Friday, October 24, 2003

The conference of nations that will donate to the reconstruction of Iraq is underway in Madrid. Here's Libertad Digital's (an online Spanish newspaper run by leading conservative and "liberal" journalists) take on what's happened so far.

Reconstruction in Iraq: Optimism at Donors' Conference regarding hopes raised in Madrid

The organizers of the Donors' Conference for the reconstruction of Iraq, now being held in Madrid, are optimistic. It is predicted that the most optimistic forecasts for the collection of funds will be surpassed. Security in Iraq worries investors, though members of the provisional government assert that problems are not serious. At the opening of the conference, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked participants to send a "sign of optimism" to Iraq.

The International Conference of Donors to Iraq, being held in Madrid, is preparing for its second and definitive session after finishing its first phase, in which the fundamentals for the donations were agreed upon and in which the current situation in Iraq was discussed.

At the end of the first day, one of the members of the Iraqi government council, Adnan Pachachi, gave a press conference in which he said that international calculations on the necessities for the reconstruction of his country are "the imprescendible minimum." The UN and the World Bank estimate the financial necessities of Iraq for the period 2004-2007 at about 36 billion dollars, to which should be added the 19.4 billion dollars calculated by the Coalition Provisional Authority as the cost for the recovery of sectors not evaluated by the two international organizations. On Friday the final figure will be announced.

The Spanish commissioner for the Reconstruction of Iraq, Fernando Diaz Moreno, said that in the meetings held Thursday no country has suggested "in official or public terms" any conditions in exchange for donations to this process, though he did add that "this will be seen" on Friday. Asked insistently for the figures on the contributions of the various countries and organizations, Diaz Moreno said that we would also have to wait until Friday for them to be made public, and to learn exactly how much money will be added to the monetary fund and how much will be contributed directly through bilateral agreements with the Iraqi Administration.

The European Union's contribution will be 1.4 billion euros, according to the European Commisioner for Foreign Affairs, Chris Patten, who added that it will be divided, fifty percent for help with reconstruction and humanitarian aid. The US has announced that it will contribute around 20 billion dollars, while Japan will kick in 1.5 billion. Adnan Pachachi announced that the Arab countries' contributions will be "fairly important" and expressed hope that France and other countries that have shown their "reservations" about donating will change their attitude and "eventually see the necessity of helping Iraq."

Parallel to the Conference, there has been a meeting with businessmen, who have made clear that their investments are linked to an improvement of public safety in Iraq, the installation of a stable government, and the establishment of a financial system. The Iraqi minister of Education, Ali Adyuman, who participated in this forum. told the businessmen that there would be no restrictions on the entrance of international investors in any sector except that of energy, which will remain under state control. He also reminded the businessmen that Iraq is in the middle of an expanding market area and so can serve as a platform for access to Turkey, Iran, and the Persian Gulf.

Regarding security, the Iraqi minister of Commerce, Ali Abdul Amir Allawi, said at a press conference that "in Iraq there is not an uprising like that in Vietnam. Resistance is sporadic and concentrated in a few parts of the country. Compared with Latin America or southeast Asia, the situation is not as serious in Iraq," he said. Also, Allawi stated that "many" investors have shown themselves in Madrid to be "interested in the posibilities of doing business in Iraq and that even "some have announced that they will open offices in Baghdad." He promised that all contracts signed by his government will be validated under succeeding governments.

During the first day of the Donors' Conference, a thousand people, according to the police, appered in Calle Atocha in Madrid to demonstrate against it. The demonstrators carred signs with slogans like "Donors' conference, occupiers' looting" and "Invading troops out of Iraq". The group marched in downtown Madrid from Atocha to the Puerta del Sol. Some forty local associations in Madrid, leftists, ecologists, and students, supported the demo, called by the Assembly Against Globalization and War.

At the head of the demonstration were the director of International Solidarity for the (Communist) United Left party, Angeles Maestro, accompanied by the author Rosa Regas, who read a manifesto in the Puerta del Sol. However, Socialist party leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero did not appear, nor did United Left general coordinator Gaspar Llamazares. The demonstrations called by these two parties, along with other social and union organizations before, during, and after the war, reached a total of 500,000 people. According to the COPE radio network, the number of demonstrators grew while the protest march advanced, but the total was not above a few thousand.

