By The Progressive on January 03, 2006
IMF Occupies Iraq, Riots Follow
By Matthew Rothschild

January 3, 2006

Bad enough that the U.S. military is occupying Iraq.
Now the IMF is occupying the country.

In December, the International Monetary Fund, in exchange for giving a loan of $685 million to the Iraqi government, insisted that the Iraqis lift subsidies on the price of oil and open the economy to more private investment.

As the IMF said in a press release of December 23, the Iraqi government must be committed to “controlling the wage and pensions bill, reducing subsidies on petroleum products, and expanding the participation of the private sector in the domestic market for petroleum products.”

The impact of the IMF extortion was swift and brutal.

“Since the Dec. 15 parliamentary election, fuel prices have increased five-fold, mostly because the outgoing government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari has cut subsidies as part of a debt-forgiveness deal it signed with the International Monetary Fund,” the Los Angeles Times reported on December 28.

“The move has shocked Iraqis long accustomed to hefty subsidies of gasoline, kerosene, cooking gas, and other fuels.”

Iraqis are getting a nasty taste of the IMF’s medicine. “Over the summer, gas was selling for about five cents a gallon,” the LA Times noted. “Now it’s about 65 cents, and at the end of the price increases, gasoline will cost about the same in Iraq as it does in other countries in the Persian Gulf, about $1 per gallon. The prices of kerosene, diesel, and cooking gas have seen similar or steeper increases.” The price of public transportation has also gone up significantly.

Not surprisingly, these enormous price hikes have led to riots around the country, with police firing on 3,000 protesters in Nassiryeh, according to an account on Daily Kos. www.dailykos.com/story/2005/12/20/11119/029,
Iraq’s oil minister quit to protest the government’s capitulation to the IMF. According to Daily Kos, Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum asked, “Is this how we repay the Iraq citizens who risked their lives to participate in the elections, by raising fuel prices in this way?”

The indestructible Ahmad Chalabi, a longtime favorite of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, replaced al-Uloum.
The Bush Administration is four-square behind the IMF deal.

“This arrangement will underpin economic stability and help lay the foundation for an open and prosperous economy in Iraq,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow.

What it is actually underpinning is economic instability. “It’s crazy, socially and politically,” Robert Mabro, former chairman of the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies, told the LA Times.

Even the Pentagon’s “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq” recognized the need for “balancing the need for economic reform—particularly of bloated fuel and food subsidies—with political realities.”

But “political realities” on the ground—such as inciting riots and increasing discontent—don’t appear to concern Bush.

For the Bush Administration, the endorsement of the IMF price increase represents a schizophrenia that’s almost clinical.

Bush is desperate to rescue his floundering Iraq policy, and yet backing the IMF plan is like throwing a drowning patient both ends of a lifeline.

The Iraqi people are sick and tired of the U.S. occupation already, to put it mildly.

Now that they are seeing their standard of living plummet, thanks to the IMF, they are going to be even more irate at the United States, which they know controls the IMF.

Caught between deciding whether to try to win hearts and minds or whether to cling to free market fantasies, Bush has once again chosen to live in fantasyland.

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He doesn't believe in it. But Mary Burke does, and she wants to raise it. So do most Badgers.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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