So, boys and girls, make some popcorn, sit back and enjoy Democracy Theatre, this week’s episode in Egypt — just don’t look at the man behind the curtain.
Let the looting begin.