Well, it's pretty obvious that the reporter is not a leftist, but that doesn't seem too unbalanced to me (though he uses the word "optimistic" three times in paragraph 1; whenever a word is repeated, it's very important to the writer). He lets the participants speak for themselves and is careful to look at the general picture. Just for example, if they can't get any foreign investors, they're not going to have much of an economy. The Iraqis are therefore trying to encourage foreign investment and are being as positive as possible about the situation in their country. I'd say our reporter is looking at the glass as if it were at least half-full. I've got no problem with that, myself.

The rest of the Spanish press, though, has not been as kind as Libertad Digital. The Vanguardia's not too bad, though they do imply that Halliburton is going to make a whole pile of money in Iraq and that there's something fishy about that. I figure Halliburton is one of the about three companies in the world capable of doing what they do, so it's not at all surprising that they'd be involved in Iraq's reconstruction. Remember, selling their oil is how the Iraqis are going to make a few bucks to get their economy up and running. Iraq suffers from 50% underemployment, so there's plenty of room to grow--and when some of these underemployed folks get jobs, there'll be a lot less discontent.

The Periodico and the Pais have gone ballistic, though, with the concept that the Madrid conference is merely the dividing up of the Iraqi pie. As good socialist Third Worldists, they believe that foreign investment is somehow bad and only benefits the few big bosses who are all in league together, anyway, and run everything. Let's prove them wrong by staying the course. I think it's a pretty good course, myself.

There's been a stink about the "Rumsfeld memo"; in case you don't know, Donald Rumsfeld sent a confidential memo around that got leaked to the press; Rummy's acting all pissed off, though I bet he leaked it himself. If I worked for Mr. Rumsfeld and he told me something was confidential, I wouldn't dare to leak it, you can believe that. Anyway, Rummy harshly criticized the conduct of the postwar and asked several searching questions.

I think this is a good sign; there's no Vietnam syndrome in the Administration's mind. There is freedom to debate within Bush's Administration, freedom to disagree; there's not one party line everyone must toe. They're not trying to pretend unpleasant facts don't exist.

Here's how I, as an uninformed oberver, would grade the Administration's performance:

Post September 11: A. Excellent.
Afghanistan: A. Excellent.
Pre-Iraq: C-, barely adequate, for bungling the whole UN thing. Bush should have done the military buildup faster and avoided even mentioning the words "United Nations", and we should have gone in sometime in fall 2002.
Iraq War: A-. Three weeks to Baghdad. Little unnecessary destruction, very few civilians killed.
Post-Iraq War: C+. Could have been better and faster and more efficient, but terrorism is under control and the country is getting back to normal. If Iraq is pretty much pacified and sort of functioning a year from now, I'll raise that grade to a B+.

The meme or trope or nugget going around enlightened and illustrated Barcelona circles now is that Iraq (a "rich country", they always say) needs to be reconstructed because the Americans destroyed it either with the first Gulf War or the embargo or the second Gulf War. 1) More than thirty years of Saddam's corrupt and brutal dictatorship is what destroyed the country. 2) Saddam started wars with everybody and his dog and that wasn't real good for the country either. 3) The embargo was a UN attempt to force Saddam to spend his corrupt rake-off on the treasury on his people instead of on weapons. Didn't work that way, but don't blame us, blame Saddam. 4) Iraq's desperately poor. All the oil in the world doesn't mean a damn thing if nobody's getting it out of the ground and transporting it to where it's needed and refining or otherwise processing it so it can be used. That's where the money is, in turning raw materials into things people want to buy, not just producing the iron ore but making it into steel and then from steel into something useful.

This attitude is, of course, "damned if you do, damned if you don't" anti-Americanism. Here's a list of memes and tropes and nuggets that have been tumbling over one another in Old European minds.

I. The Yankees just want the oil. When that was disproved, it changed to
II. The Yankees can't win the war. When that was disproved, it became
III. The Yankees are massacring the Iraqi people. When that was disproved, it became
IV. Epidemics and starvation are widespread in Yankee-occupied Iraq. When that was disproved, it turned into
V. The Americans don't care about the Iraqi people's welfare. When that was disproved, it changed to
VI. The Americans and their lackeys are looting Baghdad. When that was disproven, it became
VII. The brave Iraqi resistence is fighting for Iraqi freedom. Now that that's being disproved, it has become
VIII. The Americans are repressing the poor Iraqis. When that was disproved, it went back to the good old standards
IX. The Yankees just want the oil, they created Saddam anyway, and this whole thing is just a setup so Dick Cheney can get richer. And BUSH LIED!!!!!

No comments: